KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS (1977)
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Plot of the flick is fairly simple. When pesticides kill off their natural prey, the usually solitary tarantulas surrounding the remote town of Camp Verde, Arizona form a massive colony to attack larger prey such as farm animals and humans. Local veterinarian Rack Hansen (William Shatner) teams up with pretty arachnologist Diane Ashley (Tiffany Bolling) to try to stop the wave of hungry spiders as it closes in on the town.
Nature run amok flick is directed by John “Bud” Cardos from a script by Alan Caillou and Richard Robinson. It’s a spooky flick with many chilling scenes, especially for those who might have a problem with spiders. Anyone with arachnophobia will definitely have a hard time here. This might possibly be Cardos’ best movie as he hits all the right notes and his straightforward directing style works perfectly, as a slow burn is what this story needs. A problem effecting one farm, slowly builds into an invasion of an entire town and it’s done very well. The presentation of armies of spiders is very effective and looks like hundreds were used in filming. There is also some decent enough make-up FX to simulate spider bites and who isn’t given the willies by seeing someone wrapped up in a web as a spider snack. There is suspense, tension and watching spiders pouring out of air vents or surrounding a little girl on her bed, are goose-bump inducing. There are a few cheesy FX, such as the matte paintings used during the still very effective climax, but otherwise this is a little movie that smartly stayed within it’s means and spent it’s $1 million budget well. By today’s standards it could be seen as tame and slow moving, but the restraint and pace does work in it’s favor. When things do happen it’s all the more effective.
Cast are really good here. Cardos even reigns in Shatner a bit. Sure Shatner plays his country veterinarian as a bit of a Romeo, but the character also has some depth, as he is a bit of a drinker and torn over the feelings he has for his dead brother’s widow, Terry (Marcy Lafferty). It makes him more of a human hero. Tiffany Bolling is good as the sexy scientist that catches Rack’s eye, as well as, investigates his spider problem. She stands on equal ground with the heroic veterinarian and it makes it interesting. The then Mrs. William Shatner, Marcy Lafferty, is sweet yet a bit emotionally troubled as Terry. She has feeling for Rack, too, but is still mourning and loyal to her husband, who died in the Viet Nam War. Again it gives the characters a little depth. Little Natasha Ryan is cute as Terry’s daughter and Rack’s niece Linda and legendary athlete turned actor Woody Strode is perfectly cast as a farmer with a serious arachnid problem.
In conclusion, this is a solid and sometimes chilling nature run amok flick. It keeps it’s story simple with nature, in the form of tarantulas, making lethal adjustments to their habits to counter man’s interference. The spider sequences are really well done and effective and director John “Bud” Cardos’ down to earth style, keeps the flick grounded, realistic and scary. The FX are effective, for the most part and the film knows how to give you the willies. A solid horror with a good cast of humans and spiders.
Rated 3 (out of 4) webs.