Eight Legged Freaks (2002)

There are so many red flags just on the poster of this movie.  One is actually admitting that David Arquette is the star and putting his mug clear and up front.  Another is making the poster look like it is still in the development stage and some secretary misunderstood that it was a mock-up and sent it out to be printed.  Third, of course, is that it is from the producer of Independence Day and Godzilla.  Although the latter made money it's not something to be too proud of.  Also, putting "from the producer" on anything is like telling a cop that your brother-in-law is the mayor.

Despite all that Eight Legged Freaks, directed by Ellory Elkayem and based on his short film Larger Than Life, manages to deliver some old-school sci-fi thrills.  Giant insects, usually due to nuclear testing, were all the rage in the 1950s, and Elkayem set out to due both an homage to the genre as well as a satire.  It intermittently works as both, but is a light, fun watch none-the-less.

Sheriff Samantha Parker (Kari Wuhrer) is balancing her job and single motherhood.  She has a precocious pre-teen boy named Mike (Scott Tera) and a teenage daughter named Ashley (Scarlett Johansson).  Mike has an interest for spiders and spends a lot of his free time at a local spider farm, where the owner has found that feeding his creatures insects caught around a local pond has caused them to grow bigger.  What he doesn't know is that their size is due to a barrel of toxic waste the landed in the pond that was secretly bound for the local mines that are about to close.

Turns out Wade (Leon Rippy), the mayor of the small town of Prosperity, Arizona has come up with toxic waste storage as his latest scheme to put a lot of money in his pocket and a tiny bit into the town's.  He runs into trouble when Chris McCormick (David Arquette), the son of the deceased owner of the mining company, returns and objects.  As Chris tries to respark his previous romance with Samantha, they soon find out through Mike that the town has bigger problems than closing mines and political corruption.  The spiders at the farm have escaped, grown to enormous size, and find Prosperity to be a prosperous feeding ground.

This was not a high-budget film of any sort, nor did it try to transcend its b-movie premise like Arachnophobia did a few years before.  The CGI is laughable most of the time, but better effects would not have made a better movie.  The point, from the title on down, was just to have some fun with a vintage premise, and largely it is successful.  Despite the effects there are some great scenes of the spiders taking over the town (with Superior, Arizona being the stand-in for most of the shots - with some of the set dressing from U-Turn appearing to still be in place), although I know some of it was filmed in Page and the mall scenes were done at the old Thomas Mall in Phoenix before it was torn down soon after. 

Arquette isn't bad in this, which is always the best thing that can be said about his acting, and Kari Wuhrer is great.  Scarlett Johansson is barely 18, and I really didn't remember she was in this movie.  She plays the typical rebellious teenage girl, but we do get to see her use a stun gun on the mayor's son (Matt Czuchry) when he gets too handsy.  In a nod to Art Bell, who had a famous late-night radio show that dealt with the paranormal and conspiracy theories, Doug E. Doug plays a DJ named Harlan whose similar show seems to be the height of local entertainment.  

Throughout the movie is just solid entertainment, even if at times it feels like it was something made for Sy-Fy rather than theatrical release.  It may as well have been, as it wasn't exactly a big hit and it's not something that's well-remembered.  Still, it's a lot of fun, it's not too gory and doesn't drag out its run time.  It's everything one could want for a Saturday matinee film if such things still existed. 

Eight Legged Freaks (2002)
Time: 96 minutes
Starring: David Arquette, Kari Wuhrer, Scott Tera, Scarlett Johansson, Leon Rippy
Director: Ellory Elkayem



Popular posts from this blog

Zack Snyder's Justice League (2021)

Godzilla vs. Kong (2021)

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023)