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Arachnid (2001)

Directed by Jack Sholder
Written by Mark Sevi
Starring Chris Potter, Alex Reid, José Sancho, Neus Asensi, Ravil Isyanov, and Luis Lorenzo Crespo

It feels like most of the time we see giant spiders in the wild, they’re in caves. Certainly when they’re the focus of the plot, they’re in or approaching population centers. The one in Arachnid is an outlier in a number of respects, but primarily for spending the entire film on a tropical island.

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Spiders (2000)

Directed by Gary Jones
Written by Boaz Davidson, Stephen David Brooks, Jace Anderson, and Adam Gierasch
Starring Lana Parrilla, Josh Green, Oliver Macready, Nick Swarts, Mark Phelan, and Leslie Zemeckis

Ever since H.G. Wells wrote The Food of the Gods, scientists have been creating bigger spiders. Usually it’s in the pursuit of better nutrition, but every now and then it’s a straightforward attempt to weaponize arachnids. The film Spiders is the first entry in a series of movies based on this inadvisable weapons program.

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Krull (1983)

Directed by Peter Yates
Written by Stanford Sherman
Starring Ken Marshall, Lysette Anthony, Freddie Jones, Francesca Annis, Alun Armstrong, David Battley, Bernard Bresslaw, Liam Neeson, John Welsh, and Robbie Coltrane

When I think of swashbuckling, I picture fantastic adventure and daring heroes, such as Sinbad and Robin Hood. The Buck Rogers comic strips and serials brought the sensibilities of the style into the realm of science fiction, and Star Wars launched a powerful franchise out of the mixture of fantasy, adventure, and technology. There have been quite a lot of imitators, but few ever approached the delightful world-building or production values achieved by Krull.

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World Without End (1956)

Written and Directed by Edward Bernds
Starring Hugh Marlowe, Nancy Gates, Nelson Leigh, Rod Taylor, Shirley Patterson, Lisa Montell, Christopher Dark, and Everett Glass

One of the most enduring science fiction stories is The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells. Apart from popularizing the notion of time travel, it influenced the way we think about the future in terms of what will become of the human race and its civilizations. Humanity splits in two, with the Eloi physically dwindling and living in shiny towers while the Morlock grow strong laboring underneath. While Wells’ work stressed the division between the working and ruling classes, others would use the premise to make their own statements. The film World Without End uses the threat of nuclear war to create a future where humans on the surface are enslaved by mutants while those who sheltered below ground are failing to thrive.

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Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920)

Directed by John S. Robertson
Written by Clara Beranger, based on the play by Thomas Russell Sullivan, based on the novel by Robert Louis Stevenson
Starring John Barrymore, Martha Mansfield, Brandon Hurst, Charles Lane, Cecil Clovelly, and Nita Naldi

The story of Jekyll and Hyde is one of the foundations on which modern horror is built. Not only does it have the scientist experimenting on himself, but it lays out the format for internal crises of morality and identity being played out in physical manifestations. Certainly werewolves existed in folklore and fiction beforehand, but they were evil and corrupted in human form as well. Larry Talbot’s struggle against the beast inside of him has more to do with Henry Jekyll than with legend. In one of the most fascinating adaptations of the book, however, Jekyll isn’t initially trying to exorcise evil from the human condition but to let himself enjoy it.

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Big Ass Spider! (2013)

Directed by Mike Mendez
Written by Gregory Gieras
Starring Greg Grunberg, Lin Shaye, Ruben Pla, Alexis Kendra, Lombardo Boyar, and Ray Wise

Titles are important. They set audience expectations of tone and content. Other factors play into it of course — trailers, posters, tie-in products — but in the end, it’s just the title listed with a time. So when I learned there was a film named Big Ass Spider! I figured it would deliver a big damn spider, a comical tone, and hopefully enough action to make up for its shortcomings. Spoiler: my guess was right.

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Bite Me! (2004)

Written Directed by Brett Piper
Starring Erin Brown (as Misty Mundae), Julian Wells, Rob Monkiewicz, Erika Smith, Michael R. Thomas, Caitlin Ross, and Sylvianne Chebance

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If you’re setting out to review every big spider movie commercially available, you’re going to eventually have to deal with sleazy movies. I’m talking low-budget films with lots of gratuitous nudity and sex, simulated or otherwise. When I did a movie podcast years ago, the episode that broke me was about Jess Franco’s Mari-Cookie and the Killer Tarantula. Two of my friends took my displeasure as a challenge and watched for themselves. One said he’d seen worse but agreed it wasn’t good. The other sent a messenger to kick me in the junk for him. At least I’d earned it.

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