Directed by Joseph Kosinski, ‘Spiderhead’ is a sci-fi thriller film set in the near future. Jeff (Miles Teller) and Lizzy (Jurnee Smollett) are residents of a facility that serves both as a prison and research center. Steve Abnesti (Chris Hemsworth) is the prison overseer and scientist running a human trial on them. Jeff, Lizzy, and the others came to the facility because it seemed to be a much better alternative than state prisons. But as Jeff discovers, they are forced to give up their free will while they are at Steve’s facility.
A title of a film, TV show or literary work traditionally denotes the core concepts of the narrative, and ‘Spiderhead’ is no exception. Here is everything you need to know about it. SPOILERS AHEAD.
What Is the Significance of Spiderhead’s Title?
The title ‘Spearhead’ refers to Spiderhead Penitentiary and Research Center, the facility where Steve conducts his research and Jeff and Lizzy reside. Spiderhead is unlike any other prison. It has neither locked doors nor orange jumpsuits, and the inmates enjoy much more freedom at Spearhead than at any traditional prison. They have all come to Spiderhead from state prisons after agreeing to be part of the human trial for Steve’s drugs. Although they are convicted killers, the inmates are allowed to go anywhere in the facility and have their own living spaces.
As it is revealed in the film, the restraints are biochemical at Spiderhead, not physical. Not long after they arrive, the inmates are placed on B-6 or OBDX or Obediex, which makes them predominantly obedient. This is why Steve can stay at Spiderhead without worrying about his life. He knows that with Obediex coursing through their bodies, the inmates can’t hurt him. However, the drug isn’t perfect. A subject can disregard a command even if they are on Obediex if they are told to destroy something they love above everything else. Ironically, this is demonstrated in the film through Steve, who considers Obediex his greatest creation.
The film is based on American author George Saunders’ short story ‘Escape from Spiderhead,’ It was first published in The New Yorker in 1910. In both the film and source material, the facility seems to derive its name from its layout resembling a spider. There is also a deeper meaning to all this. The title seems to refer to how a spider hunts its prey and compares that with what takes place at the facility.
The inmates are lured in with promises of commuted sentences and certain privileges. They are then forced into compliance with Obediex, which takes away the prisoners’ free will. In this context, Obediex serves the same role as the web or poison of the spider. After the inmates are secured, the trial begins in earnest. Even though the subjects give their consent at every stage of the trial, the notion of a choice here is nothing but an illusion. Due to Obediex, they are not choosing what they want but what Steve needs them to.