Camel Spiders (2012)
COMPANY: New Horizons
RUNTIME: 85 mins
PLOT: When a U.S. soldier returns home from Iraq, he accidentally brings with him a cargo of deadly baby Camel Spiders that soon get loose in a small town and start breeding, killing anyone that they come across.
REVIEW: I've gone on many recent rants about the over-abundance of killer shark movies and how I'm glad that it seems 2012 is the Year of the Spider, what with movies like Camel Spiders, Arachnoquake, Mega Spider, and Spiders 3D all announced at various points for this year, I'm thrilled to see B-Movie companies (for the most part) making a shift away from sharks finally. So of course it would go without saying that I would be reviewing each killer spider movie that comes out this year, to help get the word out and do my part to help get those sales figures up so companies continue to move away from sharks for awhile. Of course with that said, it took me longer then I planned to get my hands on Camel Spiders, mostly due to lack of extra-spending funds, but long story short I got the BluRay in the mail the other day and popped it in, really hoping that Roger Corman and Jim Wynorski (using here his well-known pseudonym of Jay Andrews) would not let me down and that I would actually be championing something good.
I have to be honest though and say that after the snazzy camp-filled opening title sequence ended (that directly took the theme music from Dinocroc vs Supergator at that), I soon started getting a tad worried. The film style was a bit below what I would expect from a Corman movie (though really should have seen coming from Jim Wynorski, considering he also did Raptor and Cheerleader Massacre), and there were some questionable creative decisions such as roaring spiders, when these spiders are supposed to be normal camel spiders and not mutated or aliens or some other genetic anomaly, just regular ol' camel spiders in Iraq...that somehow roar and also screech like they're long-lost relatives of the Warrior Arachnids from Starship Troopers. The brutal acting (which admittedly is to be expected), dreadful CGI creature effects (normally to be expected, but the CGI creature effects in Dinocroc vs Supergator, Roger Corman and Jim Wynorski's previous team-up movie, were above-average so I was kind of expecting something of that caliber here as well), embarrassingly bad CGI helicopters, and just the general overall cheapness of the entire production certainly didn't help matters much.
But it didn't take long for me to change my tune somewhat and lighten up a bit. Once the action moves away from the war-torn desert landscapes of Iraq and into middle-of-nowhere small town Nevada, and the spiders finally launch their invasion on the town, something along the way changed. I can honestly say I don't have a clue what it was, it's certainly not anything within the movie itself as all the detractors I mentioned above still stuck around for the most part, and even a few more got added to the mix (which will be discussed below in greater detail), but something within my mind-set changed and I just started to enjoy what was unfolding in front of me – a fun campy little roll in the hay, along the lines of a lower-budget Tremors but with some killer spiders invading the small desert town instead of monster worms.
That's not to say there weren’t some major problems after that point of course; The CG creature effects seemed to get even worse as the movie went on, and the spread of the spiders made no sense at all - Three of the Camel Spiders came over from Iraq, yet within the span of three scenes that appeared to all take place around the same time as one another, there were already two completely separate nests, one out in the desert and another one in a gas station in the middle of town (where the spiders previously were never even near), plus a couple straggler lone spiders here and there as well. The movie also seemed to repeat one of the major (and probably only) issues I had with Sharktopus, and that is constantly introducing random nobody characters that we don't care about nor get to know anything at all about and that have nothing to do with anything else in the movie, and then killing them off in that very same scene that we're first introduced to them. Dinocroc vs Supergator did all that correctly, by having most of those characters have two or three scenes previous to their deaths to better establish them before they bite it (or in this case, 'it' bites them – ha!). Granted, this doesn't do it as often as Sharktopus did, but it still did it enough that it irked me.
Once the actual spider invasion started however, my mind quickly left all that and I began to just enjoy myself a bit more, as a group of the town's residents, along with the Sheriff (played by an almost unrecognizable C. Thomas Howell), a Military Man and Woman that got stranded in that town on their way to a military base, and a couple sketchy land developers get trapped inside this tiny diner with the killer spiders trying to get in – and from this point on, like I mentioned above, it pretty much becomes a lower-budget Tremors in tone, with spiders instead of worms. The fact that it also takes place in a small town in the middle of the desert helps make that connection as well, as does the fact that they attempt to leave town in a crappy truck.
Helping the entertainment factor here for this part of the movie was the nice little bonus of everyone introduced in the previously-mentioned diner scene actually ending up sticking around for awhile and didn't just get offed later in that scene, and all these characters were actually enjoyable to watch, as most were quite quirky in their own unique ways and we also got some decent amount of backstory on each one, which made them pretty likable and I found myself hoping that at least a few of these people might actually live (some of the deaths and survivors may even be a bit unpredictable). Once the movie settled down and focused primarily on this group, that's when my attention was kept best. There is a second group of characters – some college kids played by actors in their late 30's that looked nothing like college kids that get stuck in a house out in the woods, but these characters were neither interesting nor well-acted so I didn't care for those scenes as much. I was actually waiting to see how these two storylines would intersect at the end, but oddly enough they never do. They really are just two completely unrelated stories that have nothing to do with each other in any shape, way, or form, like two mini-movies intercut together. Luckily this sub-plot of the college kids wasn't the main focus and the movie centered more on the other more interesting group the most, as they tried to work together and devise a plan to rid the town of the invading killer camel spiders. It even seemed like the director didn't care much for the college kids part of the story, as he seemed to just drop it from the movie mid-way without any resolution to what even happens to these characters; at one point we cut away from them to focus back on the main group and then we just never do go back to those characters again - it was actually pretty weird and made me wonder what was even the point in having those scenes in the movie to begin with.
Speaking of those spiders though, I have to say that really enjoyed that the killer animals here were just regular animals: No genetic mutation or science experiment or alien creature or anything of that style, just 100% regular blood-thirsty animals. Of course they're in no way accurate to the real-life version of these spiders apart from their visual design, but hey – this is a Roger Corman monster movie so I was never expecting that anyway. Besides, less accurate normally means more cheese, and that's perfectly fine by me! For instance, there's a couple really hilarious Facehugger-inspired moments in the movie, as well as some gory limbs being ripped off of dead bodies, that we would have never gotten if they tried to go with a realistic portrayal.
All in all, it may not have been as good as I was expecting, but it certainly wasn't outright terrible either. If I had to place it on a chart with the other recent Corman/Wynorski team-up movies, I'd say it was not as good as Dinocroc vs Supergator (my personal favorite by this partnership) or Sharktopus, but more along the same level as Dinoshark – possibly a peg or two below it, as Dinoshark at least had some decent creature effects while Camel Spiders' were horrid and this also came with a pretty large missed opportunity and pointless side-plot. But while this one may be the weakest movie yet from the recent Corman/Wynorski team-ups, there's still enough within it to keep a B-Movie fan such as myself at least moderately entertained, thanks in large to the likable main characters of the primary group, some hilarious spider kills, and a few fun action beats.
I wouldn't tell you to rush out and buy it right now, but if you happen to come across it while browsing at the store and it's at a cheap price, or it shows up on Netflix or TV, then I'd say it's worth at least a one-time watch – you could certainly do a lot worse out there.