The Spider Labyrinth (1988)

This is a strange one. If you’ve followed my blogs about horror movies, you know that I’m a sucker for Italian horror movies. I’m always on the lookout for good ones I’ve never seen. Spider Labyrinth is a movie that I kept hearing about, but could never track down– it’s notoriously difficult to find, and never got a proper DVD release– it’s available through Amazon, but even that version is a bootleg.

So: yes, I got this from dubious sources on the internet. You can probably tell, from the channel logo in the lower-right of all my screenshots.

Totally worth it.

There are so many Italian directors that are masters of the craft– Mario Bava, Lucio Fulci, Dario Argento, and so on. Gianfranco Giagni belongs on that list, even though– as far as I can tell– this is the only horror movie he ever directed.

It’s pretty bonkers.

It’s about ancient Lovecraftian spider cultists.

A professor specializing in ancient languages gets hired by a private firm to go to Italy to pick up the work of a professor who’s gone off the rails. He flies to Hungary to find the professor and continue his translation efforts.

As soon as he lands, it becomes apparent that much of the town– and the entirety of the hotel in which he’s staying– has something weird going on. There’s a lot of subtly off-putting behavior on the part of the residents, and it’s all beautifully shot, paced, and edited.

He finds the professor and his creepy-ass wife, and receives a stone tablet and a warning to keep it hidden, along with what sound like the ravings of a lunatic, full of terrified discussions of spiders and cults.

The professor then turns up dead (of course).

If you’re familiar with the slow unfolding of macabre Lovecraftian dread and conspiracy theories, or even the bureaucratic nightmares of Kafka, this is fairly well-trodden territory– the professor gets new leads to follow, tracks them down, finds the sources dead or insane.

In this case, it’s a journey well-worth taking.

The special effects, I must add, are fantastic. The special effects for this movie were done by Sergio Stivaletti, who has worked with Dario Argento, Michele Soavi, Lamberto Bava, as well as directing in his own right. These effects are fantastic, even on the crappy VHS transfer I watched. There’s a few stop-motion effects in particular that are just beautiful to see, and genuinely creepy– one of them is a bit spoiler-tastic, so I’ll hide it behind this link here, but it’s amazing.

Here’s another one that’s pretty great:

I really enjoyed this movie, and I’d be first in line, if one of the houses that’s been snatching up obscure horror wanted to put out a really nice DVD / Blu-Ray. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed this weird-ass movie.

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