Eight Legged Freaks (2002)
By: Drexl on March 19, 2003  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Warner Home Video (UK).Region 2 PAL. 2.35:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1 French DD 5.1 Italian DD 5.1. English, French, Italian, Dutch, Arabic, Spanish, German Subtitles. 95 minutes
The Movie
Director: Ellory Elkayem
Starring: David Arquette, Kari Wuhrer, Scott Terra, Doug E. Doug, Scarlett Johansson
Screenplay: Jesse Alexander and Ellory Elkayem
Music: John Ottman
Tagline:'Do you hate spiders? Do you really hate spiders? Well they don't like you either'
Country: USA
AKA: Arac Attack
When Director Ellory Elkayem's short feature Larger Than Life was spotted by Producer Dean Devlin at a film festival, Devlin realised he had found the right man to help him resurrect the fondly remembered, nature-gone-berserk genre from the late fifties-early sixties. The result is an affectionate, if empty-headed, tribute to the monster movies of years gone by.

OK, take a deep breath - here's the plot. Local-boy Chris (David Arquette) rolls back into town to reclaim the family gold mines and hopefully snag a lost sweetheart, Samantha (Kari Wuhrer), into the bargain. Unfortunately, Prosperity, Arizona isn't doing too good; the mall is closing down and the Mayor decides that toxic waste disposal is a good little money spinner that might help revive the town's (and his own), fortunes, (I guess he's out of a job at the next elections then). As any B-movie fan will tell you, toxic waste leads to bad things, and sure enough, a stray barrel of the green goop ends up in the local lake or, more precisely, the local lake that has an exotic spider farm on it's shores. Whoops. Pretty soon the spiders have outgrown their cages and proceed to tear up the town and it's inhabitants with predictably messy results. Luckily, a few of the town's residents, including Chris and town sheriff Samantha, aren't going to take this lying down and decide to take the scrap to the beasts, arming themselves with shotguns, chainsaws, crossbows and err, perfume (yep, you read that right.) The townsfolk also have a secret weapon in the shape of a nerdy, bug-mad kid who knows all kinds of spider related stuff. (Any of this sound familiar?)

Right, so that's the plot, or what of it there is, out of the way - I hope you managed to get all that. So what's good and bad about this flick? Well, not much on either count to be honest. On the plus side, the film is an entertaining 90 minutes or so that does exactly what it says on the tin - nothing more and nothing less. It certainly never commits the unforgivable sin of being boring and, aside form a slightly slow first 15 minutes, it cracks along at a fair old pace. From a visual point of view the film looks terrific, helped out by some excellent cinematography and a truck-load of decent, if a little fake-looking at times, visual effects, (no pipe-cleaner spiders here, I'm sorry to say.) Elkayem mentions on the disc's commentary track that during the latter stages of the shoot they began to run out of time and money and, therefore, ended up simply 'winging it' - chucking the storyboards in the bin and just having fun with a genre they all seem to have a fondness for. It seems that all concerned had a good time making this movie and it does show in the finished product. On the down side, many viewers will, without a doubt, be irritated by the films complete lack of original ideas. Scream managed to tread similar ground but do so in a clever, genre-fan-friendly way and also add a couple of twists and a hint of originality while doing so. Unfortunately, Eight Legged Freaks has nothing to offer here, although I somehow doubt that was the intention anyway. So many ideas and scenes are stolen from so many movies that it becomes tiring after a while - Dawn Of The Dead, Aliens, Gremlins, Friday The 13th - all of these get a mention and that's nowhere near all of the films that the makers have begged, borrowed or stolen from - I'm sure you'll all spot many more, (answers on an e-postcard to the addy below.) As for the characters, well, don't even bother; the cast members scream, run away from nasty monsters and crack one-liners as and when required, but that's about it.

Eight Legged Freaks is good fun, albeit in a no-brainer kind of way and, if you can forgive it's (almost certainly intentional) lack of originality and substance, then it is an amusing way to pass an hour and a half. Some of the humour is quite funny, especially the scrap between a cat and a spider in the first half of the film, which is amusing in a Tom And Jerry kind of way. If ever there was a film that would benefit from being viewed in the company of friends, then Eight Legged Freaks is that film. The addition of a few jars of your alcoholic beverage of choice would help things along very nicely as well...
As you would expect from a modern, reasonably budgeted movie the transfer provided here is excellent. Colourful, sharp, detailed and lacking in coding defects of any kind. The film contains quite a few dark, misty shots but this transfer handles them all without a hitch. Superb stuff.
Again, excellent quality. Clear and punchy with the noises of scuttling spiders spread all around. No grumbles here.
Extra Features
Elkayem, Devlin, Arquette and co-star Rick Overton provide a feature-length audio commentary as the principal extra feature. No great shakes as far as commentaries go but a reasonable listen. Elkayem is full of praise for various crew members, especially as they were pushed for time and money as the film neared completion. Arquette, on the other hand, sounds as if he has just showed up after an all-night drinking binge, although he is credited with dreaming up the films release title as a replacement for the rather unfortunate working title.

The short that got Elkayem the gig in the first place, Larger Than Life, is next up. A black and white feature, funded by the New Zealand Film Commission, about a housewife being terrorised by a giant spider lurking in her house. It's interesting to watch this short and spot the many shots which made it into the main movie. Good fun, a decent quality print and well worth a look.

A few deleted scenes are next, although the promise of 'spine tingling additional scenes of spiders in action' found on the cover is a bit wide of the mark. Consisting of footage which was obviously, and wisely, cut to keep the running time down, there isn't anything here which would add much to the movie, although the original ending is included.

Finally we have the films theatrical trailer and the obligatory cast and crew info. The cast and crew info. consists only of a list of the main players and contains no information about them, which is a bit odd. A Kari Wuhrer slideshow was, to my huge disappointment, nowhere to be found. It's also worth mentioning that DVD-Rom owners have the option of installing a piece of software that serves as a no-frills DVD player and also links to various Warner-related websites. Just shove the disc in your PC's DVD drive and away you go. Whether this feature is available on all releases of this disc, or just the UK disc, I'm not sure. Oh, and before you ask, the freebie-player is region-locked.
The Verdict
A good fun movie on a very good quality DVD. If you fancy just sitting back with a can or two, knocking your brain into neutral and enjoying a dumb but fun monster flick then Eight Legged Freaks will fit the bill pretty well. The audio and video on offer is of a very high standard and the extra features, although a touch thin on the ground, are a welcome and interesting addition. I would have thought that most of you will have made up your minds long ago as to whether this film deserves a place in your collection, (somewhere around the 'toxic waste' bit probably.) Me? I love giant, mutated spider/ant/whatever movies and Eight Legged Freaks did fit the bill pretty well. It wasn't as bad as I feared it would be, nor was it as good I hoped it would be. As for the score for this release - well, it's a 2/5 movie on a 4/5 disc so we'll take the average on that count. Now, if only they had used pipe-cleaners instead of CGI....
Movie Score
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