Ice Spiders (2006)

Ice Spiders is a Sci-Fi Channel Original Movie, so you just know it's going to be frikkin' awesome and stuff. The title alone should be enough to get your juices flowing, and then you toss in the DVD boxart showing a fifty-foot tall tarantula menacing some downhill skiers and you have the makings of an instant classic. And it's not too bad, really, much better than I was expecting. The director Tibor Takacs is a master at this sort of trashy sci-fi movie and I've reviewed a couple others of his (here and here).

On to the show...

We open with two dumbass bow hunters out in the snowy wilderness, typical Realtree and NASCAR yokels with mullets and Doug Mackenzie hats. They are soon attacked by killer spiders! The three-foot high (damn you, misleading DVD boxart...) spiders run as fast as greyhounds and have the strength of cheetahs on the hunt and the poor rednecks are quickly subdued. The spiders are all CGI and for the budget are pretty convincing. It's no Return of the King, but for a late-night cable movie they managed to have bigass spiders that were done well enough to keep me happy. The hunters are spun up in cocoons and hung up in trees along with some other of Bambi's friends to be eaten later.

Giant spider on the prowl.

Off to Lost Mountain ski lodge up in the rugged Utah mountains (not far from where the hunters were munched), so far up in the sticks that you have no cellphone reception (uh-oh, one of the typical isolation set-ups to carnage...). As the scene opens, a bus full of US Olympic ski team hopefuls are arriving for some training. They are all just nameless pretty people except for one dude who looks Luke Skywalker and struts around like Freddy Mercury. Luke is a cocky spoiled runt whose rich dad is footing the bill for the team and I defy you not to want to chainsaw him after his first scene.

Lazy-Eye Luke talks a big game, but that's just because he's got a tiny penis.

Let's meet Dash, hunky resident ski instructor at the lodge and our film's eventual hero. He used to be an Olympic-caliber downhill skier, but demolished his leg (and his career) in one of those horrible crashes like on the old ABC Wide World of Sport promos (...anybody?) and now he's been reduced to teaching honeymooners and tourists how to master the bunny slope. He is, of course, bitter and resentful, but in such a comical way that he never loses his quirky charm with the ladies.

Dash, he's so handsome.

Luke Skywalker is an arrogant little douchtard and he challenges Dash to a one-on-one downhill race for the right to be the biggest idiot on the planet. Dash accepts the challenge, though his ego is stronger than his middle-aged knees and the little punk brat owns him good and then mocks him something fierce. Dash lost his nerve on the slope when memories of his epic crash snuck up on him, showing that he's still mentally scarred by the experience. Oh crap, Dash is going to find the strength to face his inner demons and save the world, isn't he? And Luke's going to gain a newfound respect for Dash at some point, probably after he does something heroic, isn't he? And they're going to hug and stuff by the last frame, aren't they? Crap, these movies are so predictable.

Race! I just can't get into skiing.

The next day, Forest Ranger Rick (that's his name) comes to ask Dash for help in finding those two lost hunters from the first scene. It seems all the other rangers have the flu so it's up to Ranger Rick and Dash to search several hundred square miles of snowy mountains for those two lost hillbillies. On an unrelated note, it's nice to see those kelly green USFS trucks, brings back some nice memories for me (my dad was a Forest Service ranger for 29 years, really).

Ranger Rick talks with Dash and his coach.

It's Dash who finds one of the hunters' bodies in the snow, torn in half and quite dead. This is the first of many, many scenes where we see a mangled body with assorted internal organs hanging out of some bloody laceration. I'm not a fan of graphic gore in any way, so I will admit to glancing away during some scenes (I'm man enough to admit that). The other hunter they find dead in a cocoon hung up in a tree, which freaks them out. Suddenly, the spiders attack! Ranger Rick is a minority with no emotional attachment to the hero, so it's no surprise that he dies a quick death at the hands of the Green Spider, who zaps him with its web shooter and reels him in like a marlin.

Rick puts up a good fight, but he's a goner.

