The Giant Spider Invasion

Although The Giant Spider Invasion is made and set in the 1970s, this is a film that really wishes it was a 1950s monster movie.

The film is set in a small Wisconsin community into which crashes a meteorite. The worst place for something like this to land is the farm belonging to the utterly dysfunctional Kester couple (Robert Easton and Leslie Parrish). Of course, this is exactly where it lands.

As the meteor crashes, it also manages to knock out the electricity in the area and causes a B-52 to crash. This, combined with some technobabble about gamma ray activity, attracts the attention of NASA who sends Dr. Vance (Steve Brodie) to join local scientist Dr. Jenny Langer (Barbara Hale) to investigate.

When the Kesters finally decide to investigate the explosion on their farm, they discover that all of their cattle has been partially eaten, and that there are geodes all over the place, so they take the geodes home with them. When they finally crack open one of these geodes they discover that it’s full of what looks a lot like diamonds. And spiders, of course, but who notices spiders when there are diamonds to drool over?

This provides the crux of the film. A pair of scientists are trying do discover the source of several strange occurrences, and the stereotypical rednecks are unwittingly hiding this source in the hope of becoming rich.

The Giant Spider Invasion is a very uneven film. When it works, it works quite well. Initially, director Bill Rebane uses large terrestrial spiders as stand-ins for the alien arachnids and these are surprisingly effective. This, combined with the increasingly obvious webs emerging all over the place, does make for quite an tense atmosphere.

The film also has plenty of comic touches, not all of which are deliberately so.

It all falls apart, though, when the giant spider finally emerges. This large, and largely static, puppet really doesn’t work at all. Not only is it transparently fake, it also looks as cheap as it probably is and is far more funny than frightening.

Looking various review sites online, The Giant Spider Invasion has gone down very badly. I’m not sure that this is entirely fair, though.

While I wouldn’t try to claim that this is a good film, I don’t agree that it’s as bad as some of its critics suggest. It’s more the case that this film was made 20 years too late.

Risk

So here’s something of a confession. While I have played several digital versions of Risk (such as Domination) and a few Risk variants (Star Wars Risk being the most notable), I had never played the actual board game. Until recently.

For my birthday last week, the boys clubbed together to get me Risk, the board game. Clearly I have trained them well.

Risk is probably the most popular war game around and one that still holds up today. A large part of this, I am sure, is down to the elegant simplicity of the rules.

First you place armies in the countries you control, then these countries are able to attempt to invade neighboring countries, gaining a bonus card if you succeed (only one per turn, though) and finally, you can move armies to defend your borders.

This simplicity makes for rules that are very easy to understand and encourages players to start thinking strategically very quickly. Indeed, right from the initial placement of armies, you can see what territories your opponents are trying to capture and quickly have to start developing a strategy of your own.

Invading a territory is determined by dice rolls and, while it is possible to be incredibly unlucky on occasion, the mechanics feel quite balanced overall. For equally matched battles, the defender has a slight advantage, but once the attacking force is stronger the advantage goes to the attacker.

It’s easy to see why Risk has remained popular for over six decades. While there are plenty of games that add both complexity and sophistication to war gaming, in terms of getting the basics absolutely spot on, Risk is very hard to beat.

Lockdown Looming

Even with restrictions being tightened, starting yesterday, things are going to get worse before they get better:

Belgium will not reach its peak number of coronavirus infections until at least a week, if not 10 days from now, with a difficult four weeks fighting the virus ahead, experts have warned.

The new measures include Belgium’s first national curfew since the war and, in Flanders, schools are moving to Code Orange.

This means more restrictions, a suspension of extra-curricula activities, staggered timings to keep classes separate from each other and an option for schools to introduce distance learning for some classes.

According to the newly appointed Government Commissioner for Covid-19, Pedro Faco, the situation is serious but not desperate. He also says that the government doesn’t want another lockdown, but I wouldn’t be surprised if one is announced before Christmas.

For now, though, all we can do is hunker down and hope for the best.

Five Things #48

“A film equal parts horror and comedy and one that would fall flat if either side hadn’t been up to muster. In that sense it’s wholly unique and might be better off staying that way.” Jack Beresford looks back at how Arachnophobia became the perfect creepy crawly horror comedy.

Solid reasoning is difficult and logical fallacies abound to trip us up and send us down, often insane, rabbit holes. Mark Manson has a refreshingly direct list of 8 logical fallacies that mess us all up, and why they matter.

From its name, to its hazy origins, to its drug interactions, there’s a lot going on beneath that thick rind. Dan Nosowitz explains why grapefruit is one of the weirdest fruits on the planet.

Another Brexit deadline is missed and Johnson blusters some more. Chris Grey notes that, regardless of the outcome of the current negotiations, there will be more because Britain is in for the long haul.

Andrew Anthony goes walking in an autumn wonderland and finds awe in deepest Surrey.

Quote of the day: The freedom to offend

The unwillingness of liberals to stand up for basic liberal principles, their readiness to betray progressives within minority communities, nurtures reactionaries, both within Muslim communities and outside it. The more society gives licence for people to be offended, the more people will seize the opportunity to feel offended. And the more deadly their outrage will become.

Kenan Malik

Unfortunate timing

On Friday, the Pixel Museum opened it’s doors to the public. This is Brussels’ first and only video games museum and includes merchandise, memorabilia and — most interestingly to me — 50 playable arcade games.

In other Friday news, the Belgian government announced a tightening of restrictions in order (hopefully) to bring down the rising Coronavirus numbers.

Among the restrictions, bars and restaurants have to close for four weeks, although this will be reviewed in two week’s time. Understandably, the hospitality sector is not happy about this.

Nothing has been decided about museums yet as the rules for sport and culture are still being revised. There will be an announcement this coming Friday, but I would expect to see museums, cinemas and indoor sporting events to be severely restricted, if not closed down completely. Which would be a shame, because I really like the idea of going out to play Space Invaders.

So here’s hoping that the infection rates start falling again and that we can start emerging — yet again — before too long, and that the affected businesses manage to stay afloat long enough to survive this latest outbreak.