Spider is the story of Dennis Cleg (Ralph Fiennes), a man who is given a room in a halfway house catering to mentally disturbed persons. Cleg has just been released from a mental institution and in his new abode starts piecing together or recreating in his memory an apparently fateful childhood event.
This psychological thriller about Dennis « Spider » Cleg a mentally disturbed patient reliving his past with a clear syndrome of the mother as the Madonna and the whore might be a little repelling at first but like David Lynch’s Eraserhead, this is the kind of film that gets your on the screen even if it is strange and disturbing.
This Freudian nightmare of urban England is populated with Ralph Fiennes in the title character, Gabriel Byrne as his father and Miranda Richardson as the mother. The dual role of Richardson makes this complex film a little more clearer when it comes to the psychology of the character. The audience is seeing the vision of Spider and slowly understands the traumatism that let him to an asylum.
Considering that director David Cronenberg, actors Ralph Fiennes and Miranda Richardson were not paid to make this movie because of the difficulty to fund it, this makes a very special film. It has the vibe of the aforementioned Eraserhead without much of the eerie settings and crude black and white. The somber tones of the images makes it almost like a monochrome film that is filled with grey and opaque lighting. Cronenberg’s mise en scène is solid and very subtle. Few effects but an effective storytelling and a personal signature that can remind of the visuals of his own Naked Lunch. There’s not much gore in Spider compared to his cult classic and the horror is in the head of the protagonist.
However, as much as his best films can be described as horror and science-fiction classics, his later offerings are challenging the psychological horror of mankind. In a recent interview, Cronenberg stated that he always did comedies, well it takes a dark sense of humor if you ask me. There are not that many flaws in Spider but the re watch factor isn’t much there and the layers of understanding are quite palpable. A solid film that is sure not for everyone’s tastes even Cronenberg’s fans would be a bit disappointed but it is certainly recommended. In fact, Spider is underrated and under appreciated, but it is still far from Videodrome, this critic’s favorite film from this director.