Dash, overmatched in all ways, flees on his snowmobile, pursued by the spiders. Along the way he runs over the Yellow Spider when it gets in his way (one down, five to go). He gets back to the vehicles, but Ranger Rick's truck is locked. As luck would have it, however, the hunters conveniently left their brand new $35,000 pickup truck unlocked with the keys behind the visor (crikey, those Mormon folks in Utah are so darned trusting!).

Spider hangs onto the roof of the Dodge Ram (new for 2006!).

He drives back to the ski lodge to discover that the other spiders have surrounded the lodge after killing a bunch of people and trapping a bunch more inside. Holed up in there with them is Doctor Hottie, a scientist from a nearby super-secret Department of Defense research lab who has a terrible story to tell. When I saw in the opening credits a "Vanessa Williams", my interest (and my boner) perked up as I've always thought she's been awesome in Ugly Betty and I couldn't believe she would be in such a trashy b-movie like Ice Spiders. But this is a totally different Vanessa Williams, though both are attractive black women around the same age. She has a bit of a flirty history with Dash and will be our Damsel in Distress/Strong Female Lead.

Doctor Hottie (she loves pink, pink and more pink).

Arriving at work that morning at her lab up in the mountains (while Dash was out looking for hunters), she found it trashed and littered with bled-out dismembered technicians. This lab was doing Black Project genetic research on spiders, force-feeding them steroids and growth hormones and splicing their genes with that of huge prehistoric spiders to create creatures the size of border collies. Why on god's green earth anyone in his right mind would do such a thing is beyond me, but it's the Guv'mint, so we can be sure that they were attempting to create an army of wolf-sized killer spiders to paradrop into Afghanistan to root out terrorists (or maybe eat hippies and scare liberals).

She can't stand the sight of blood.

We wouldn't have much of a movie if something didn't go horribly wrong with their experiments, right? Don't mess with Mother Nature and all, you know. All six mutated spiders have escaped and are on the rampage, jonesing for the flesh of living creatures! Each spider is a pumped-up form of a normal species, so each of the six is a different color (which is helpful to keep them straight). The Black Spider (a mutated Black Widow) is the only one still in there in the building as Doctor Hottie arrives, snacking on the lab techies, and it chases her into a room where she's trapped.

Assorted parts of lab techs.

She pulls a fire alarm, alerting a squad of soldiers (mercenaries or private security guards more like it, no indication that they are members of the US Armed Forces) nearby who rush to the scene. These dudes, while sporting suitably military buzz cuts and lugging M-4 carbines, don't come across convincingly as real soldiers at all, but more as under-paid actors who have seen way too many 1980s action movies. This is a common problem in these sorts of cable movies.


Let's meet Professor Evil, the head scientist for the project and Doctor Hottie's boss. We know he's a slimeball because he wears trendy Randy Jackson glasses and has one of those ridiculously mini-goatees, and every word out of his mouth brings you one step closer to punching him in the mouth through the tv screen. He comes along with the soldiers to the lab to make sure his cash-cow is not in danger. More than anything he desperately wants to contain any problems with his pet spider project, even if it means overlooking a few (or a lot of) messy deaths. This is the standard stock character in these types of movies, someone who represents the Military Industrial Complex and the Guv'mint and stands against everything that we Average Joes hold as pure and honorable. Did I mention the poser goatee? [Editor Pam: At this point, I'd like the movie to give a detailed explanation as to just how he's going to cover up the fact that a number of people have died here in a rather unusual way. Don't any of the dead people have families who will notice that Bill or Stacy didn't come home? How does he plan to dispose of so many bodies, and how will he explain their condition to the people helping him, because I don't see him lugging out all those bodies and burying them single-handed? Who's going to do all the work in the lab now, and if he hires more staff, how will he explain why he needs them to wherever the funding comes from? And if somehow he has the ability to do all this, why is he satisfied to do nothing more than run a laboratory?]

Professor Evil, turtlenecks are a sure sign of villainy.

