Reviewed by: Keith Hennessey Brown

Adapted for the screen by novelist Patrick McGrath, Spider is an extremely accomplished and deeply disturbing film.

Dennis/Spider has been released from a mental institution to a boarding house in his old neighbourhood. As he revisits places and scenes from his childhood, his already fragile grip on reality disintegrates and he starts to confuse his landlady with his mother and the woman who replaced her.

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David Cronenberg directs in a cold and clinical manner. The horror is more ontological than visceral. Nothing is what it seems. Reality, dream and flashback seamlessly merge into one.

Spider inhabits a strange environment, at once decaying Seventies/Eighties post-industrial and frozen in post-war Forties/Fifties time. Production designer Andrew Sanders creates a distinctively British world of gas tanks, terraced streets, public houses, allotments and canals, rendered by cinematographer Peter Suschitzky in a limited palette of cool blues, steely greys and dirty browns, over which Howard Shore overlays a characteristically disorientating score.

The performances range from good to superlative. There's perhaps a hint of mannerism about Ralph Fiennes' Spider early on, but one cannot fault Miranda Richardson in the double role of the mother and her replacement, nor Gabriel Byrne as the father, irredeemably flawed in the eyes of his son.

Imagine a cross between Distant Voices, Still Lives and The Butcher Boy, as interpreted by Samuel Beckett, and you have a pretty good idea of what Spider is like. It could well be Cronenberg's finest film to date. It's certainly far superior to anything he's done in a long while.

Reviewed on: 21 Aug 2002
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A man undergoes a mental collapse.
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Read more Spider reviews:

Jennie Kermode ****
Angus Wolfe Murray ***1/2

Director: David Cronenberg

Writer: Patrick McGrath, based on the novel by Patrick McGrath

Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Miranda Richardson, Gabriel Byrne, Lynn Redgrave, John Neville, Bradley Hall, Gary Reineke, Philip Craig, Cliff Saunders, Tara Ellis, Sara Stockbridge

Year: 2002

Runtime: 99 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Canada/UK


EIFF 2002

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