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Friday, August 14, 2015

Hellish Spiders





Hellish Spiders (aka Aranas Infernales)
1968
Federico Curiel

A race of super intelligent(ish) spiders from outer space are on the hunt for delicious brains, the only thing that can sustain their queen. The poor unsuspecting dopes end up on Earth and in the cross-hairs of the Blue Demon, a masked luchador. The spiders decide to send for one of their own, the indestructible, Prince Arac to try and best Blue Demon in the ring.

A luchador battling brain eating spiders from a distant world is the kind of plot that a million b-movie nerds would be trying to create as a deliberately kitsch tribute. So, it’s all the more interesting when Hellish Spiders beats them to the punch by offering gruesome horror interspersed with the occasional wink and nod at it's audience. It's no accident that this directly lifts actual scenes from camp classics, Teenagers from Outer Space (1959) and Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959).

Never wrestle while on LSD.
Luchador movies tend to dip into other genres for their stories, often spy and crime films, and on rare occasions science-fiction, but I think the most successful films are the ones the include an element of horror. Shadowy crypts and bloodletting are something that Mexican genre films of the 60s often excel at even in their most threadbare productions. Hellish Spiders features some effective scenes of characters awaiting their fates as a brain eating spider descends on them, scenes of the queen of the planet Aracnis drenched in shadow, and people who have been burned alive.

Hellish Spiders does score some points with atmosphere, but it does come with a heavy dose of camp. The most astounding moment comes when Prince Arac, the best wrestler from spider-world loses control of his body causing his hand to transform into a spiderhand. The fight scene devolves into Blue Demon struggling with what amounts to the world’s most dangerous spider puppet. The fact that it is the exact same spider puppet used in previous scenes to represent a giant monster makes it all the better.

Something something the lead singer of the Aquabats masturbates too much.
Hellish Spiders, like many luchador movies, keeps interrupting its story for interminable wrestling matches. I understand that it's film starring wrestlers and it’s primary audience is wrestling fans, but the fights often feel lackadaisical, and there is no question about the outcome. Blue Demon is hardly going to lose a match to a nobody in the middle of his own movie. Hellish Spiders attempts to at least weave the wrestling into the actual plot by the third act, but it still begs the question of where he finds the time to wrestle in the middle of an alien invasion.

The story is a mess. It opens with an outlandish set-up complete with a lengthy voice-over that explains every single detail about the aliens. We then alternate between the spiders eating people, Blue Demon wrestling, and occasionally those two things colliding. The pace steps a notch when Prince Arac shows up, but the whole story peters out by the end. Luchador films tend to invest in spectacle over story telling and Hellish Spiders honors this tradition.

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