A bad movie that comes perilously close to being a half-decent movie, Kingdom of the Spiders delivers a story that makes sense, a campy lead performance, and lots of creepy-crawly mayhem. William Shatner stars as Dr. Robert “Rack” Hansen, an amiable veterinarian living in a dusty armpit of a small town in Arizona. When livestock start falling prey to spider bites, Hansen and bug expert Diane Ashley (Tiffany Bolling) realize that excessive use of pesticides has destroyed natural food sources for local arachnids, and sparked a nasty evolutionary cycle producing millions of aggressive bugs with extra-potent venom. The narrative follows the standard B-movie rulebook, right down to the idiot mayor who only cares about the impending county fair, so every beloved element of creature-feature hokum is included. The picture evades total ridiculousness, however, because the spiders aren’t given weird powers or proportions; they’re dangerous simply because they’re hungry and plentiful. Gross-outs arrive courtesy of icky spider attacks and also via random weirdness like the scene in which a character played by Altovise Davis (Sammy Davis Jr.’s spouse in real life) shoots herself in the hand while aiming at a predatory insect. Shatner is more casual than usual but still watchably goofy, with his comically overconfident swagger and awkward line deliveies, plus there’s great fun to be had watching him scamper around spider-infested locations; he skips girlishly to avoid stepping on bugs and daintily swats his hands to wipe them off his body. Adding further unintentional comedy are the warbly country song that plays over the credits and the cheerfully florid dialogue: “This is our house, and no damn spiders are gonna run us out!” Better still, the last twenty minutes or so deliver legit B-movie excitement, and the ending doesn’t take the expected route.
Kingdom of the Spiders: FUNKY