Spiderhead is a 2022 American science fiction thriller film directed by Joseph Kosinski, with a screenplay by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, based on the dystopian short story “Escape from Spiderhead” by George Saunders. The film stars Chris Hemsworth (who also produced), Miles Teller, and Jurnee Smollett. Principal photography took place in Australia in 2020. Spiderhead premiered in Sydney on June 11, 2022 and was released on Netflix on June 17. The film received mixed reviews from critics.
Spiderhead is a state-of-the-art penitentiary experimenting with the effects of research chemicals. The test subjects, technically prisoners of the state, are volunteers for the project, aiming to reduce their sentence time. The program is overseen by the sympathetic and hospitable Steve Abnesti, along with his assistant, Mark. The subjects go through daily test runs of various drugs, all of which alter their emotions and their perceptions of their surroundings.
One experiment is on that of a ‘love drug’, used to test the connection between prisoners. Inmate Jeff, still reeling from his past mistake of killing his friend whilst drunk driving, is one of the subjects given said drug. He has sex with two of his fellow inmates and is later asked by Steve to choose which one of them to give Darkenfloxx, a drug that induces intense physical and psychological pain. He declines to choose, claiming he feels nothing in particular for either one of them after the effects of the love drug had worn off. He does, however, have feelings for a different inmate, Lizzy. The next day, Steve apologetically tells him that the ‘higher ups’ have chosen for him and that the younger of the two women, Heather, must be injected with a dose, though it will only last 5 minutes.