Why Spiderhead Was Way Better Than I Guessed

Why Spiderhead Was Way Better Than I Guessed
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Why Spiderhead Was Way Better Than I Guessed. Because, you know what? I had been boycotting Spiderhead as silly drivel, not even giving it a chance. (I was avoiding like the plague Grayman as well… and that was THOROUGHLY justified.) So, I’m not perfect. I get it. Not even marginally good (especially from a theological standpoint) but I digress. We are talking about Spiderhead here. I think. Right, so where were we? Oh, yeah, if you haven’t heard of Spiderhead it’s simply because you don’t subscribe to Netflix. This is a fact. Otherwise you would have been pelted, absolutely barraged with ads for it. Speaking of which, watch this trailer if you haven’t seen it yet. Then go watch it. Because the rest of this post is going to riddled with spoilers galore.

Spiderhead is in the genre of movies that I think of as closed box AI movies… even though there isn’t an AI in this movie. At least, I don’t think there is anyway! Movies like Uncanny (which, is low budget brilliance… if you haven’t… come on. Just ditch your date to the dance, and leave with Uncanny instead.) or Ex Machina maybe. Morgan even? Lab movies where the audience has no idea what its getting caught up in, or why these lab techs are so evil… who worked on them with pliers as infants?? If that isn’t your thing – skip it… (watch UNCANNY!)

Why Spiderhead Was Way Better Than I Guessed

I’m not sure if you know this or not – but all horror movies are about guilt. When the movie starts, we don’t know what the victims guilt specifically is… or how. But we will quickly find out as they allow their judgement through the front door. Similarly, Spiderhead is also about guilt. All of the “residents” in the Spiderhead facility have been pulled from the penal system of their own free will, and they are all prisoners. They are all guilty. They are all bad for some reason or another. The question that Spiderhead engages with the audience about is simple… is their guilt such that they should be allowed to be experimented on, even tormented, all towards the end of paying off their debt to society? Hrmm. What is the value of a debt, a crime, and what will settle the ledger?

“What do you want more than anything else in the world?”

“To go back.”

Abnesti (played by Chris Hemsworth) runs his scientific experiments without any sort of peer review, oversight, or even any sort of scientific method. But ultimately we learn that all the tests are simply cover… cover for what? Cover for a drug that will make the patient obey. The drugs for attracting to people together, or tormenting them utterly… all of those things are just window dressing for the true gem in the Spiderhead crown. B-6 – the end all be all – will make someone obey so exactly, that the patient will even kill a loved one. It’s the stuff of nightmares. So yeah, Abnesti is an evil, horrible, non-human. Right? But that isn’t the interesting bit.

There is a scene where we watch as one of the inmates is innocuously reading George Saunders’ book “10th of December,” which is where this short story originally comes from. It is a self referential tip of the hat. But you should always pay attention whenever a movie tips you to a title of a book. EVERY, SINGLE, TIME, it will give you a deeper vantage on the film you are watching. Saunders is a crazy author… like crazy smart… wickedly insightful. Meta-realist? Meta-horror Author? Meta-Chaostician. For example… there is another story in the 10th called “Victory Lap” wherein we watch an attempted kidnapping of a young girl. The writing is just utterly intense. It comes at the reader in pummeling sledge hammer blows. Saunders is not letting you off the hook. You will see this. It will leave you marred by the encounter. The worst part? The ending is a happy ending! Or comparatively anyway. Why is that so bad? Well, because all the rest of the story is just tossed behind the dumpster. It’s all good! No… nothing will heal the pain of what we just experienced. Nothing will cleanse the torment of it, the sin of it. Nope.

Now, reflect on what we are given here knowing that a similar thing is going down in this story as well. We are watching as a psychotic science lab is hunting for a drug – B-6, OBDX – that will force individuals to do whatever they are told. Abnesti basically fails, but along the way, people go insane, commit suicide, evil incarnate is unleashed on these inmates, all in the hopes of creating a blockbuster drug for China, the CIA, rogue states, etc., etc. Unimaginable evil. But one that governments and people alike would unleash from the Pandora’s box if only they could get their hands on it. That much is certain.

“I wish there was a self forgiveness drug, take it and everything starts over.”

The movie actually ends with a somewhat upbeat ending. Abnesti flees, but crashes his plane, killing himself. But Jeff (Miles Teller, Top Gun 2) and Lizzy (Jurnee Smollett – Lovecraft Country) escape, and possibly make a new life together. But that was not how the short story ended. I just reread it, and yeah, no… not even close. Wait! How did Saunders end the story?? You, um, sure you want to know? I mean… hahah. Cause this s@#$ is dark. Aiiight. You twisted my arm.

Alright. The story tracks really closely with the movie. The sex, the darkenfloxx, etc. All the same. The patient in the room being asked if the darkenfloxx should be administered. All of that, same. But, this time, when Abnesti is going to administer the drug to Lizzy (who is named Rachel in the story) Jeff refuses. Abnesti leaves to get a warrant in order to be able to administer the drugs to Jeff, which will then force him to comply. But, to prevent Lizzy from being tortured, Jeff administers darkenfloxx to himself.

Wow. Worse? While under the hold of this evil drug, Jeff commits suicide. Yup. Turn the screw one more time? As he is dying, Jeff hears a voice that says his body is salvageable… he can live. He can return to his life. But, Jeff demurs. Nope. He’s had enough life. He takes some solace from the fact that he did not kill Rachel (Lizzy) and that he never would have that horrible question put to him again.

Literature is so much more bad ass than film. I mean, there are some Indie film makes tearing it up. But generally, audiences can’t hand that kind of an ending. They can’t handle that kind of psychic trauma. But authors regularly go into these super-hardcore spaces. So yeah, it’s a bit disappointing that Spiderhead, the movie, diverges so violently (or not so violently – depending on how you look at it) from the original. But the movie is worth if it only in maybe introducing some of the audience to Saunders’ writings. He’s like a Black Mirror of the literary sort. Anyway, there was enough here of interest that I’m chatting with you all about it aren’t I?

Edited by: CY