‘Spiderhead’ Ending Changes Short Story
Cinema has had a sci-fi literary moment. Featuring both film and TV adaptations of bestselling novels—Loan player one, Dunes, The best of worldsand, the most ambitious, The three-body problem (still to come)—and new adaptations of short stories—Arrivalthe Invisible Manand now spider head— large and small screens roam the library in search of new sources. And not only relying on the brilliant work of Philip K. Dick.
by Netflix spider head is inspired by “Escape from Spiderhehead”, a short story by George Saunders, which first appeared in the new yorker in 2010. The story is a first-person account of an imprisoned man who participates in laboratory experiments. The experiments grow increasingly sadistic as he is forced to watch other test subjects endure painful injections known as Darkenfloxx™, causing them to temporarily endure extreme fear and pain.
The tone of the story is consistent with much of Saunders’ work, which often features blue-collar men and women working in mostly insensitive capitalist environments. Like his other stories, “Escape from Spiderhead” also features undercurrents of heartfelt humor under these mostly melancholic circumstances.
Netflix’s adaptation tries to capture those complex tones, adding an easy-listening soundtrack, to generally mixed results. The original story, structured more like a single cinematic act than an entire movie, has been expanded to include more information about the imprisoned man, Jeff, and his fellow inmates. The film also changes the crime and Jeff’s relationship to those in the outside world, adding an incarcerated relationship as well. While these changes didn’t require the filmmakers to alter the story’s ending as well, the writers chose to forgo Saunders’ more tragic finale in favor of conventional Hollywood escapism. (Spiderhead’s “leak” in the short story is much less literal.)
Here’s how the two properties handle the story’s ending.
End of the Netflix version:
After turning down Darkenfloxx from the women he’s slept with, Jeff (Miles Teller) is invited to Darkenfloxx Lizzy (Jurnee Smollett), his best friend and love partner.
Steve Abnesti (Chris Hemsworth), who Jeff initially thinks is testing each drug individually for distinct purposes – a love drug for love, a fear drug for fear, etc. obedience. Before Lizzy’s experiment, however, Jeff convinces Abnesti’s assistant to remove the obedience drug from his bag and equip Abnesti with the drug instead. Jeff then uses the drug controls on Abnesti, who resists and still manages to Darkenfloxx Lizzy.
Jeff saves Lizzy in time, but Abnesti has already fled and sickened the entire prison of Jeff and Lizzy, who are trying to escape. Meanwhile, Abnesti’s assistant informed the authorities of the illegal experiments taking place on the island. They arrive in time to see Abnesti take off on a biplane. Abnesti’s pack, however, was damaged during his altercation with Jeff, and he suffers a drug overload, causing him to crash into the island’s mountain.
Jeff and Lizzy manage to escape by boat.
Prior to their escape, Jeff learns that he was previously paroled and illegally detained on the island, meaning once he escapes he can presumably return to his life. without fear of being captured. The same goes for Lizzy.
How does the short story end
Much of the film deviates from the short story. Jeff doesn’t kill his girlfriend and boyfriend in a car accident. Instead, he kills his buddy with a brick while they were fighting. Jeff has no romantic relationship inside or outside of prison (so there is no Lizzy); he calls his mother when given the opportunity to use the phone.
Although many experiences in the story are similar to the film, we learn nothing about Abnesti or the company. The obedience drug is used in the story, but that’s not the main purpose of the experiments. (The experiments are more focused on developing a love drug.)
As in the movie, Darkenfloxx’s first forced drop for one of Jeff’s sex partners ends in his death. The story’s final scene, however, involves a forced second Darkenfloxx, but with another sexual partner, not a romantic interest. Jeff refuses. Abnesti then leaves the room in order to get permission to use the obedience drug on Jeff. Instead of allowing himself to Darkenfloxx another woman, Jeff discovers the controls for her bag and throws it down a nearby vent. His pack shatters, releasing all of the drugs simultaneously, including his own Darkenfloxx. The narrator then describes his last ascent.
“Across the woods, as if with one accord, the birds left their trees and soared upwards. I joined them, I flew among them, they didn’t recognize me as anything apart from them, and I was happy, so happy, because for the first time in years, and forever , I had not killed, and I never would.
We are made to believe that Jeff escapes Spiderhead by suicide.
Will there be a Spider head 2?
By not killing off Jeff, the filmmakers left open the possibility of a sequel. However, we do not yet know if there will be a Spider head 2. Netflix will likely be waiting for viewership numbers to arrive like a vile broken Darkenfloxx.
We’ll keep this story updated if anything changes.
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