Ahh, Torture Porn, that most creatively bankrupt of genres, the one that appeared exhausted from the outset, has finally dragged its rotten corpse to Britain via Daniel Simpson’s Spiderhole. Aside from James Wan’s gruesomely inventive Saw, the excruciating bleakness of the French film Martyrs and the nihilistic rage of Srdjan Spasojevic’s censor baiting A Serbian Film the genre is teeming with forgettable, juvenile and increasingly derivative fodder. Ever the optimist though, I always hold out hope of finding a diamond amongst the shit, especially when it comes to British horror films. Alas, the low budget, independently financed Spiderhole, written and directed by Simpson in his feature debut, is yet another tedious and crushingly hackneyed exercise in genre film-making.
The rudimentary plot sees four supposedly free spirited and hip London based students attempting to save money and foster an environment for creative expression by squatting in one of the city’s vast, vacant residences. The obnoxious, pretentious and entirely unlikeable quartet of art student Molly (Emma Griffiths Malin), Beta male Luke (Reuben Henry-Biggs), eye candy Zoe (Amy Noble) and her pushy, loud-mouthed boyfriend Toby (George Maguire) do absolutely zero to engender one iota of audience sympathy in the brief set up, making the whole enterprise devoid of tension, interest or necessity. Ensconced in their new abode the gang discover to their horror, and our sinking feeling of familiarity, that they are trapped inside, isolated from the rest of the world and at the mercy of an as yet unidentified assailant. That’s really all there is to it, as the annoying middle class friends’ plan for a spot of alternative lifestyle slumming backfires spectacularly as they are picked off one by one by what turns out to be a mad surgeon. Ho-hum. It’s hard to know who exactly this is going to appeal to, even hardened gore-hounds will be left short changed as the various shock free eye gougings and amputations that follow are more implied than graphically presented and the one note script is so shoddy it makes Eli Roth’s borefest Hostel look like Citizen Kane. The risible dialogue includes such highlights as Toby, after realising that the house is inescapable, exclaiming ‘some motherfucker wants to keep us here’. Really? Thanks for that Kojak. On this evidence Simpson is no master scribe and any future projects he directs would be better realised with outside help on the screenplay front.
Spiderhole’s few strengths lie in the style and technical areas. Credit is due to the set designers and art department for making the house itself suitably oppressive on what was obviously a minuscule budget. A uniform grey/green film of filth covers virtually everything, giving the interior a camouflaged and distinctly inhospitable appearance, even by the dingiest of squat standards. The direction, camerawork and lighting is competent enough to suggest that Simpson and his crew know their way around the equipment, but it’s not enough to save the film from being an unmitigated disaster in terms of entertainment value, unoriginal, lacking spark and failing to deliver on the basic terms that its chosen genre conventions demand. The thought that kept running through my head throughout Spiderhole was encapsulated by one of the doomed students onscreen, on viewing a particularly nasty set of Polaroids the traumatised Luke is left spluttering ‘Why? Why?Why?’.