Spider One’s Allegoria is a low-budget arthouse take on the darkness and corruption that lurks not far behind creative pressures. From the mind of Powerman 5000’s frontman—Rob Zombie’s little brother—comes something akin to Zombie’s The Lords of Salem, where unwieldy horror expressionism takes the wheel. That said, that’s where bloodline comparisons stop; Spider One isn’t walking in his brother’s carnie-psycho footsteps. Allegoria uses an anthology format to unleash the evils behind a writer’s insecurities, an actor’s doubts and a painter’s perfectionist ego, but struggles as most anthologies do to find meaning behind shorts that begin and end before any substantial climax.
The collection of segments only runs a few minutes over an hour, so it’s a brief affair. Chapters cover the following creative professions in order: Acting coach Robert Anderson Wright (John Ennis), artist Marcus (Bryce Johnson), screenwriter Eddie Park (Edward Hong), a photographer’s smitten muse (Adam Busch) and a band called Rats in Paradise. Actress Brody (Krsy Fox) becomes the wraparound thesis of it all since she’s seen in Robert’s grueling performance class, then again after Rats In Paradise plays some forbidden notes. It’s a blur of pain, passion as addiction and the toxicity that warps creative success—if you’re willing to succumb to Spider One’s ambiguous methods.
The most successful snippet of the bunch is Eddie Park’s manifestation of inferiority and impostor syndrome while writing a horror screenplay. His killer, The Whistler (Adam Marcinowski), magically appears in his apartment as a murderous collaborator. Eddie’s enthusiastic inner-monologue as he types another typical horror flick scene turns to fear when The Whistler starts suggesting rewrites—by acting out the violence and terror on Eddie, then his partner. It captures the feelings of writers who might feign confidence when pounding away at a keyboard, only to be riddled with self-sabotage afterward. Spider One is always coming from a place of creative frustration; it’s just not always cleanly executed.
There’s a narrative rewind at play, which introduces supernatural horror at the onset—Robert pushes his students too hard and causes one pupil to summon the monster within—but gets to explanations last. It’s a bit jarring in this format, as quickie parables enter and exit with thematic demons that exist only to provoke until its Deathgasm Lite finale. Spider One is undoubtedly tormented by the sacrifices it takes to stay creatively relevant or imaginatively successful, but Allegoria’s methods are structurally underwhelming. Most scenes are driven by talk-in-circles dialogue, and with that reverse storytelling in motion, Allegoria cheats itself by chasing some avant-garde ambitions. The satisfaction of discovering how one night turned into Hell on Earth so quickly isn’t rapturous, which says enough about the prior journey.
Allegoria does its best with effects, keeping bloody altercations to a minimum (a gross-out possession or slit throat dripping with vile juices) while art direction plays a massive part in setting up atmosphere with barren funds. Blue color filters and spotlight shadowing desperately try to accentuate the mundane surroundings, but there’s nothing spectacularly standout across any technical aspect. A few piano keys and smashed chords provide an eerie soundtrack that drones on after a while, losing its disquieting punch to repetition (despite the narrative connection). There’s symbolic purpose behind the fears, punishments and consequences each character faces as creators, but standard anthology pitfalls abound.
Divisive filmmaking runs in Spider One’s family. Allegoria is a damning, dialogue-heavy, seedy but ultimately unfocused anthology that will speak loudest to creatively suffering audiences. Spider One aims to scare as his fictional creations come to life and souls are lost turning passionate outlets into money-making careers, yet there’s a flatness to the obscurity displayed. Most segments are missing their second gear or fade to black when we crave more—all the frustrations of anthology filmmaking are on display, which makes Allegoria that much harder to recommend.
Director: Spider One
Writer: Spider One
Starring: Krsy Fox, Adam Busch, Bryce Johnson, Scout Compton
Release Date: August 2, 2022 (Shudder)
Matt Donato is a Los Angeles-based film critic currently published on SlashFilm, Fangoria, Bloody Disgusting, and anywhere else he’s allowed to spread the gospel of Demon Wind. He is also a member of the Hollywood Critics Association. Definitely don’t feed him after midnight.