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Film Review: Spider (2002)


Set in East End London of the 1960s and 1980s. A mentally-disturbed man takes up quarters in a halfway house after his release from a sanatorium. His mind gradually slips back into the realm created by his mental illness. He then begins to revisit his past and a key part of his childhood. Spider (the character) stops taking his medication and his childhood haunts begin to return. He attempts to sustain his delusional account of his past begin to unravel his mother’s death.


Director: David Cronenberg
Screenplay by Patrick McGrath, based on his novel
Producers: Catherine Bailey, David Cronenberg
Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Miranda Richardson, Gabriel Byrne, John Neville

This was Cronenberg’s first movie shot in England and its tone and production design are classically British. A true psychological mystery on the fringe of horror. “Spider” offers us an excellent example of the fractured mind of an innocent victim trying hard to come to grips with a disturbed and troubled past. And this movie is loaded with everything David Cronenberg fans come to expect from him. “Spider” opens in the 1980s were we come across a deeply disturbed person trying to adapt to the real world, one he’s been unable to be part of since his schizophrenia locked him away for the past twenty years.

As Spider “Ralph Fiennes“ adapts to his new surroundings we experience his disturbing flashbacks and the hallucinations that slowly bring back the real facts his mother’s death. Along the way the females living in his half-way home begin to become just as confusing to the viewer as they are to Spider as his mother was to him. This unfolding imagery is the true horror in Spider’s mind. The movie includes its share violence as the story unfolds, though boat loads of blood and guts are not to be found. Unsettling as it is to see mentally challenged persons deal with life situations, Cronenberg, again, who never seems to have sold out to the Hollywood system convincingly brings us into the very disturbing psyche of the character. Ralph Fiennes tackles the most challenging character role in his storied career with grace. After watching this movie it’s hard to figure out why Ralph’s was over looked at the Oscars that year.

Cinematographer Peter Suschitzy (“Eastern Promises”, “History Of Violence” and “eXistenZ”) has been Cronenberg’s main choice for Cinematographer since “Dead Ringers”. The stated Cinematography works hand in hand with Patrick McGrath screenplay.

Spider (2002)

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