A schizophrenic is released from a British mental instiution and placed in a grim halfway house where he hallucinates about horrific events that may actually have taken place in his horrific past.

CAST: Ralph Fiennes, Miranda Richardson, Gabriel Byrne, Bradley Hall, Lynn Redgrave, John Neville, Gary Reineke, Philip Craig

DIRECTOR: David Cronenberg

"…a precision-carved jigsaw puzzle that takes us inside the head of Dennis (Spider) Cleg (Ralph Fiennes), a deeply disturbed, isolated schizophrenic who’s just arrived at a seedy London halfway house after years in a mental institution. This spare, claustrophobic movie follows the twisting mind of its protagonist as it’s flooded with childhood memories of his mother (Miranda Richardson) and father (Gabriel Byrne), and a crime that is at the root of his trauma…The movie offers no escape from the airless interior of Cleg’s dementia, which is what makes it so grueling and so effective: only at the end are we able to pluck the truth from the cobwebs of distortion his madness has spun." --David Ansen, Newsweek

"Brilliantly realized but bone-chillingly bleak…As the story corkscrews from a straightforward narrative into a garish Freudian hall of mirrors in which reality and fantasy, mothers and whores become fatally confused, ‘Spider’ metamorphoses into a high-toned horror film that suggests a British ‘American Psycho,’ infused with a Pinteresque ambiguity and menace…After a murder that seems almost too hideous to be real, the home stretch of the film is a twisty psychological whodunit that waits until the last second to sort out reality from fantasy and reveal the inevitable, sad truth. ‘Spider’ is as harrowing a portrait of one man's tormented isolation as the commercial cinema has produced." --Stephen Holden, The New York Times

"The movie is a kind of psychological whodunit, but without the thrills. The clue-making is rather desultory, as if Cronenberg were indulging a narrative strategy he didn’t really care for…What he does care about is showing derangement from the inside out…What separates him from the schlock horrormeisters is his deep-down affinity for decay; he wants us to know that we can all be reduced to pustules and poisonous fluids, that the flesh we inhabit is festering on the bone. For Cronenberg, there is an essential truth in this depiction: It represents who we really are. Spider isn’t an aberration; he’s us—give or take a few calamities… It’s as if Cronenberg were trying to punish us into seeing the world as he sees it…there isn’t much light in this black hole of a movie, just varying shades of darkness." --Peter Rainer, New York

"Fiennes is drawn to the mechanics of portraying mental decay like a fly to rot. Mumbling, shuffling, and scribbling cramped hieroglyphics in a grimy notebook are his broadest gestures, and much of the time he hovers tremulously, recalling a version of the boy he once was (played with chilling maturity by newcomer Bradley Hall). Sometimes there's so much going on in Fiennes' busy inertia that it's exhausting to watch him stand still in David Cronenberg's somnambulant, sparsely populated tableaux…As he did in ‘Schindler's List (when he went fat) or ‘The English Patient’ (when he went burned) or ‘Red Dragon’ (when he went tattooed), Fiennes' very skin participates in the project -- his fingernails are nicotine-stained the color of tea bags. The performance works; it's a ballet, a concerto of big, big Acting." --Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly

"Fiennes is at his best in ‘Spider,’ rising to the challenge of a dark, demanding role…The gore that typifies many Cronenberg psychodramas is largely absent in ‘Spider.’ It's the atmosphere of dread and erotic anxiety that exerts a hypnotic grip. Young Spider's terror of his mother's sexuality is the core of the film. It's the reason that Richardson -- triumphantly sexy, scary and funny -- morphs into all the major female roles. She is madonna, whore and even Spider's jailer…What catches us in ‘Spider's’ web -- besides the indelible performances of Fiennes and Richardson -- is the director's sympathy with this freak man-child who struggles to order his confused memories into a kind of truth. That's what makes Cronenberg a world-class provocateur: His movie gets under your skin." --Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

"In an instance of director, stars and material melding flawlessly, ‘Spider’ is a brilliantly realized depiction of a mentally ill individual unexpectedly confronted with his past in a manner that suggests the seemingly infinite capacity of the mind for distortion in the name of self-protection…Cronenberg has pulled off a richly visual feat of the imagination that ranks among his finest achievements." --Kevin Thomas, The Los Angeles Times

"Murder, corpses, fires—they emerge in the kind of mad, dreamlike fantasies for which the director of such horrors as ‘Naked Lunch,’ ‘Existenz’ and the vomitous ‘Crash’ has become celebrated…With his morbid gift for dark perversion, Mr. Cronenberg has lost none of his pointless technique, but he is more in control here than in the deranged ‘Crash,’ although that isn’t saying much…Mr. Cronenberg has no sense of humor, and ‘Spider’ makes no real sense of any kind." --Rex Reed, The New York Observer

"Any new film by David Cronenberg is a major event, but ‘Spider’ might be the most accomplished film in his outstanding career. It's already a serious contender for best film of 2003…Fiennes gives his best performance, taking a character who is a bundle of tics and nerves and making him into a soulful being. Richardson also outdoes herself as Spider's mother, as well as in a few other nifty little scenes…From the opening titles -- shots of crumbling wallpaper reflected in mirrors and folded over to look like insects -- to the closing moments, ‘Spider’ is a marvel of sustained atmosphere." --Jeffrey M. Anderson, San Francisco Examiner

"…the director reaches a new peak of brilliance here, seamlessly blending his bizarre imagery and insights into a surreal, harrowing shocker. Working from Patrick McGrath’s skillful adaptation of his own novel, Cronenberg has drawn an extraordinary performance from Ralph Fiennes…Astonishing, too, are 10-year-old neophyte Bradley Hall as the young Spider; the incredibly versatile Miranda Richardson as both the seductive mother and the barroom tramp; Gabriel Byrne as the lusting father; and Lynn Redgrave as the woman whose halfway house is not a home." --Guy Flatley, Moviecrazed

"Although it's hardly a gentle tale, ‘Spider’ is arguably the subtlest, most carefully textured film of Cronenberg's career. Its dreamlike, sometimes delirious, images are created with hardly a nod to the computerized special effects so fashionable today, and the main source of its emotional power couldn't be more traditional: excellent acting, especially by Ralph Fiennes as the protagonist and Miranda Richardson in multiple roles." --David Sterritt, The Christian Science Monitor

"Adapted by Patrick McGrath from his novel of the same name, ‘Spider’ becomes an increasingly gripping, carefully constructed Freudian horror mystery. If you have the patience, its almost endless silences and extremely slow pacing eventually pay off…Fiennes is convincing if occasionally mannered as the almost silent, rather unsympathetic Cleg. And Byrne gives his most engaged performance in years. But the film belongs to the marvelous Richardson, who plays both mother and whore with consummate sympathy and skill." --Jonathan Foreman, The New York Post