Bonnie Burton gets inside the mind of big screen arachnids
Oh, what a tangled web we weave. When first we practise to deceive! Especially when we’re giant mutant spiders attacking a city that chooses to welcome us with military gunfire. Though to be fair, monster spiders don’t need to trick their prey – they just need an extra large web.
For all who squeal in fear whenever a spider of any size pays a visit, watching movies about killer spiders invading unsuspecting cities full of helpless humans may seem more like masochism than entertainment. But instead of squirming in my seat when Horrors Of Spider Island or Eight Legged Freaks show up on telly, I change. I side with the menacing mutant creature over the humans every time.
Before you call me a traitor to humanity, consider the facts. These spiders are afraid, lonely and homesick. They are mistreated in labs, stolen from the rainforest to be poked and prodded, or held prisoner in military installations.
Science is, primarily, to blame. In the case of the 2013 movie Big Ass Spider the titular spider was just hanging out, got inflated by scientists testing alien DNA, and suddenly it was, er, big ass. Naturally it wanted revenge. And who could blame it? A similar thread runs through 1955’ s Tarantula, where scientists use an atomic isotope to create a super food nutrient by testing on mice, guinea pigs and – yup – an innocent tarantula. Which escapes. And grows. Thanks, science! After the huge spider kills livestock at the neighbouring farms, it returns to the lab to exterminate the remaining scientist. Only a dose of napalm finishes it off in the end.
That’s not the end of science’s crimes. In the 2007 movie Ice Spiders an entire ski resort is subjected to giant black widow attacks thanks to scientists in a nearby top- secret military lab that experiment with the growth patterns – resulting in a mutation and some very bad arachnid mood swings. Pesticides force hordes of marauding tarantulas to go after bigger prey in Kingdom Of The Spiders ( 1977) starring William Shatner. Another man- made mess it seems. The film ends with one heck of a giant web cocoon, and not a happy result for the humans.
In the 1967 Toho film Son Of Godzilla, the spider monster Kumonga was the enemy, but later – in Destroy All Monsters – he ends up saving the world alongside Godzilla. The spider chose to take the same approach humans do in all wars – the enemies of our enemies are our allies. When Kumonga is captured by aliens who are in control of Monster Zero ( also known as King Ghidorah) the arachnid avenges its imprisonment by using
I side with the mutant creature over the humans every time
its web to take down the aliens’ number one weapon of destruction.
Some poor spiders are neither nasty or nice; just innocent arachnids that are blamed for atrocities they did not commit. When Harry Potter came face to face with the giant spider Aragog, we learn it is wrongly accused of killing a student decades ago. While it was in the spider’s instinct to attack humans, out of respect for Hagrid, it refrained.
In real life, spiders can’t even spot us until we are a foot away. A spider is not likely to plot its revenge on us if it can’t even see us. But spiders are blamed for bites that actually come from fleas, mosquitoes, bedbugs, ticks and mites. Just like Aragog, they are quite nice really, wrongly accused for the actions of bugs that do mean us harm. Movies have taught me that scientists – not spiders – are the enemy here.
So before you squash that spider on the wall, or bellow “MURDERER!” at the mutant spider that levels a town in the movies, remember that these creatures – even the grotesquely enlarged ones – are just trying to survive in a world where humans still call the shots. Bonnie is happy to defend spiders but please don’t pour a bucket of them on her head.
O ur columnist Bonnie Burton, a San Franciscobased author, has written a number of books including her latest – The Star Wars Craft Book. B onnie appears on the massive “Geek & Sundry” and “Stan Lee’s World Of Heroes” YouTube channels. M ore of her writing can be found at www. grrl. com.