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Starring Ralph Fiennes, Gabriel Byrne, Lynn Redgrave, Miranda Richardson, John Neville
Screenplay by Patrick McGrath, based on his novel
Directed by David Cronenberg

IN SHORT: Not released for Oscar consideration. 'nuff said. [Rated R for sexuality, brief violence and language. 98 minutes]

As always, we do not compare to the Source Material.

Daniel "Spider" Clegg (Ralph Fiennes) wanders the streets with all his belongings either on his back -- four shirts, a suit coat, vest and pants and an over coat -- or in a small suitcase -- a pair of pyjamas, a notebook in which he writes in a code that only he understand, a picture of a topless blonde, a lot of string and various discarded objects he's picked up off the street. When we first meet the grown man, Spider has just been released from some kind of holding facility -- this flick works under the assumption that you know that Britain flushed the mentally ill out of its hospitals just prior to the events in this story -- and has arrived at a boarding house run by the very stern Mrs. Wilkinson (Lynn Redgrave). Wilkinson boards grown men, and only grown men. Terrance (John Neville) is one of 'em and the only person who attempts to befriend the younger man.

The boarding house, apparently, is in the same neighborhood where Spider spent his childhood. As he wanders about, various places spark various memories, all of which will lead to the kind of horrendous ending that we expect from a movie labeled with Cronenberg's name. Father Bill (Gabriel Byrne) was a plumber. Bill's marriage to the lovely Mrs. (Miranda Richardson) has its tense moments as a) business is not good and b) Bill's eye still seeks out the "what could have been" among the available ladies at the Dog and Beggar pub. We can't say if Spider's memories of his younger days, with Bradley Hall as young Spider, are fond ones. The focus in this story lies with the question: Did father cheat with the blonde tart Yvonne? Dunno. Did a more grown up Spider do the deed with her, too? That's likely, unless Spider is fantasizing events we see in this film.

That's not as far fetched as it sounds. Spider, the man, is schizophrenic. Spider, Cronenberg's film, while not specifically shot from Spider's point of view still manages to place its audience in the shoes of this schizophrenic. Ultimately, it confused the hell out of all of us who sat through a screening. In black and white terms, the pitch of shooting a story about a schizophrenic from a schizophrenic POV is one which could have made anyone who has ever been exposed to FilmStudentThink drool. That includes us. Knowing Cronenberg's ability to take realistic situations and twist 'em into edge of your seat suspense / horror, we were expecting a lot more than we got.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Spider, he would have paid . . .



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