The soldiers drive up to the lab in their hulking Hummer and do a sneaky commando entrance (though bunching up around the one door seems tactically unsound). In the lab, they find the dead techies and a whole lot of blood (though not as much as you would expect from the wounds). The Black Spider is still in here, waiting patiently for Doctor Hottie come out and die, and attacks them, killing one soldier by biting his head off before skittering away. Now they know that the test subject spiders have escaped their cages and are out in the woods, surely up to no good.

Dead soldier in lab.

Doctor Hottie is rescued by the soldiers and then told by Professor Evil to go away until they get all this sorted out. She's the curious sort so she first swipes a bunch of classified top-secret computer disks with information on them (oh that's not good). She takes them out to her Chevy Equinox (look at it there in center-frame, new for 2006!) and pops them into her laptop and makes the stunning discovery that these mutant spiders are now blood-thirsty killers who must eat every few hours or die. The coming cold front won't help them either, as the spider's metabolism is so cranked up on grow-big drugs that they can withstand the freezing temps. This is the reason why this lab is up here in Frozen Monkey, Utah to begin with, the thought that arachnoids can't stand the cold.

Doctor Hottie (whose normal workday lab attire seems to be skin-tight hot pants and boobie shirts) chats with the twin brother of Tom Scavo from Desperate Housewives.

So she goes down to the ski lodge at the bottom of the hill to warn people, but she's too late. Along with a dozen or so other folks, she's trapped there when the spiders attack. In some extremely well-done shots, the spiders start picking off people too slow to make it inside in time (seriously, some top-shelf CGI mattes here, as good as anything you'll see in a big-budget movie). They barricade the doors and windows and there is much wailing and gnashing of teeth. By now there are at least a dozen dead outside and maybe a dozen more inside still kicking. The spiders will starve to death in a few hours if they don't eat, but that will just make them ferocious in finding a way in to get to them.

Doctor Hottie fends off a spider with a ski pole, saving some cute young snow bunny a gnarly fate.

Some of the Olympic team kids and their wizened old coach are trapped outside when the lodge is attacked and manage to escape on their short bus. The Black Spider pursues them, and causes them to crash by jumping up on the hood and going "hiss-hiss!". With the tasty morsels trapped inside, the spider begins to cocoon the entire bus (to keep them fresh and free of freezer burn). The old coach has a plan and he sacrifices himself so that the kids can escape though the back door and make it back to the lodge (how did they get past the other three spiders?).

The bus being webbed-up real good.

Back at the lodge they find a scene of horrible carnage. The Green Spider has gotten in through the chimney and killed a couple of people with its sharp bitey fangy things. The spider is held off by a combination of Raid and a fire extinguisher until it can eventually be killed by Dash, who stabs it repeatedly with the antlers of a mounted elk head he pulls off the wall! Ruining the moment, and making all good boys and girls cringe, he then turns to Doctor Hottie and says, "Great rack." Harharhar, too bad he says this in a room full of still-warm corpses and blood-splattered horror, it kinda ruins its effect as a pick-up line.

Best look at one of the spiders, showing its relative size against the twitching corpse of a tourist from Connecticut.

Meanwhile, back on the stranded bus, the now-alone coach is saved by the timely arrival of the Professor and his soldiers, who net the Black Spider and put it in a metal box (the size of the spider seems to fluctuate wildly here, sometimes beagle-sized, other times Great Dane-sized). The soldiers have some pretty task-specific weapons here, glitzy Power Ranger-like rifles that shoot capture nets the exact size and shape that are required and somehow enclose around their targets on their own. The spider is helpless, even though before it was strong enough to smash through metal doors and outrun a snowmobile.

Ohhh, those are indeed some shiny guns.

They radio the besieged ski lodge and talk to Dash and Doctor Hottie, both of whom are royally peeved that they are in this situation. Once they are done trading insults and quippy barbs, they jointly devise a plan to lure the three remaining spiders into the closest thing they have to a box canyon, the nearby halfpipe tube. Further bait will be provided by some drums of "spider food" (laced with addictive drugs) brought down from the lab.

