Kingdom of the Spiders/Review
From The Grindhouse Cinema Database
13 years before the big Hollywood production Arachnophobia (1990), Exploitation genre producer/director John 'Bud' Cardos made this eco-terror classic about spiders attacking a small Arizona town.
When local livestock begin dying under mysterious circumstances, veterinarian "Rack" Hansen (William Shatner) is called in to find out the cause. After doing some standard saliva tests and sending them to the states board of animal health, an entemologist named Diane Ashley (Tiffany Bolling) travels out to deliver the news to Rack and the town Mayor that the the cow's death isn't from natural causes but from a spider bite. Diane explains that the reason for these attacks stem from the town spraying a potent insecticide, killing the spiders' usual food supply, hence, they are being starved into finding other means of nourishment. That's why they're attacking the livestock. Mayor Connors then informs Diane and Rack that the town is having a county fair soon and if word gets out about the spiders, everything will be ruined, so they'll need to keep it hush hush (sound familiar?). As Rack tries to win Diane over in between taking care of his late brother's widow and baby daughter, more animals owned by a farmer named Colby (Woody Strode) begin turning up deceased.
One night, after seeing one of his prize calves die while covered with tarantulas, Diane, Rack and Colby decide that they need to destroy the killer spiders in the area asap, so they douse the nearby spider den with kerosene and torch it, but our creepy little eight legged freaks are smarter and escape through a tunnel leading away from the farm. Pretty soon, more townspeople including Rack's sister in law, Colby and his wife, the town's cropduster and the local hotel owners come under attack from the crazy arachnids and all hell breaks loose. What begins as a slow, creepy crawling infestation ends in an overwhelming cataclysm of sheer horror.
Taking inspiration from films like Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds as well incorporating plot elements from Steven Spielberg's smash hit Jaws, Kingdom of the Spiders was made on a low budget, but the direction, pacing, cinematography and special FX, most notably the spider wrangling are all top notch. The realism of the characters and attention to detail within the story makes 'Kingdom' rise above many other exploitation genre movies of its type. This is yet another example of low budget filmmaking at its best. One of the film's main highlights is a massive town panic which features hundreds of extras covered in tarantulas running around like banshees. It also boasts several daring stunts like an airplane flying out of control, an old man being hit by a car and a large water tower collapsing on the sheriffs car...with him in it!
In closing, if you're a fan of William Shatner, this is another film he made after the Star Trek TV series along with The Devil's Rain that is a lot of fun. Recommended!
Peter Roberts is the co-founder/editor-in-chief of the Grindhouse Cinema Database (GCDb) and contributor to the GCDb's sister site Furious Cinema. A Massachusetts native, he is an avid film fan that has been immersed in the world of entertainment and pop culture his entire life. He is currently majoring in Communications and Interactive Media Design.