movie film review | chris tookey

Eight Legged Freaks

  Eight Legged Freaks Review
Tookey's Rating
8 /10
Average Rating
6.20 /10
Chris McCormack: David Arquette, Sheriff Sam Parker: Kari Wuhrer, Mike Parker: Scott Terra
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Directed by: Ellory Elkayem
Written by: Ellory Elkayem and Jesse Alexander

Released: 2002
Origin: US
Colour: C
Length: 99

Eight Legged Freaks tells what happens when an impoverished town in Arizona - called, ironically, Prosperity - is terrorized by ecologically contaminated spiders who have mutated to many times their normal size. And they're hungry.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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Much of the fun lies in seeing - and hearing, for the sound effects guys have a whale-sized arachnid of a time - an oversized trapdoor spider making short work of an ostrich, or jumping spiders chase after a gang of youths on mountain bikes, in a sequence that is clearly designed as a black comedy version of the chase in ET.

There is almost no human interest. The little there is concerns a virtually characterless young man (David Arquette) returning home after ten years to search for gold in the mine he has inherited from his father, and try to make up for lost time with the woman he loved, Sam Parker (Kari Wuhrer).

Now, she's the local sheriff and a single mum coping with a hormonally driven teenage daughter (Scarlett Johansson). Sam also has a young son (Scott Terra) who's a spider expert. This expertise, needless to say, does come in handy - though he's much too polite to point out a central fallacy in the film, which is that spiders are pack-hunters.

No one in their right mind will attend a movie called Eight Legged Freaks expecting intellectual stimulation. If, on the other hand, you have a soft spot for old-fashioned creature features like Them!, Tarantula and Arachnaphobia, you'll come out of the cinema with a silly smile on your face, and a feeling that you've been thoroughly entertained.

This is a fast-paced B-movie with plenty of nasty shocks and just as many laughs. It's the best tongue-in-cheek monster movie since Tremors, an underrated little effort from 1989, about giant sandworms trying to have Kevin Bacon for breakfast.

Like Scream, this is a post-modern horror movie, in that the characters are pretty well acquainted with earlier giant spider pictures. "You're not going to believe me because I'm the kid and they never believe the kid", says the kid resignedly, as he does his best to warn the townsfolk of the coming invasion. Sure enough, they don't believe him.

There's plenty of wit in the visual set-pieces. As in Joe Dante's Gremlins pictures, comedy and scares are mixed effectively, and director Ellory Elkayem manipulates the old cliches so that it's never quite predictable what will happen next, or who will survive the carnage..

The special effects range from the excellent to the laughably cheesy, but are certainly much better than in the old days of drive-in monster movies. And in tune with the generally retro feel, there are a few welcome traces of a cautionary morality when it comes to teenage sex.

But I mustn't fall into the trap of over-intellectualising. This is just instantly disposable, artistically worthless, expertly crafted trash, and I enjoyed it immensely.

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