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Eight Legged Freaks (2002)



I'm uncertain as to who Eight Legged Freaks is aimed at. It's billed as a horror/comedy but is unsuccessful at eliciting either horror or laughs from the viewer, namely me. I guess the best way to define it would be as a homage to camp classics like Them, Tarantula and Giant Spider Invasion. A less impressive way to define it would be as an inefficient version of Tremors. The worst definition would be Attack of The Killer Tomatoes with more budget and less laughs.

The story is classic B-grade: a chemical spill on the outskirts of a remote mining town inadvertently mutates the pets of an eccentric spider farmer (a cameo by Tom Noonan). At the same time, Chris (David Arquette) is returning home after a period abroad, hoping to reunite with his long-time flame, Sam, the town Sheriff. Of course, Sam's children, Mike (the requisite spider expert) and Ashley (the requisite rebellious teenager) are having problems of their own. There's a bit of plot about the reason Chris left town and a hidden gold mine, but its mostly just spiders chasing people while giggling and chattering excitedly.

Giggling and chattering? Unfortunately, yes. The director decided to tone down the menace and give his spiders some personality by not only giving them different abilities, but also a choice selection of "hilarious" sound effects to accompany their bloodless rampage. The film suffers as a result … who wants to see a huge spider chase down some punk kid only to basically stand above him squeaking while said punk writhes on the ground in mock pain? It's just not scary. And some of the humour is so dumb and two-dimensional (a cat fighting a spider within a wall and leaving imprints of the feline's face and paws along it) you just have groan and wonder if anyone, in any cinema, in any galaxy, would find it funny.

As can be expected with this film's near puritanical censorship of swearing and violence, there is precious little T & A on display, which can sometimes redeem even the most horrendous movie. Even Kari Wuhrer is wasted as the semi-competent, totally hot sheriff. The lack of any remotely sexy theme is amazing when you consider the scene where semi-undressed teenager Ashely is pinned to a wall by the webbing shooting from the undulating thorax of a frenzied spider … it kinda resembles something from a Japanese demon porn anime.

Acting is quite bland across the board, with Doug E Doug at his gibbering worst as the local DJ cum conspiracy theorist. David Arquette, trying desperately to channel Blob-era Steve McQueen, fails to exude anything approaching charisma. The spiders, however, look terrific and are quite nicely animated. I enjoyed the different skills of the arachnids: one moment a group of jumping spiders are chasing stoner "duuudes" and snatching them from their dirt bikes, the next … trapdoor spiders are dragging diner patrons underground as they try and run for their cars.

Admittedly, Eight Legged Freaks is aware of it ludicrous premise and is self-consciously B-grade. But a film has to entertain on some level and once the sight of numerous extras falling over in front of CGI spiders grows tiresome, there is little else to recommend it. Oh, besides a taser to the balls scene.