Dennis Clegg, the Spider in this story, is a schizophrenic man who has just been released from an Asylum to go live back in the community. The halfway house he will be staying in, populated by other mentally ill patients, is situated near the house in which he had lived as a child. Spider, a nickname given to him by his mother when he was a young boy, has been gone a long time, but most of the sights and sounds of his old neighborhood still exist, including paths by the canals, pubs and the house in which he once lived. Spider, played brilliantly by Ralph Fiennes, must not only come to terms with his release from the Asylum, but must also see his old haunts through the eyes of an older man. The landlady at the halfway house, a relatively minor role played by Lynn Redgrave, is keeping an eye on Spider, for she can ultimately decide if he is sane enough to remain outside the walls of the Asylum ? secrecy of his thoughts and belongings are key to his freedom. Spider is understandably nervous of this woman, and everyone within the halfway house, as he experiences his past through flashback. The fragile recovery Spider has been able to sustain shows a sign of weakening as he slowly remembers what led to his institutionalization. Attached to his mother, he realizes what happened to her, and how his relationship to his father had been distorted by a sick mind. Never aware of his own illness, Spider?s journey is at times jolting, shocking, as he stumbles down rain soaked streets, or from thought to thought. All the time pursued by the evil Yvonne, who had stolen his father, and pushed Spider to the edge of his own sanity ? and pursues him still. Spider is a film that has challenged David Cronenberg fans. Some have called it a ?misstep?, or just plain boring. I actually invested a lot of time into this film. Such was my eagerness to see it, I bought the novel by Patrick McGrath and read that first. I was keen to dig into the film. Now I have seen it, I can only say that the translation to film is at times awesome, and at other times disappointing. I will state that as a general impression, this film certainly fits the resume of Cronenberg perfectly. Cronenberg has specialized in externalizing emotions in grotesque ways (Rage in The Brood, Sexuality in Crash) for many years, but the restraint he shows here is likely what puts most fans off. You see, Spider probably has more angst than any character Cronenberg has brought to the screen before, but it stays within the characters head. Most fans would likely expect some special FX wizard to conjure up demons, but Spider never goes in that direction, Cronenberg shows great restraint. While it might seem like a departure then, it really isn?t. It?s simply more subtle, which is no bad thing. Once you consider the budget ($10 million) the tiny cast, and the mere 8 weeks of shooting that was scheduled, you can maybe understand why some corners were cut. Having said that, the movie stays on track with the book, for the most part, staying true to the story. However, some of the failings are that Cronenberg had to cut some key sequences, such as large parties at Spiders home, and virtually everything that happens at the Asylum. Also, Cronenberg deliberately tries to suppress the Schizophrenia. The book does not dwell on this either, but the ambiguity at the climax of the book is blown in the film, as the portrayal seems very clear. I think the subtly of the book was lost ? although, of course, the climax could indeed simply be a figment of Spiders imagination. I also found the flashback sequences to be surprisingly awkward, especially when the child Spider and the older Spider were both in the scenes at the same time. It worked, but only just. The colors in this film are largely browns and greens, and Spider populates a very barren world. Along with a minimalist score from Howard Shore (whom I swear borrowed melodies from Crash, his previous score) and you have a rather depressing film, a film with its own momentum. To watch Spider is to go inside the head of a madman for ninety minutes. However, this is not a crazy man running through the streets, instead, it is an incredibly subdued person, one who shuffles down the road, from scene to scene, a fragile and weak individual who carries the weight of the story upon his shoulders only with enormous mental effort. All in all, I can see why Spider initially disappointed some Cronenberg fans. However, the themes on show here are not a million miles from the other themes he has pursued. The way it is delivered certainly is, and I think Spider is all the better for that. Cronenberg is a Director who is still growing, still finding his way, and this is a key step in his developmental process. Bolstered by great performances all round, a gloomy depressive setting, and a score that hides in the background much like Spiders thoughts, Spider is a rewarding film. However, you?ll have to give yourself over to the films vision, to the films expectations. Sadly, this is something few people are willing to do. For me, Spider is as indispensable as Crash, Videodrome and Dead Ringers. It?s darker, it?s quiet, but no less disturbing. The R1 DVD shows an immaculate print, obviously in wide screen. There are three informative featurettes of around 14 minutes each. Since the interviews were culled from a single source, I found it annoying that I had to select each of them in turn ? why not a single 45 minute documentary? There is also a commentary from Cronenberg on the R1 disc (truth be told, I have not heard it yet). Sadly, the powers that be decided this commentary should be removed from R2 copies of the disc.