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Earth vs. The Spider (2001)

Special-effects wizard Stan Winston — through his work on The Terminator and Jurassic Park films, amongst others — has become enough of a "name" to get respect and recognition from more than just the sci-fi fans who traffic in such information. In fact, his name has been attached to a series of Showtime made-for-cable movies released under the moniker "Creature Features," with his presence being one of the main selling points. The series are in-name-only remakes of low budget '50s sci-fi/horror flicks that bear the stamp of Winston's involvement through his designs of the gruesome special effects and make-up (which he supervises but doesn't actually do). And much like the movies they are based on, the "Creature Features" aren't particularly passionate endeavors, but they are adequate in delivering what the audience came for. With Earth vs. The Spider the plot of the original 1958 film is ignored completely for a more routine one: It stars David Gummersal as a geeky security guard named Quentin, who has a crush on his next-door neighbor Stephanie (Amelia Heinle) and a fascination with comics. Constantly dreaming of being a superhero, when Quentin's partner dies at the chemical plant they guard, he decides to inject himself with an experimental arachnid formula in the hopes of developing superpowers like his favorite comic book characters. And — at first — this seems to be the chemical's effect, as Quentin grows strong and protects Stephanie from a criminal. But he slowly begins to turn into a spider, and innocent people are getting hurt because of it. On his trail is Det. Jack Grillo (Dan Aykroyd), a cop who has lost his cajones after his partner's killer got away from him. Adopting a Faustus-like plot from thousands of other films and comic books, director Steve Ziehl seems aware of his perfunctory role, which means filming the story so the most attention is paid to the money-moments of make-up and gore. Clocking in at a brief 90 minutes, Earth vs. The Spider is thoroughly predicable and uninteresting, but it provides the gross-outs that made dates clutch hands as effectively now as they did back in the '50s. Columbia TriStar's DVD presents the film in both anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) and pan-and-scan, with little difference between the two, while the soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. Extras include sketches and stills from the production, a two-minute featurette, filmographies, and trailers for the Creature Feature series and other horror films. Keep-case.

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