ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, JULY 25, 2002
By Steve Newton
I love watching horror movies starring spiders, mainly because they scare the heck out of me. I don’t mean those pretty gold-coloured ones you sometimes see hanging out in the garden, or those spindly daddy longlegs; I mean those hairy, brown, sinister-looking wolf spiders that race across the carpet when you’re watching TV in the dark, causing you to haul your feet up on the couch and yell: “Holy shit! Look at the size of that thing!” before arguing about who’s gonna roll up the latest issue of Parents magazine and lower the boom.
I know, it’s a gutless thing to kill a poor, defenceless spider, and it has been known to cause rainstorms. But the bigger they are, the harder they fall around our place. Besides, they might crawl upstairs and bite the baby!
The first real spider-invasion movie I recall seeing was the 1977 William Shatner cringefest Kingdom of the Spiders, but the most memorable thing about that special effects–less wonder was the way the actors kept stepping on and driving over what were obviously real tarantulas. Then Arachnophobia came along, the 1990 “thrillomedy” that starred Jeff Daniels as a spider-fearing small-town doctor who takes on a horde of lethal spiders spawned by a huge, venomous South American web spinner.
Now comes the grammatically challenged Eight Legged Freaks, which ups the ante by making several of the attacking spiders the size of SUVs. Unfortunately, these computer-animated beasties just aren’t as inherently creepy as Arachnophobia’s real-life spiders. What it lacks in scares, however, Eight Legged Freaks makes up for with gallons of gooey-green spider guts.
The Scream trilogy’s David Arquette stars as a former resident of the economically strapped hamlet of Prosperity, Arizona, who returns just in time to see the effects of a barrel of toxic waste accidentally dumped into a nearby stream. The eccentric owner of an exotic spider collection (is that Manhunter’s Tom Noonan?) feeds his charges insects from the contaminated waters, and before you can say “Arach Attack”—the original name of this flick, which apparently sounded too much like Iraq Attack—car-sized spiders are chasing down dirt bikers and making snacks of cats and dogs.
Some grisly, dumb fun ensues as the hapless townsfolk arm themselves with shotguns and chainsaws and battle the oncoming hordes, Dawn of the Dead–like, in the local mall. But New Zealand director Ellory Elkayem—who honed his killer-bug skills with the Vancouver-shot cockroach epic, They Nest—goes overboard with the spider effects to the point where you get tired of looking at ’em.
And once you’ve seen one Bronco-sized tarantula, you’ve seen ’em all.