Eight Legged Freaks
gentle readers of Fanboy Planet will no doubt refuse to see Eight
Legged Freaks no matter what. This would be because of a no doubt
squeamish constitution, easily disturbed by movies about giant spiders.
And let there be no mistake. These are spiders in the plural, and giant
as in immense.
Despite being computer
generated, these are also spiders in the "AAAAAGGHHH!!! AAAGGHH!!!!
GET THEM OFF ME!" icky sense.
To those gentle
readers, we say buck up, wussies, because Eight Legged Freaks
makes one heck of a great ride, and reading a review just ain't gonna
How good is this
movie? So good that it almost makes up for producer Dean Devlin's
involvement in Godzilla, Independence Day and Stargate.
So good that we can all pretend that David Arquette never starred in
See Spot Run or those stupid phone commercials. So good that
for one brief moment in the universe, it's understandable that he could
land someone like Courtney Cox.
as Chris McCormack, the stereotypical troubled youth now grown up and
returning to the town he abandoned after falling in love with a woman
he could never have, now the sheriff (Kari Wuhrer). His father owned
the mine that provided Prosperity, Arizona with its economy. Once he
died and the mine shut down, the town grew more and more ironic. All
the mine really has to offer is a build-up of methane gas and lots and
lots of underground storage space for toxic waste. But really all that,
as paranoid deejay Harlan (Doug E. Doug) says, is another story.
What you really
came here for are the spiders. First-time writer/director Ellory Elkayem
wastes no time in delivering the goods. The characterizations and subplots
are strictly secondary to the horrible fun, and no scene ends without
some sort of ominous build-up to the town becoming spiderfood.
Editor Michael Goodson
will not be looking at this picture.
Right off the bat,
a truck driver accidentally spills toxic waste into the local river,
which supercharges the local crickets. An unbilled Tom Noonan (Francis
Dollarhyde in Manhunter) harvests the bugs to feed to his spiders.
As always playing someone vaguely unsettling, Noonan's character farms
exotic arachnids, ostensibly selling them to collectors.
At their regular
size, the spiders are frightening and disgusting enough. In particular
are the "orbweb" spiders; tiger-striped males compete to bring the best
paralyzed prey to the female, who is three times the males' size. And
three times as squirm-inducing. When fed the crickets, these spiders
start growing abnormally large, and when Noonan's parrot cracks "I see
dead people," we know it's not so much a movie quote as prophecy.
Luckily, the spider
rancher has passed on all his knowledge to the sheriff's son Mike (Scott
Terra), a twelve-year old dead ringer for Peter Parker. (Coincidentally,
Terra will be playing the twelve-year old Matt Murdock in Daredevil.)
As a nice turn-about on the genre, once Chris discovers that his Aunt
Gladys (Eileen Ryan) has been wrapped up as a present for the giant
female, he knows right where to go to for information on how to stop
And then it's just
a whole lot of cool gross-outs, kept relatively tasteful by a PG-13
rating. Unlike previous monster spider movies, Elkayem refuses to limit
himself to just one terrifying breed. There's the requisite tarantula,
unwrapping a trailer like a candy bar. Trapdoor spiders move from an
ostrich ranch to breaking through pavement and catching citizens.
The most successful
hunters are the jumping spiders, which should give everybody the heebie-jeebies.
Though eventually they become a "been there, done that" effect, their
chasing dirt-bike riders through the desert provides one of the summer's
giddiest movie moments, right up there with Spider-Man's first efforts
webslinging after Uncle Ben's killers.
If it all seems
to get more and more implausible near the end, well, what do you want?
It's a giant spider movie.
...nor will Goodson
look at this one.
And yet, the humans
manage to make an impression, too. In a sentence I never thought I'd
type, Arquette shows restraint and courage. Though wild panic obviously
bubbles under Chris' face when confronting the spiders, Arquette resists
the urge to just be the manic guy he has spent the last couple of years
playing. As a result, the performance is funny without taking us out
of the horror of his situation.
Playing a sort
of black Art Bell, Doug E. Doug also manages to toe the line between
straight and ridiculous. Even the bumbling Deputy Pete, played by Rick
Overton, manages to keep from being an unbelievable character. In what
should finally give her a life outside of direct-to-video, Kari Wuhrer
plays sexy, tough, and occasionally vulnerable as the hottest of hot
moms who also happen to be law enforcement officers.
The only real blank
in the movie is indie actress Scarlett Johansson (Ghost World, The
Man Who Wasn't There) as Wuhrer's daughter. Not really given much
to do, I would be remiss if I didn't mention that her scene in a towel
drew quite a bit of post-pubescent applause. And really, what more do
you want from a giant spider movie?
If Eight Legged
Freaks has any real problems, it's that there just aren't enough
drive-ins left for people to watch it as it really should be viewed.
Otherwise, it's really the most fun to be had at the movies right now.
Why? Because it's not only a giant spider movie, but it's a damned