Eight Legged Freaks

Unlike most other movies that turn out bad, Eight Legged Freaks tries to be as bad as it can. It is a throwback to the cheesy monster movies of yore, where big things attacked stupid people. How can you take any movie starring both resident weirdo David Arquette and B-movie queen Kari Wuhrer seriously? Eight Legged Freaks aims squarely for camp and achieves it, making it an amusing movie to sit through. It never takes itself seriously, which is why it stays fun to watch. The premise is that toxic waste mutated a number of spiders, causing them to grow to huge proportions, killing everybody in the process. Chris McCormack (Arquette, See Spot Run, 3000 Miles to Graceland) is returning home to reassert his claim on some family property, and to stop a greedy mayor from selling to town to a large industrial company.

The only person who realizes what is happening is Mike Parker (Scott Terra, The Perfect Nanny). He is the son of the Sam Parker (Wuhrer, Berserker, Spider's Web), the local sheriff. Chris had a thing for Sam a long time ago, before he left town for undisclosed reasons. None of this is important, it's just some plot fodder that happens in between scenes of huge spiders attacking people. Slowly, Sam and Chris rally the local people together until they make a final stand against these monsters. Jesse Alexander, Ellory Elkayem, and Randy Kornfield (Jingle All the Way, Bloodknot) fill the script with colorful (and stupid) locals, who muster everything from shotguns and pitchforks together to combat the spiders. Of course, most of them are expendable.

Elkayem (Creepy Crawlers, Larger Than Life), who also directed, does a nice job with his large spiders. Paradoxically, the special effects look modern and retro. The spiders look realistic at some points, and Elkayem even anthropomorphizes them, having them grunt and cough and other random things spiders cannot do. At other points, they look like ridiculously fake, like regulars spiders shot close up then stuck on the film. By carefully balancing the complex with the simple, Eight Legged Freaks gets to have it both ways. It retains a loopy sense of camp while looking pretty decent. It revels in all the old monster movie cliches with a sense of appreciation; Elkayem is paying homage to these old movies with an updated version, where everything is the same except for some better effects.

The spiders upstage most of the actors, except for Arquette. He is arguably more normal here than in other movies, but still retains some off-sane quality that looks like it may burst through at any moment. It actually works for him too. Wuhrer too. As an actress, she is so-so, and usually has jobs that play upon her model-quality looks and body. Here, as a mother and the sheriff, she is not meant to be taken seriously. The other actors all play hollow stereotypes, with the most amusing one being Harlan (Doug E. Doug, Citizen James, Everything's Jake), a conspiracy theorist that runs a local radio program. That being said, Eight Legged Freaks is still only a mediocre movie, because of the dramatic limitations of its genre. At least it knows this and has a little fun with it.

Haro Rates It: Okay.
1 hour, 40 minutes, Rated PG-13 for sci-fi violence, brief sexuality and language.

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