1988-Color-English Dubbed-Widescreen-Warning-not intended for viewers under 18 years-contains scenes of violence and sexual situations. Handsome Professor Alan Whitmore is assigned by his university to go to Budapest to seek out Professor Roth who has been investigating an ancient religion. Once there, he is met by Professor Roths’ beautiful assistant, Genevieve Weiss. But Professor Whitmore soon finds himself at the center of mysterious cult involving secrets, murder, and a monstrous mind controlling spider god . Will the professor solve this weird puzzle, or will he too be caught in the web of the Spider Labyrinth
The Spider Labyrinth is a 1988 horror thriller from Director Gianfranco Giagni and various writers who wanted to adapt H.P. Lovecraft’s The Shadow over Innsmouth while using spiders instead of fish and at the same time making it generally boring.
The film circles around one Professor Alan Whitmore, played by Ronald Wybenga, a linguistic expert hired to help a company researching into a religious cult by getting the last bit of research they need from a reclusive researcher in Budapest, the unaccredited Professor Roth, who won’t respond to the company’s requests.
Whitmore arrives in Budapest to bad acting from Roth’s assistant Genevieve Weiss, played by Paola Rinaldi, and is lead to more awkward death stares and wooden delivery from children, Roth’s wife and eventually Roth himself who gets vague and strange when addressed about his research.
The only bit of intrigue we get for the whole first half of the film besides the eventual killings is what Roth tries to show Whitmore what little he can before a black ball kills the mood by being thrown through the glass and Roth’s wife Celia, played by Margareta von Krauss, who gives rather effective bitch face causing Whitmore to leave.
More bad flirting between Weiss and Whitmore lead to him going through a hotel where all eyes are on Whitmore and he gets a feeling of isolation but even through this the conversation Whitmore has with the hotel’s owner Mrs. Kuhn, played by Stephane Audran, kills the mood once more by being robotic despite efforts to feel more surreal.
The whole film plays like a Lovecraft story, with some well meaning professor trying to learn more about something fascinating and unseen while the surrounding townsfolk estrange him until he is either killed, ran out of town or converted to their strange cult, but it also plays like a Lovecraft story adapted to film by having stilted conversations, oddball acting and scenes that cut the tension down with too little or too much in the pacing.
There is even a strange man warning Whitmore that the town is dangerous, the secrets are dangerous and that he’ll die or worse if he doesn’t leave. After the exchange Whitmore makes his way to Roth’s house in the night after he didn’t call back only to find a crowd of more overly aggressive townsfolk and the police who lead him to a scene where Roth has been hung and is covered in spider webs.
As it turns out, Celia is not Roth’s wife and between the police and Maria stringing Whitmore along in goofy dialogue so they can understand the scene from there. Between more scenes of Whitmore being warned, more hotel residents giving Whitmore the evil eye and a short conversation between Whitmore, Kuhn and Weiss a long, drawn out scene with everyone at dinner getting up, looking at Whitmore and leaving the room essentially proves Whitmore to be alone and the population of Budapest to have the worst collective poker face ever.
In the night a hotel maid who also tried to warn Whitmore is killed by a woman with crazy hair and oversized sharp teeth, causing Whitmore to get up and explore, leading to a strange scene between him and Kuhn talking about her dead child and the absurdly large and dark nursery Kuhn comes to at night while rocking an empty cradle. While the scene is genuinely unsettling, it still feels awkward and shoved in like everything else in the film so far.
The morning leads to a public bath with Whitmore and Weiss talking about Roth and the research, then going to a cafe where they seem to strain conversation while the police walk by and listen to Weiss talk about.
In the day we see Whitmore follow a lead about a man Roth was working with to understand the stone artifact that finishes the research on a cult of spider worshippers. This is the worst of the film as we watch Whitmore stumble around town for ten minutes doing nothing but driving in circles until he finds the shopkeeper holding the artifact dead on the floor from the strange spider woman.
Luckily, crazy old street man save Whitmore by taking him into the caves the spider people live in and we get another fifteen minutes of padding until the spider woman kills the homeless man then chases Whitmore out of the caves, the police catch Whitmore to take him to the cult, he escapes again and finally passes out in Weiss’s room only to have sex with her and then be caught by the cult as it is no surprise that Weiss is also part of the cult.
The sex scene itself is schizophrenic with cutting of clips fading in and out until Weiss drools all over Whitmore and the climax with the cult begins. Whitmore finds the artifact is gone, he runs out to get smacked down by the spider woman who was Celia Roth all along, and walks into a room with the whole town looking on as he is belted down and a strange spider baby, who it can only be assumed is possessing the body of Kuhn’s dead child, spawns a spider that crawls into Whitmore’s arm and makes him one of the cult.
The spider-baby-god is uniquely ugly and is genuinely the only horrifying thing in the whole film. It is reminiscent of how the transformations in John Carpenter’s The Thing occur and is unsettling for all three minutes it occupies the screen.
The film ends with Whitmore returning to his benefactors to kill them all for the cult and destroy any evidence the cult was being researched to begin with, with a Thriller-esqe reveal of Whitmore being a spider monster as the credits roll.
This is a drinking game movie, either by virtue of the Lovecraft story tropes or by the magnificently picturesque mannequin actors who look nice but deliver like you would expect from a mannequin. The effects, what little there are, manage to be done well and had the pacing and acting been better the film might have had a wider audience. Watch it with friends or just put it on for the terrifying spider baby.