Abyssal Spider (Mad Spider Sea, 華語影壇最豪華陣容) begins with a rescue at sea intercut with a woman in hospital. The link between them is Jie (Sunny Wang, Lost in the Pacific), who rushed to join his team, leaving his wife alone. By the time the night is over he’s accidentally caused the death of his boss and his wife has died leaving him a single parent and a pariah in the community. Desperate for work he turns to his father-in-law Han (Andrew Lin, The Man with the Iron Fists) for a job on his fishing boat which he reluctantly gives him for the sake of his daughter. The crew are even less happy about his presence.
Complicating matters is the fact that some of Han’s crew, led by Ding (Lee-zen Lee, The Teenage Psychic) aren’t just interested in fishing. They’re running a load of drugs and aren’t above a little bit of mutiny to get them delivered. However when their nets haul up not just fish but something that looks like a cross between a crab and a spider merely staying alive will become everyone’s priority.
I went into Abyssal Spider with a bit of apprehension. I’d only seen one of director Joe Chien’s previous films, Zombie Fight Club, and to say I wasn’t impressed by it would be an understatement. Even Andy On (Undercover Punch And Gun, Abduction) couldn’t save that film. Here however Chien and co-writer Nelson Yan have put together a fairly tight script that could have worked as a thriller even without the creature.
Taking the already tense situation to the next level, Abyssal Spider adds two women, Xiao Tu (Aggie Hsieh, As We Like It) a kitchen worker masquerading as a man and a castaway Xiao Jing (Alice Ko, Who Killed Cock Robin?) who seems to have some connection to Ding’s smuggling operation. This adds a whole new level of tension as Ding and his men aren’t above rape either.
Up until the final act the creature itself is only seen in sporadic but effective bursts. But once everything hits the fan, it makes its presence felt in a big way. I’m not sure if it’s because Abyssal Spider is from Taiwan rather than China, but the CGI is actually quite good. Between that and some prop claws used in other scenes, the creature is fairly impressive. I’ll gladly take the fewer, but better quality, shots of the creature we get here over loads of horrible effects as in another recent shipboard creature feature, Cockroach Tide.
With the early emphasis on the film’s drug smuggling subplot, Abyssal Spider feels a bit like some older Toho films such as The H-Man, The Human Vapor and even Daggora, the Space Monster. It carries the film through its non-monster scenes quite well and allows the characters to get at least some development. It all flows together well enough that, as I said earlier, with a bit of rewriting the creature could have been left out and the film would have worked as a crime thriller.
Abyssal Spider does leave several questions unanswered including just what the creature is. It’s hinted it may be related to the burning ship at the start of the film and its cargo of nuclear waste. That would bring things around in a neat circle, but it’s never confirmed.
One of the better recent monster movies to come out of Asia, Abyssal Spider is worth a watch for fans of the genre. You can check out its Facebook page for more information. It’s currently available as a free watch on the IQIYI streaming service under the title Mad Sea Spider. And who doesn’t like free movies?