It’s been such a cliché for decades that the recent comedy “Tucker and Dale vs Evil” may have parodied it (however unlikely) to its well-deserved death.
At least the quartet of UK collegians of “Spiderhole” has done something different: Rather than go away for the weekend, these students leave their dreary dorms behind for good. They go “squatting,” which is to move into an abandoned building so they can party their asses off and not have to pay a dime.
Never underestimate the stupidity of youth (onscreen or off), because these four select a mammoth, multifloor spread that just screams, “Hobo Hotel.” Actually, its insides — which look like the house in “Saw II” — serve as the residence to mostly countless, harmless arachnids and one very mean old man, named in the credits only as The Captor (newcomer John Regan).
They don’t discover this, naturally, until they’re sealed inside the residence, with no apparent escape. The Captor gasses them into unconsciousness, and they wake up as a trio. Naturally, the old guy likes to tie ’em down for torture.
While “Spiderhole” spills its share of the red stuff, it’s not nearly as gory at it would be in the hands of your Eli Roths, who wouldn’t hesitate to show the removal of the feet. Instead, first-time feature writer/director Daniel Simpson is more interested in apprehension than annihilation. Perhaps that’s a result of the meager budget; either way, you’ll squirm as a character attempts to fit the correct key in a lock before The Captor shows up, and Simpson refuses to pan over to give us a sense of how close he may be.
Increasing its effectiveness is that The Captor doesn’t speak, making him all the more eerie. He owns the film’s back half, which is sticky enough to ensnare you in its web after a slow-going start that serves only to set up how individually hateful three of the four young people are. What person in his or her right mind would choose to live in absolute squalor to save a buck? It’s as if Simpson wants you to want them to go away.
Tying directly to the title, an image in the final scene manages to chill to the point that I wanted more. (If only Simpson had started his story later …) All things considered, “Spiderhole” worked more than not to merit a minor recommendation for those into this sort of thing, i.e. me. —Rod Lott