A Chilly Sci-Fi Honey Winter Review by Katie

Ice Spiders (2007)

You may be too young to remember it, but there was a time when a television cable network we now know as “SyFy” was once called “Sci-Fi Channel.”  This channel, for most of its run prior to the name/branding makeover in 2009, was home to shows rooted squarely in the heart of the sci-fi/horror genre, from classic reruns of Night Gallery and The Outer Limits, to acclaimed original programming such as Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Battlestar Galactica.  The early 2000s ushered in a new era for the channel, however, and the folks behind Sci-Fi began to shift their focus; soon, the newly christened “SyFy” network begun airing decidedly non-genre programming (WWE, anyone?) and investing a huge chunk of their time and efforts into ramping up their “original movies” résumé, culminating in a schlocky shitstorm last summer.

Don’t make me say it.
Before that movie blew its way into homes across the country, however, SyFy was building toward their shark-storm magnum opus with other freakish creature features, one of which is the subject of today’s chilly Sci-Friday review: 2007’s Ice Spiders.

Set at a snowy ski resort, the film centers around a group of young athletes who arrive at the mountain to receive training from a retired Olympic skier, Dan “Dash” Dashiell (Patrick Muldoon, doing his best “young Bill Paxton” impression).  They hit the slopes for some action-packed skiing, and before too long they’re using said skis for giant-spider battling.  SyFy wastes no time introducing us to the titular monsters of this tale; the opening scene depicts two of the worst hunters in existence being quickly dispatched by the eight-legged beasts, cocooned in their massive webs and having the life sucked out of them.  Roughly the size of Mini Coopers and scurrying across the frigid terrain with ease, the Ice Spiders are mutations of a species of black widow that have escaped a nearby lab where scientists have been experimenting on arachnids.  Why have they been experimenting?  Shhh, it’s a secret “Government” project, of course.

Mulder was totally onto this conspiracy theory.
The CG-rendered creepy-crawlies are absurdly cartoonish, and it’s obvious that the majority of the film’s budget has gone into turning it into a reunion of sorts for the cast of Melrose Place: along with Muldoon, Ice Spiders also features Vanessa Williams and Thomas Calabro, costars of the soapy 90s classic.  If you look at it as a throwback to that era when soaps and sports movies were king – as well as the 1950s, the golden age of mutant-creature features – Ice Spiders actually delivers a pretty solid guilty pleasure product.  Never taking itself too seriously, the film manages to sneak in some capable acting (at least, in the realm of made-for-tv movies), as well as some gleefully gory kills.  The film is fun to watch in spite of its badness, a feat only rarely accomplished by the other SyFy original movies, which can sometimes be so second-rate that they’re unwatchable.  After over a decade of taking in this form of Saturday night SyFy entertainment, we half-expect the content of these films to scrape the bottom of the barrel.  When they rise above that expectation, it’s a nice surprise.

It’s just too bad that Tara Reid is not a skier.

Setting aside my feelings about what the SyFy network has evolved (or arguably, devolved) into, I’ll be damned if they can’t still pull off a cheesy good time with their made-for-tv movies.  Rather than cling to whatever respectability the channel once had, the executives who greenlight projects like Ice Spiders have come to embrace their reputation as masters of B-grade entertainment.  Audiences still tune in for the ridiculous plotlines, for the corny one-liners oozing out of scenery-chewing D-list celebrities, and for the slipshod special effects that have us laughing instead of cowering.  We know it will be bad, but at least we can hope for something that’s not boring – and Ice Spiders, for all its faults, is certainly not that.

Sci-Fi Honey Rating: Two-and-a-half icy eight-legged insects out of five.