Review: Eight Legged Freaks (2002)

Director: Ellory Elkayem / Warner Bros. Pictures

(Originally published on 3/3/2013)

                  From David Arquette’s Things-To-Do list…

1)     Gain some fame from Wes Craven films.
2)     Land Courtney Cox, lose her later.
3)     Make people remember I starred in Airheads; Make them forget I was in See Spot Run.
4)     Become WCW champion, ruin Eric Bischoff’s career.
5)     Make a monster movie that needs a hyphen in the title.
6)     Do some more Wes Craven Films.
7)     Check into rehab.

There’s something about David Arquette that David Arquette doesn’t quite understand: people like him. He’s the sort of guy you’d want to go for a beer with (if he still drank) and who you could just watch horror movies and wrestling with whilst sharing a pizza. He’s a lovable goof of a guy who oozes that “everyman” charm that Hollywood hates so much. Thankfully, he’s exactly what this B-movie homage needed to make it work.

The story is pure hokum: The down-on-it’s-luck mining town of Prosperity is shipping toxic waste about and a barrel falls into the local river. A farmer of exotic spiders captures some irradiated bugs and feeds them to his arachnid chums, and they promptly grow to colossal size, kill him and escape, wiping out all manner of animals (including ostriches) before setting their sights on the local townsfolk.

Thankfully, Arquette has arrived back in town convinced that his dead father’s tales of the mines housing a fortune in untapped gold are true. Before you know it, he’s the unlikely hero who’s romancing the town sheriff and climbing radio towers to try to get a signal to the outside world for help. The rest of the citizens (the ones who survive, anyway) take refuge in the local shopping mall and arm themselves as best as possible.

Of course, you can see the end coming a mile away. They explain early on that the mining tunnels are full of methane gas that could blow at any time, and we know that the spiders have made those tunnels their home. Three guesses for figuring out the ending of the movie, and the first two don’t count. Of course, the important thing is that everyone’s having fun here and you can just go along for the ride, right? Wrong.

This is a film that has as many cons as it does pros. It’s hard to tell if it’s a homage to monster B-movies or just an insult. What makes those old junkers so lovably funny is that the filmmakers were trying so hard to be serious. Instead, we’ve got a monster movie that set out to be funny, by putting silly squeaky people-noises on the spiders and by having set-pieces like a cat take on a spider inside a wall that shows the imprints of the fight like a cartoon.

For all that, it’s a fun romp. The townsfolk are bumbling morons and seeing them defend the local mall is brilliant. The effects are good, and things like the spider attack on some “Xtreme” bikers are well handled. Arquette is ably assisted by Doug E. Doug, Kari Wuhrer and a young Scarlett Johansson, and the film rolls along at a good pace.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work as a horror film no matter how fun it is, it’s just too silly. If you’ve got a hankering for a scary spider movie, you’d be better off watching the far superior Arachnophobia, and if you want a good tribute to monster movies then watch Cloverfield or The Host. This movie is like Arquette himself: it just doesn’t quite understand itself.


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