Green? Why is it never a clear liquid?

Now they need a way to lure the spiders into the tube, so Dash volunteers to make the death-run (how noble!). He will ski down alone, holding a highway road flare over his head, giving the three spiders a yummy warm flesh-snack to chase. And, amazingly, it works and once the spiders are in the tube, they totally ignore Dash and start munching on that green gooey stuff. The soldiers are hiding nearby and they easily net the spiders, who thrash around helplessly.

Spiders chase Dash, they are stunningly fast over fresh powder, though you'd think their small feet would be a detriment in spreading out their body weight in snow.

Doctor Hottie arrives (on skis, of course) and there are lots of animated discussions with Professor Evil about what the heck happened with the spiders. Yes, he admits, he boosted the spiders' growth curve to dangerous levels, but he only did so because of the urgency of getting results. Sadly ruining my dreams of giant spiders wielding bazookas, the Professor was breeding mutant spiders to create mutant spider web silk, which was going to be used for near-in impenetrable body armor for US troops in Iraq. He makes a pretty impassioned case for it, reminding them that soldiers are dying needlessly everyday from bullets that could be turned away if they were wearing spider silk body armor. Huh, that seemed like a genuinely honorable motivation, maybe he's not so evil after all. But, this is a crappy b-movie, so, of course, our heroes can only see their narrow side of the story and we as the audience are forced to take their side.

Talking it out.

Dash has a back-up plan, which relies on a brainless snowboarder dude who works for him firing off the "avalanche cannon" (a recoilless rifle, actually) on Dash's signal. The round hits right on top of the netted spiders, blowing them to twitchy chunks. Wow, was that the plan all along? What amazing accuracy from what is essentially a hollow tube with rudimentary optical sights to miss the fifteen people standing within ten feet of the spiders.

You trusted this stoner to shoot a cannon in your general direction? Seriously?

Professor Evil is supremely pissed that his spiders were smacked and he loses his mind for a minute. There's a struggle, some unwarranted physical contact, an unwisely unholstered firearm, and the Professor slips and falls down into the halfpipe. The last spider is still alive and instantly pounces on him and tears off his face in a moment of irony. The soldiers finally do something right then and shoot it dead. For being (alleged) highly-trained soldiers, they've really not done anything all movie, just stood there mostly, even when their boss is being verbally abused.

Ouch, the Professor's going to need some new glasses.

Just then George Bush arrives with a platoon of black-clad Special Forces troops! I say George Bush because this is 2006, the height of the anti-Bush fever in Hollywood and it has to be deliberate that this guy is wearing a Texas oilman ten-gallon hat and talks like a Yale man. They take the last living spider away (the Black One in the cage) and George tells them that nothing happened here, it was all just a hallucination caused by an unfortunate chemical spill. When Dash and Doctor Hottie protest, George straight-up threatens to add them to the dead toll, which shuts them up pretty quick.

George Bush (or maybe more Cheney-ish).

The wrap-up is as hokey as humanly possible, ending like an episode of Charlie's Angels with everyone laughing and smiling. Dash makes his move on Doctor Hottie, and they walk off arm in arm. Killer mutant arachnoids who left a trail of mutilated bodies and a Guv'mint cover-up of Roswell proportions are no reasons for Dash not to get his groove on, proof positive that sex overrules all other considerations. Doctor Hottie seems pretty pleased with herself, but I wonder if she has any sense of her own role in this catastrophe. She was partially responsible for the creation of the mutant spiders in the first place, even if she didn't directly cause them to kill anyone, but she seems to have completely washed her hands of any culpability. And then there's that matter of the stolen CDs from the lab, and that Non-Disclosure agreement she signed and then violated, all of which would have some serious legal repercussions, I'd think. If I had a gun right now I'd shoot someone...

Do it! Do it! Do it, you wimp!

The end.

Written in October 2009 by Nathan Decker.

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