Ratings Key

= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Spiders II: Breeding Ground (2001)

... aka: Invasion of the Spiders
... aka: Spiders 2

Directed by:
Sam Firstenberg

Fair, watchable sequel takes place entirely at sea. Some pirates invade a pleasure ship and beat, tie up and abduct the people on board before blowing up the ship. The next day, a young couple; blonde photographer Alexandra (Stephanie Niznik) and her dimpled Golden Boy husband Jason (Greg Cromer), stumble onto the debris, find a corpse and then end up in the middle of a bad storm that sinks their boat. Jason is mildly injured, but they're picked up by another cargo vessel headed for New Guinea. On board is a seemingly hospitable captain (Daniel Quinn) who has the hots for Alex, a ranting doctor (Richard Moll), who looks them over and calls them "perfect specimens" and a bunch of rough-looking Russian crew members, who turn out to be the pirates from the beginning. Jason begins snooping around the ship and realizes something bad is going on when he uncovers a cooler full of frozen cadavers. But the antibiotics he has been given for his injured neck are actually drugs to incapacitate him so he can be used to incubate a spider. Other victims are kept in incubation chambers until the implanted eggs hatch. It's up to Alex to fend off the bad guys, elude the mutant spiders (which are eventually set free when the power is turned off) and find the antidote for her husband.

Though Alex is a little annoyingly slow to catch on at first, it is her character and the spirited performance by Niznik in the role that make this movie at least tolerable. She's a tiny blonde, but she's tough; responding to an aggressive sexual come-on by beating the crap out of the guy, kicking crotches, taking down two burly pirates on an elevator and using a mad-made blowtorch and spear to kill off the spiders, while dragging her injured hubby along for the ride. It may be Sigourney Weaver-lite in this context (right down to the tank top), but Niznik anchors the uneven film well through the finale. The other actors, especially bland, square-jawed Cromer and Moll, who seems to be playing the syringe-wielding mad doctor (who is looking to create a disease-free human race) strictly for camp value, don't fair near as well. I also can't explain why the spiders sound just like elephants, but what the hell. Special effects (again a mix of animatronics and CGI) are OK. It was filmed in Bulgaria.


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