Eight Legged Freaks

There’s more than one spider film this year and this one focuses on the arachnoids themselves instead of some kid who just got bitten. Eight Legged Freaks is a modern version of the old monster movies. With clichés aplenty (mostly done on purpose) and many laughs is it better than its title suggests.

Set in Prosperity, Arizona, a small town with many unsuccessful attempts at revival since the local mine shut down (most of which were led by the get-rich-quick schemer and local mayor Wade (Leon Rippy)). Wade’s plans have included building a mall and an ostrich farm but nothing has managed to replace the prosperity of the mine.

Returning to the town is local boy Chris McCormack (David Arquette) after a 10 years absence. He’s still in love with the local sheriff Sam Parker (Kari Wuhrer) and intends on reopening the mines (left to him by his father) to try and bring money back into the town.

On the other side of town lives Joshua (Tom Noonan) who’s owns an exotic spider farm with hundreds of little arachnids. His only contact with the outside world, it seems, is Mike Parker (Scott Terra) who’s also the sheriff’s young son.

All things being equal, one day a toxic waste drum falls off the back of a lorry and spills it load – a compulsory incident in any tale of mutant creatures (can also be substituted for Radio Active waste!). The spiders managed to ingest the toxic waste through the food chain and before you can say, “Look out behind you!” they have not only managed to escape, but are growing at a phenomenal speed.

Before the town folk realise what’s happened, pets and animals start to disappear, till eventually the spiders break out into a mass invasion. By default, Mike, whose spent so much time with Joshua, becomes the towns expert on arachnids and the towns inhabitants (mostly kooky characters) take a stand against the eight legged freaks.

That’s it in a nutshell. The other characters that pop up are Mike’s sister, Ashley Parker (Scarlett Johansson), the slightly-dim witted deputy Pete (Rick Overton), Chris’s kindly aunt Gladys (Eileen Ryan) and the hilarious Harlan (Doug E Doug). Harlan spends his time broadcasting his radio show from his trailer, which doesn’t help that his a conspiracy theory nut and paranoid of aliens. So when he does transmit warnings of impending doom (he’s still convinced that the spiders are aliens) the towns’ folk smirk it off as one of his paranoid delusions.

The performances are very fun to watch, David Arquette is his usual quirky, slightly off centred self but manages to be charming (if a little dim). Wuhrer is great as the tough, but sexy sheriff. Scott Terra is excellent as the spider freak, and doesn’t come off as being annoying at all (which is rare for smart arsed kids in movies!). Doug E Doug is down right hilarious as his fears of aliens and their anal probes are never too far below the surface.

The whole cast seem to understand that they must not take themselves or this film seriously and as a result the all play it either tongue-in-cheek or borderline caricatures – which works extremely well. They all just cut loose and have fun with it. The film is paced very well with no long lulls before its action time again.

The special effects are great and the giant spiders running around are impressive. The mistake of films such as The Swarm and even Arachnophobia to some extent is that little creatures are not all that scary  - Eight Legged Freaks makes the spiders HUGE and a lot more fun to watch. There is very little human blood spilled but arachnids are squashed, hacked, run over, burnt and shot by the dozen. The spiders do tend to have some strange sounds, from chirping to deep guttural growls, but hey it’s a monster movie and it adds personality to them.

Overall, Eight Legged Freaks is a fun movie to watch; its got things to make you jump, laugh and excite all rolled into one cocoon. Its never takes itself seriously and no one involved is under the impression that this is a film with depth and meaning. It’s a film with giant killer spiders and that’s that and is a lot more entertaining than many of the summer ‘blockbusters’ this year.

Score 7/10