We’re Not Here To Fuck Spiders is a nerve rattling, but very original kind of crime thriller from Josh Reed, his second feature after 2010’s Primal.
Set in a rambling, run-down home of an inner-city ice dealer, Reed’s We’re Not Here To Fuck Spiders puts a powerful twist to the ‘found-footage’ sub-genre. Someone has rigged the house with hidden surveillance cameras and the story they record feeds back a sinister narrative of secret deals, private agendas, violence, and exploitation.
The conceit behind the movie is that what we are watching has been edited into a narrative after being dumped on the internet. The title derives from Aussie slang. Part dare, part command, it’s a way of announcing that the time has come to get down to serious business since there is no time left…
The excellent cast includes Lindsay Farris as the nervy ‘gang leader’ and Stephanie King (Observance) as his locked-in girlfriend; Stef Smith, Anthony Tuafa, and Fayssal Bazzi as meth-addicted hangers-on. Max Brown plays a pal of the group who is working the angles as best he can while John Cordukes is a cop with his hand out and a plan of his own.
We spoke to director and writer Josh Reed on the eve of the film’s screening at Revelation Perth International Film Festival in July.
Part of the film’s mystique starts with location.
“The place where we shot is no longer there, it’s been demolished. But the location was a house in Enmore I used to drive by, on my various travels. I always thought it was sort of odd – a pink ‘castle’ that looked like it had undergone a vague-do-over in a California bungalow style…
It’s very ‘gothic’ if a house in Sydney can be gothic, sort of spooky, the sort of place with plenty of places to hide…
“Yeah, exactly. It had about ten rooms! It was authentic all right. It was derelict and abandoned. We located the owner. When we assured him that we weren’t shooting porn, he let us have access to it for as long as we liked for a small fee.”
The plot seems minimal at first but it’s quite intricate and involving. How did it evolve?
“The form of the movie came before the content. I had the idea – a found footage film using a single location… We would get a house, rig the cameras…we used [these very small] Blackmagic Pocket cameras.”
A lot of found footage films are driven by the documentary idea – that what we are watching was the product – so to speak – of a student filmmaker (The Magician) or simply documenting an experiment.
“Yeah. I did not want that. I wanted this to be about a character who was filming this to have a concrete reason to do it – the filming is part of the narrative.”
Watching it, you feel part of the action and yet somewhat removed, peering into a private world at things you would prefer not to see…
“Yeah. There were a few things that I wanted to explore – one was the locked off camera. Something that was voyeuristic. The act of watching it makes you complicit in the things that are going on, which becomes uncomfortable.”
One of the plot elements involves male-on-female violence. Why set that in a meth lab?
“True. That can happen anywhere. I felt like this sort of environment is almost its own enclosed world – the laws of the outside world don’t impact upon it.”
The film is full of very weird details that feel like they come not from fiction but the real world. At one point a child character is introduced who plays an important part of a criminal enterprise and no one seems to care or notice and that’s too bizarre to be made up!”
“That’s an authentic detail. In my research I spoke [remotely] with people who had experience with [this world]. I read books. I watch a lot of documentaries. I came across the fact that bikie gangs in Australia use kids as ‘cooks’ in meth labs.”
The feeling of authenticity extends to the actors who feel creepily real, so much so they feel like they must have been part of this world!
“[Laughs] All the main cast are actors. All very experienced. All very well trained. All very experienced at improvisation. They did their own research. Initially, I thought I would develop the film in a conventional way with a script. Then I thought the idea of actors doing rehearsed dialogue [in this context] would be awful. We went into it with just an outline and a treatment.”
There’s an air of ‘anything can happen’ throughout.
“Part of the process on this one was to not tell the actors the whole story. There were characters who knew why the cameras were there. There were other characters who did not. I only told them what they needed to know. It injected a lovely level of paranoia. For instance, the main character thinks everyone is out to get him; he picks up on things [that the audience already knows.]”
It adds a whole new layer of difficulty in the storytelling in terms of managing this practically.
“It did make it hard to get very specific plot details out in the scenes. Normally, actors are geared to convey a lot of storytelling in the performances but what I wanted to do here was allow them to just concentrate on character.”
It sounds like conventions of filmmaking practice – blocking the movement of the actors, rehearsing in the accepted sense – perhaps did not apply here.
“We did not have a lot of time to rehearse because we did not have a full cast until a week before we were shooting. The rehearsals that we did do were about the way the characters relate to each other. It wasn’t dealing with the actual narrative at all. I was steering the performances more than it may appear. When we were shooting, I would brief the actors before each scene. The whole thing was shot in sequence. So, the actors became informed about what was really going on [in the story] just as the audience is. There were times where the actors would run off on a completely different tangent. Very rarely would I cut before the scene had played out, even if [it went off in a direction I knew wouldn’t work.] It was about the actors. It had the potential to be incredibly frustrating for them because they may not have had the chance to explore [a certain experience.] Sometimes we would do a pass on a scene just detailing little bits slightly differently with the intention of getting to where we needed to be.”
The film seems to be thought of as a horror film – how do you see it?
“I don’t think of it as a horror film. It’s a crime film. But it can be anxiety inducing in a horror film kind of way.”