The Spider Labyrinth (1988)

Professor Alan Whitmore doesn’t like spiders. We know this because through the entirety of Italy’s The Spider Labyrinth, first-time director Gianfranco Giagni keeps flashing back to a childhood incident in which Whitmore (a mamby-pamby Roland Wybenga) was locked in a closet with one big mofo of a creepy crawler.

What’s this have to do with anything? Eh, not much. But the Dallas academian is hired by a secretive institution to travel to Budapest, re-establish contact with an AWOL professor named Roth, and bring back all the research the old man has collected. When Whitmore meets Roth, he finds the guy visibly frightened and threatened … and later strung up dead by a web.

Despite this and numerous other warnings to get out of the town before it traps him, Whitmore sticks around. I’m guessing part of this is because Roth’s assistant, Genevieve (Paola Rinaldi), likes to undress in front of an open window. That may give you reason to stick around, too, as will the string of strange murders and increasingly bizarre proceedings that, at the very end, jump from aping the stylistic methods of Dario Argento to David Cronenberg.

The Spider Labyrinth must qualify as a giallo simply for having so many of its elements in place: black cat, black gloves, surreal settings, lurid voyeurism, colored gels, bad dubbing, crap that makes no sense, etc. Wonderfully wacky, this one, full of stop-motion spiders and one insane ending that’ll have you saying, “Now that’s Italian!” It’s kind of like Arachnophobia meets … oh, a craft services table with three kinds of tortellini. —Rod Lott

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