Rating: R for violence, intense situations
Run Time: 1 hour, 38 minutes
An inexorably slow start crescendos to a fevered climax in David Cronenberg’s sinister ode to the perils of mental illness.
the just latest in a long list of Cronenberg’s onscreen nightmares (“Dead
Ringers”, “eXistenZ”, “The Fly”, etc.).
An eponymous schizophrenic by the name of Spider (Ralph Fiennes) is
prematurely discharged from a local mental institution and left to roam the
While Spider endures the plausible realities of the here and now – involving a suspicious landlady (Lynn Redgrave) and the oddball tenants of a seedy halfway house – a significant portion of his attentions are mired in the horrific memories of his troubled adolescence. Perpetually confusing past and present, Spider relives dark dreams of his drunkard father (Gabriel Byrne) and his long-suffering mother (Miranda Richardson), who may have been murdered in order to offer a more permanent home to Dad’s low-rent squeeze Yvonne (Richardson again).
delivers the performance of a lifetime as the potentially deranged victim-of-life
for whom time is subliminally polarized.
Although Cronenberg delivers Spider’s isolation and confusion with skillful restraint, his incessant allusions to allegorical and tangible webs are exasperatingly cold and disconcerting. Pacing is a baffling blend of slack and energetically strumming – lending a fits-and- starts motion to a complex narrative. Bottom line, this is Cronenberg doing what he does best - disturbing, challenging, commendable work.