“Do you acknowledge?”, the trailer for Netflix’s psychological thriller Spiderhead asks us, in big pink neon text. Victims of Chris Hemsworth’s sinister facility must verbally “acknowledge” the untested drugs going into their systems, despite having little to no idea about their effects.
For instance, the experimental “Luvactin” will make any two people fall in love and start copulating, despite knowing that Hemsworth is watching with fascination behind his control panel. Spiderhead hits Netflix on June 17, a trippy cocktail of mystery, prison drama, violence and liberation.
Directed by Oblivion and Top Gun: Maverick filmmaker Joseph Kosinski, the film stars Hemsworth and Miles Teller as two men on opposite sides of the one-way mirror. Hemsworth’s callous Abnesti barely sees his test subjects as humans, just guinea pigs offering up their brains by committing bad enough crimes to end up in the Penitentiary and Research Facility.
Teller, meanwhile, begins to see the inhumane consequences of Spiderhead’s tests, and must team up with eyeliner-wearing fellow inmate Jurnee Smollet if they ever hope to escape. A violent smear of blood in one of the test room windows shows that some other poor soul has thought up another way to leave the clutches of the institution.
Spiderhead is based on George Saunders’ short fiction Escape From Spiderhead, a bleak and surprisingly funny story that was originally published in the New Yorker. Saunders’ protagonist Jeff speaks with very laid-back, unpretentious first-person perspective, making the cruel and bizarre experiments he’s subjected to all the more surreal.
With Teller seemingly playing the incarcerated Jeff and his Top Gun: Maverick director back in full futuristic mode, Spiderhead could be a promising addition to Netflix’s so-so canon of original films. Especially with Hemsworth in groovy villain mode. His evil dance moves in the trailer above are certainly worth hitting play for.