Good god do movies starting with the letter ‘S’ suck. Not all of them, clearly, but the last three Coroner’s Reports have all been ‘S’ movies and they have not been good. The bigger question here though is why the hell have I covered four of them in a row? Luck of the draw if you can believe it, but after this week’s cliched thriller failed to thrill yet again I’m declaring a ban on the letter for the next month. Or two.
The new IFC release Spiderhole sees a quartet of homeless (by choice man) twenty-somethings who move into an abandoned home with the intention of claiming squatter’s rights on the domicile. The windows are all boarded up, but they’ll worry about that in the morning… for now they’re more focused on finishing off the bottle of vodka they found. Big mistake. They wake up late the next morning and quickly realize they’ve been drugged. The doors are bolted shut from the inside. The windows are covered in soundproofed shielding. And they’re pretty much fucked.
Four hooligans go in, a lesser number than that come out.
Drunk schmucks get gassed! An eyeball is removed at one point and it looks like one of those old psychic surgery bits where the guy palms the organ/tumor/eyeball that he then pretends to remove. There are also some beatings with a nail-embedded bat.
One of the girls has some of the “sex” that those young kids are into, and while we don’t get any nudity we do see a close-up of her tight, sweaty belly. She also flashes her white panties, but the scene lacks sex appeal thanks in large part to the hack saw threatening to sever her leg.
Squatting is illegal for a reason. That reason has little to do with psychotic madmen plucking out your eyeballs, but still, better safe than sorry.
The setup here isn’t all that original, but it really doesn’t need to be. There are only so many plots in the world so it’s what you do after that setup that really matters. In that regard, writer/director Daniel Simpson offers two glimmers of hope in an otherwise drab, emotionless, and by the numbers horror thriller. They both come late in the film, so we’ll get to them later in the review.
The initial setup isn’t all that fresh, but it works on a mechanical level to get the characters into a single location. Once there though they identify themselves as three and a half idiots. Toby (George Maguire) and Zoe (Amy Noble) are young, in love, and excited by the prospect of squatting. Luke (Reuben-Henry Biggs) and Molly (Emma Griffiths Malin) aren’t quite at that stage yet, but unless things go really bad and they’re attacked by a madman or something the two appear to have a bright future together. Four people sharing half a brain is a recipe for disaster though when they hear noises upstairs and find a pile of bloody clothes… and decide to sleep in the house anyway.
When they realize the next day that they’re captives they search the house, bang on some walls, and watch through a pinhole as someone steals their van. When it rains it pours apparently. Anyway, they start getting picked off one by one, sometimes due to a gaseous substance and sometimes because they wander off on their own like characters in a horror movie. And it’s this entire 2nd act that just drags for no good reason. Characters scared for their lives should create some tension, but they don’t. The appearance of the psycho behind it all should be somewhat unsettling, but it isn’t. The tortures and atrocities he commits against the trespassers should be terrifying, but they’re not.
The aforementioned glimmers of hope come in two stages. First, unlike almost all of the films in this specific sub-genre Simpson offers a teasing glimpse of the killer’s living quarters and the man himself in a brief, thoughtful repose. But his tantalizing back story is gone as quickly as it appeared, and we’re thrust back into the stupid interlopers being bashed and cut by the man for a seemingly ridiculous reason. And second, mere moments before the end credits roll we’re treated to the first and only genuinely creepy scene that (unlike the film as a whole) ends far too soon.
Spiderhole had promise, theoretically, but it fails to generate much in the way of suspense or scares. Shots of dusty pipes, slime dripping from faucets, and spiders crawling about are no substitute for real atmosphere, character development, and emotional investment.
Spiderhole is currently available On Demand.