A lesbian couple – Eden and Mathilda – are living in a house where they haven’t paid rent for two years. Their mean landlord is getting a bit angry at this, and putting pressure on them to hand over the thousands they owe. One of them also works in a men-only club, where she has to put up with the lecherous unpleasantness of the guys there.
Add to that there’s a very unusual serial killer out there stalking woman, and then bizarre things start to happen after one of the women gets a pet tarantula and it escapes. It’s also a world where people often break into song – including the women, their landlord, and most particularly drag queens.
As you may have guessed, this is not a typical movie. It is bizarre, punk-ish anarchy (or ‘arachny’ as the makers would prefer to say), which jumps from one idea and plotline to another with complete abandon. Spidarlings is held together with a succession of pretty good songs that in most circumstances would seem oddly random, but here helps to give the whole thing a sense of hyper-real camp, that allows its randomness not to feel quite as abrupt or annoying as it might have done.
As it cycles through genres from domestic melodrama and musical to thriller and comedy – before heading into the world of Fly-esque body horror – it is a bizarre beast and a bit of a hodgepodge. It’s also a very lengthy hodgepodge that could have done with a bit of judicious editing. Add to that quite a few rough edges and the fact that some of the acting isn’t exactly award-calibre, and you’d think it might be a complete write-off. Surprisingly though, it’s oddly watchable bizarreness.
What helps pull it together is something else that is the opposite of what you’d expect it to be. In most films, making the women lesbians and one of them work in a gentleman’s club would have had an edge of sexism, done purely to please straight male eyes. Here though it’s essentially the opposite of that, as what runs through the film no matter what strangeness it’s jumped to, is a strong feminist streak.
Each situation and genre leap is tied into a subplot looking at the issues of women, normally in their interactions with boorish, arrogant men – whether it’s dealing with lechery, attempted rape, and social/capitalist control or looking at pregnancy, birth and motherhood as a kind of happy/sad/gross infestation. It’s certainly an unusual and strange way of looking at these issues (and some may feel its anger at things such as landlords expecting rent goes a little far) but it certainly adds an intriguing edge.
It’s also a movie that wears its inspirations on its sleeve, whether its songs that sometimes give off a Rocky Horror vibe, or moments that hint towards the work or everyone from Dario Argento and Abel Ferrara (including one moment that gives an unusual take on the idea of a Driller Killer), to Fassbinder and Andy Warhol, alongside John Waters (unsurprisingly) and even I Love Lucy.
Spidarlings is undoubtedly an overly long mess, but it is a surprisingly interesting mess, which has obviously had a lot more thought put into it that you might expect for something so seemingly random, camp and chaotic.
Is it a good film? I honestly don’t know. But it’s better than perhaps it has a right to be, even if many people’s reaction will just be, ‘What the fuck was that?’.
Overall Verdict: A film determined not to be quite like any other – after all, how many strongly feminist horror, drama, thriller, musical, punk, body horror, sci-fi, serial killer, drag queen, gay films can you think of?
Reviewer: Tim Isaac
Spidarlings is available on VoD now via Troma Now