‘Spider’ Spins a Web That Is Dull and Disconnected

I might as well opt for the obvious pun: “Spider” weaves a twisted web of confusion and boredom.

It’s been a long time since I saw a film that left me this discontented, and this is coming from someone who has seen the Steven Seagal vehicle “Half Past Dead” and the forgotten 1960s movie “They Saved Hitler’s Brain” within the last week.

Director David Cronenberg opens with a series of Rorschach inkblots that serve no purpose in the lengthy opening credit sequence except to let us know that our protagonist, Spider (Ralph Fiennes), is completely insane.

We meet Spider as he checks into a lonely and dilapidated mental health facility somewhere in England, where he attempts to come to an understanding of what happened in his childhood in a continuing series of flashbacks.

Spider’s obsessive-compulsive neuroses constitute half of the movie. By half an hour in, Spider’s uncomfortable fidgeting, incoherent muttering and detachment with reality have already become tiresome, and we press on only to uncover more details of Spider’s shattered childhood one flashback at a time.

During these moments, Spider attempts to revisit his distant past, though this comes across as awkward considering he linearly progresses through his memory almost if only for narrative ease.

We see Spider as a young boy with a brash father (Gabriel Byrne) and a caring mother (Amanda Richardson).

Bored with his marriage, Spider’s father meets a boisterous floozy at the bar and begins a torrid affair. Eventually, Spider’s mother discovers her husband’s activities; Spider’s dad responds by killing her on the spot and brings the barfly home to take the place of Spider’s mother.

The rest of the movie consists of Spider interacting with the flat characters in his nursing home and trudging slowly through more flashbacks, fidgeting and unintelligibly rambling on all the while.
Spider eventually builds up to what might pass for a twist ending, but it’s unbelievable how slowly the movie moved to build to such a bland finish.

It left me shocked that the film could end on such an insipid and rushed note; seeing the credits actually jarred me, especially because I expected another half-hour or so for the plot to flesh itself out given the dearth of character depth.

The only highlight to the miserably boring plot is the cinematography.

Like Cronenberg’s other films, Spider is surreal and dark throughout the duration of the movie. Unfortunately, atmosphere can’t hold up a motion picture like this, and in all of Cronenberg’s other films, there was a good premise for the imagery to enrich. “Spider” is a far cry from “Dead Zone.” If you usually don’t rush out to see independent releases such as this, “Spider” gives you enough reason not to start.