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Set within a rundown gothic house in some nondescript suburb in Sydney, We’re Not Here to Fuck Spiders is a found footage film that follows the illegal exploits of its inhabitants after a stranger breaks in and installs surveillance cameras throughout the house. In a title card, we’re told the footage made its way online, and what we’re about to watch will detail the going-ons of the inhabitants throughout the summer of 2017: copious alcohol is consumed, crack pipes are given a fair workout, the house falls into further disrepair alongside the excessive amount of violence that erupts unexpectedly.
Spiders initiates itself as a mood-piece, starting off as an observational glimpse at the drug scene that permeates throughout Aussie suburbs, with director Josh Reed letting you wallow in the wasted lives on display before teasing out the somewhat familiar narrative of police corruption, bikies, and home invasions. What sets Spiders apart from other ‘drugs are bad, mmmkay’ films is the observational style that feeds into the feeling that anything could happen at any moment, amplifying the knife edge tension and anxiety within walls that feel like they will collapse at any moment from stress and anger.
This is helped by the impressive performances that feel almost a little too real and lived-in. If it weren’t for the familiar faces of Fayssal Bazzi, Lindsay Farris, and Stephanie King, I would have been absolutely convinced that Reed had managed to observe a genuine drug house for months to make the film. Farris’ frenetic Anton is the head of the house, with his reluctant ‘partner’ Effs (King) being routinely submitted to his abuse and aggression. In the opening shot, we see Effs escaping the house, with the housemates setting off to drag her kicking and screaming back. As the house is empty, the neighbour across the road, Jimmy (Max Brown), slips in to install his security cameras.
While Spiders boasts stellar performances, it carries few genuine characters. Instead, Reed allows the house and the circumstances of its occupants become the character. A sword on a mantle, the ever growing pile of beer bottles, the gradually degrading couch, the varied graffiti on the walls, a stolen goldfish, and the ever-simmering beat of pulse-racing house music. With each minute spent in the house, you need to keep reminding yourself to have a shower when the film is over, so permeating is the filth.
As the dealers relationship with the drug-providing bikies reveals who has the upper hand, the ethics of Anton and co is revealed, as he tries to push against their kitchen becoming a meth lab, stating that he just wants to be a dealer and that’s it. It’s fruitless though, with the lab being installed in a barely used kitchen that hasn’t seen a wholesome meal being made for an eternity. The obligatory fridge resides with the weathered presence of misuse built up over time as person after person comes to its door in search of food, only to be presented with a harsh unwelcome light. Disappointed, they’ve left an offering of an empty beer bottle and returned to their diet of ice and weed.
The lingering question of ‘why’ Jimmy’s capturing everything hangs over every frame. Is he an undercover cop? Is he creating something nefarious for sadistic online viewers? Or, does he have a deeper connection to the occupants of the house? Answers are gradually revealed throughout the ninety minute runtime, leading to an explosive and gut-churning climax that feels like you’ve slammed your fingers in the car door, ensuring it throbs inside your mind long after you’ve finished watching.
It feels like Reed enjoys toying with his audience, making them trudge through the deliberately unpalatable events occurring in the gross and gritty house during a heat laden summer where the worst people are in the worst situations doing horrible things to each other. At times, it feels like Spiders is treading water, spending just a little too long on scenes that carry little consequence. Instead of leaving the viewer gasping for air, they’re left having a hard time breathing and just getting bored by the situation waiting for it to move on.
As slow and tedious as some of the early scenes can be, it does subvert the definition of the title: We’re Not Here to Fuck Spiders, ie: we’re not here to waste time. Literally all these characters are doing is wasting time, expending the possibilities of their lives on drugs and alcohol until one kills them. That sense of possibility permeates through the air, with Effs being the character that shows the greatest amount of promise of a life outside of this drug-den. Early on, we see her reading The Handmaid’s Tale, and it’s not long before we realise that she’s as trapped as the characters of that famed novel. Stephanie King is impressive in a taxing role that demands she be the recipient for Anton’s rising cruelty, with assault upon assault becoming the most nauseating experience within Spiders.
I’m finding it increasingly difficult to stomach scenes of violence against women, and it is necessary to warn potential viewers that these sequences are difficult to stomach. Reed does present them in a horrifying manner, especially in one genuinely unsettling sequence where the bass of the music causes the camera to rattle and shake like it is trying to push itself out of its tethered shell and stop the violence occurring. It’s creative moments like this that highlight how far Reed is working to condemn the actions on screen and the world of drug dealers. Sure, I could sit here and ask, do we need another film that condemns sexual violence, drug use, and criminal behaviour? But when it’s presented in a creatively inventive manner that leans into exposing the horrifyingly corrupt nature of the NSW police force like Josh Reed does, then I guess the answer is: maybe?
There’s an echo of Aussie film history ringing within We’re Not Here to Fuck Spiders, and Josh Reed well and truly earns his place alongside the greats here. There’s a communal passed-on crack pipe feel here borrowed from Bert Deling’s Pure Shit, which loans its proudly provocative vibe to Spiders. (It’s worthwhile noting that Pure Shit was nominated for Best Picture at the AFI Awards in 1975, a challenge I throw down to this years AACTA Awards to replicate for Spiders.) Reed’s heritage is also proudly on display, with a poster for his fathers (Colin Eggleston) film, Fantasm Comes Again, hanging in the living room alongside a poster for Reed’s debut feature, Primal.
Filmed in 2018, and finally arriving in 2021, We’re Not Here to Fuck Spiders is proudly low-fi, inventively indie, and devoutly Australian. It shakes with tension, ensuring it will be a favourite with lovers of gritty and grimy features.
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