Running out of money and relying on stock footage does little to dampen Dave’s appreciation for Ice Spiders.
The isolation. The claustrophobia. The desolation.
Here at The Schlock Pit, we love a little snow-set anarchy!
There’s a handful of post-Millennial wintry wonders that most of you could pluck out of your library to pay an annual revisit, ranging from the eeriness of Larry Fessenden’s The Last Winter (2006), to the strung-out solitude of Adam Green’s Frozen (2010). While they and frosty delights like 30 Days of Night (2007) and Wind Chill (2007) deserve a raft of glowing platitudes, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t more inclined to opt for nourishingly niveous schlockers like Ice Queen (2005) and Ice Soldiers (2013) to satisfy my glacial greed. But hats tipped in the direction of Neil Kinsella and Sturla Gunnarsson’s respective nippy nightmares, they still don’t quite deliver the snowbound aracho-insanity of Tibor Takacs’ ICE SPIDERS (2007).
“I think I’m ‘Creative Consultant’ on Ice Spiders,” pondered a bemused Brian Trenchard-Smith during a recent chat I had with the approachable Aussie. “It’s a splendidly silly SyFy Channel movie. It had problems, and we couldn’t afford to shoot any more, but we could afford to buy some stock footage. So, I enhanced the visuals by finding skiing footage in the Paramount library. It’s free production value! Because of my editing experience, it’s just something that I really enjoy. It’s not a new invention, of course. They were doing it back in the ’30s with the Republic serials.”
If you dig into the production of Takacs’ film, you’d be well within your right to expect a hastily spliced toboggan-crash of epic proportions that was passed around like a hot potato; although it’s a concern that editor – and Full Moon Pictures legend – Danny Draven eases by underlining the involvement of the Hungarian filmmaker deep into post-production:
“Tibor and I worked on it together quite a bit,” recalls Draven. “It came to me in a bit of a mess, and I had to do lots of magic in post to get it cut together with stock shots of skiing, etc. I must admit that I didn’t take it to the final edit and handed off a portion of the edit to someone else, since I had to move on to another project at the time. As far as I know, the new editor cut some things down and added more stock shots.”
Nevertheless, with dwindling finances and pressure on all concerned, Ice Spiders is a remarkably coherent and gratifying hour and a half. The setting is Lost Mountain Skiing Resort in Logan County, Utah, where, after a pre-credits massacre of hunters Rocky (Paul Kiernan) and Bob (Christopher Robin Miller), we hook up with a group of college kids who are headed to the wintry retreat for a little downhill diversion.
Chief among them is the swaggering Chad (Noah Bastian): a kid who’s prone to boastful proclamations like “I’m going to the Olympics”, which don’t sit too well with chief instructor, Dan ‘Dash’ Dashiell (Patrick Muldoon). Dash is a former prodigy of the slopes who, upon shattering his leg in a freak skiing accident, finds himself slumming it at this winter hideaway – owned by the charismatic Frank Stone (Stephen J. Cannell. Yes, that Stephen J. Cannell) – and teaching the rudimentary aspects of the sport to despairingly uncoordinated holidaymakers. Don’t feel too sorry for the shaggy-haired, surf-talking hipster, though, as Dr. April Summers (Vanessa Williams) has a soft spot for the sportsman, who she sees with great regularity in-between those covert scientific experiments that she’s leading at a nearby top secret facility – “What do you even do up there at the lab?”
Well, they’re not classified for long, as a trio of genetically mutated, exponentially growing spiders break out and set their claws into the nearest habitable environment: the Lost Mountain Resort.
It’s a back-of-a-napkin storyline from Eric Miller (who’d go on to pen the derivative but barnstorming Mask Maker (2011)), although that suits Ice Spiders to a tee. Characters are fleshed out with a greater desire than most SyFy originals, while Miller adds a couple of nuanced tangents along the way to deliver a picture with admirable momentum. Muldoon had, of course, retreated from the DTV/made-for-cable arena after a string of magnificent schlockers like D.J Caruso’s peerless Black Cat Run (1998), John Terlesky’s Cinetel classic Chain of Command (2000), and Jeremy Haft’s ace serial killer flick Red Team (2000), but here he’s down for a chunk of eight-legged CGI mayhem.
And it’s good CGI mayhem too.
The mutant insects are rendered so that they’re all markedly different in terms of colour, size and shape (infused with the DNA of different species, you see), while another Full Moon alum, Jeffrey S. Farley, is on hand to add a little of his practical nouse, with spider legs aplenty (!). Thumbs up in the direction of dependable Canuxploitation lenser Barry Gravelle too. With pictures like Sci-Fighters (1996) and The Clown at Midnight (1998) under his belt, he’s able – against all odds – to craft a fine-looking movie with a satisfyingly tense siege ending that’s shot with energy and a degree of flair.
Premiering on the Sci-Fi Channel on June 9th, 2007, Ice Spiders arrived from Regent Entertainment: a company with a long and consistent (in terms of quality) association with the cable station, and one that had previous with both Trenchard-Smith (Brittanic (2000)) and Takacs (Tornado Warning (2002)), not to mention an appetising history of frugally-budgeted B’s, with David DeCoteau’s Ring of Darkness (2004) and Killer Bash (2005) among the tastiest.
Considering the number of cooks invited into the kitchen (the mighty Fred Olen Ray is also listed as a production consultant), Ice Spiders has no right to be such a rollicking good ride. Having said that, all the key creatives (Takacs, Trenchard-Smith, Draven, and Ray) share the same commonality that they’re damn fine filmmakers who would only ever have the good of the picture at heart – and it shows.