7 Guardians of the Tomb (Movie Review)

7 Guardians of the Tomb (Movie Review)
6 10

PLOT: When employees of a pharmaceutical company go missing while exploring a spider-infested underground tomb in China, a search and rescue team sets out to bring them back home.

REVIEW: 7 GUARDIANS OF THE TOMB is a new entry in the "nature run amok" thriller sub-genre from Kimble Rendall, the director of the 2012 "sharks in a flooded supermarket" film BAIT. I was very interested in seeing this one, solely due to the presence of a certain actor in the cast. That actor is Kelsey Grammer, who played psychiatrist Frasier Crane through twenty years of great television comedy, first on Cheers and then on his own spin-off Frasier. I never expected to see Grammer in a killer spider movie, but that's the opportunity 7 GUARDIANS OF THE TOMB is giving us, and there's no way I was going to let this chance pass me by.

If, like me, you'll be watching this film only to see Grammer and killer spiders share the screen, you're likely to get a higher level of enjoyment out of it than any other viewer who decides to check it out. It's Frasier and killer spiders! That delivers a certain degree of baseline fun, and Grammer plays exactly the sort of character you'd hope he would play in a movie like this - the questionable businessman who turns out to be a traitor who will trap his fellow characters to cover his own ass and tell them to "Go to Hell!" while sending them (or attempting to send them) to their doom. But that's the most 7 GUARDIANS has to offer. 

The story involves a search and rescue team trekking out into the middle of the Gobi Desert in China in hopes of saving a couple men who were exploring a spider-infested underground tomb for Biotech, the pharmaceutical company co-founded by Grammer's character. In this team there's an archaeologist to provide exposition once the group is down in the tomb, an amusingly clueless and irreverent driver, a logistics specialist whose most memorable trait is that she's diabetic, Grammer's EXPENDABLES 3 co-star Kellan Lutz as the search and rescue specialist with a dark past (we find out all about it whether you care or not - and you won't), and producer Li Bingbing as our heroine, Jia. Rendall and his three co-writers tried very hard to establish an emotional connection with Jia, piling on the personal issues: one of the missing men is her brother; her father co-founded Biotech, so she has known Grammer all her life; and she lost both parents in a plane crash when she was very young. Rendall even tries to drive home how tragic her life has been by showing flashbacks to her childhood, around the time her parents died. And yet, despite all this effort, I didn't feel any more strongly about Jia than I did about the characters who were predictably spider fodder.

Along the way, the group also ends up taking care of a little girl whose family has been killed by the spiders from the tomb. This little girl knows how the spiders come after their victims, she has survived an attack before - her inclusion in this story was very obviously inspired by ALIENS, but she's no Newt.

For more than half of the film, we follow these characters through this vast underground tomb that's crawling with funnel web spiders, which are only supposed to be found in Australia. 7 GUARDIANS was a Chinese and Australian co-production, so it is kind of cute that the arachnids carrying the film on their exoskeletons happen to be an Australian species that turns up in China - and the filmmakers make sure to explain why these spiders are on the wrong continent. It's all part of an ancient search for the key to eternal life and an elixir made from the enzyme the spiders produce during mating season. As if being trapped in an underground tomb with spiders that have exceptionally strong venom (the typical funnel web bite can kill a person in under 12 hours, and these particular funnel web spiders are even more deadly than that) weren't enough, the characters also have to navigate secret passageways and bypass traps that were put in the tomb because the emperor who had the place built thought these would help him escape from death. This allows for the usual things like slowly lowering ceilings and crumbling bridges over molten lava.

Problem is, nothing that occurs in the tomb is presented in a thrilling way, and there was nothing interesting to me about watching a bunch of people I didn't give a damn about making their way through dark rooms. When Grammer wasn't on the screen, I could only sit there and hope he'd be back soon. The best bit of action happens before the film gets to the underwhelming stuff in the tomb of the title, a notable sequence I wasn't expecting at all. As the search and rescue team makes their way toward the tomb, a huge dust storm hits, putting out electrical discharge that happens to ignite gas that's seeping through the desert floor from old coal mines. I was not prepared to see a storm of CG explosions in a killer spider movie.

7 GUARDIANS OF THE TOMB has never had a good title; when it was first announced, it had quite a bland one, THE NEST. Since the only thing that makes it worth seeing is the man who used to play Frasier Crane, I like to call it "Frasier vs. Spiders"... and now that Kelsey Grammer has made his entrance into nature run amok movies, I'm hoping he'll turn up in another one someday. A killer reptile movie I can refer to as "Snakes on a Crane".

I'd also hope the movie would be better than that nickname. 7 GUARDIANS OF THE TOMB isn't.

Extra Tidbit: Gravitas Ventures is releasing 7 GUARDIANS OF THE TOMB in theatres and on VOD on February 23rd.



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