Eight Legged Freaks May 13, 2016
Monster movies, at least ones made with acuity, are nearly impossible for me to resist. From Them! to Deep Blue Sea to The Blob, I devour the kooky thrills presented — executed with delightful humor and knowing suspense, I relish the opportunity to watch a gaggle of attractive actors run from, scream at, get eaten by, or attack unearthly beasts who want nothing more than to cause inescapable destruction. Done wrong and you’ve got yourself a forgettable B-movie. Done right and you get a good time fun enough to warrant multiple viewings.
Eight Legged Freaks (2002) is a pleasurable example of the latter. Written and directed by Ellory Elkayem with the shameless absurdity of other Golden Era monster movies, it adds nothing new to a predictable genre. But it still manages to be cheaply buzzy and effectually witty, and in a genre so ludicrous, it’s important we can feel as though we can enjoy ourselves without our intelligence being insulted. Thankfully, Eight Legged Freaks is the kind of drive-thru slop you eat after a month long, excruciatingly controlled diet — it’s gratifying and guiltless, hitting the right spot without the shamefaced aftermath.
Its bête noire of choice, as anticipated, is the renowned Big Ass Spider, an underdog in a genre more into killer sharks, alligators, and piranhas. These arachnids, in the tradition of prideful pulp, are massive and bloodthirsty due to interaction with radioactive material. The town in which the turmoil lets itself be known is Prosperity, Arizona, which is small and sleepy and is renowned for its gold mines. Understandably, the inclusion of mutant spiders in a region with such a miniature population could very well make for a losing fight — but with makeshift defense led by Chris McCormick (David Arquette), the son of the mines’ owner, and Samantha Parker (Kari Wührer), a spunky sheriff with two spitfires for kids (Scarlett Johansson and Scott Terra), everyday craftiness could come in handy.
There are other entanglements to make the plot more than just one long chase-and-attack movie; supplemental villains include the mayor (Leon Rippy), who wants to sell Prosperity’s mines and relocate the town’s citizens, and Harlan Griffiths (Doug E. Doug), a radio personality who sensationalizes the situation and inflicts misinformation onto unaware locals.
But Eight Legged Freaks is a first-class monster movie all the same, an acclimation of cut-rate thrills, competent special effects, and easy comicality. Logic and a sound mind aren't a part of its repertoire. But a tasty sense of fun and old-fashioned goofiness is, and the film is accomplished when it comes to doing what it should, which is to concoct a modern-day counterpart to such trash masterpieces as Night of the Lepus and Piranha. Throw in juicy doses of self-referentiality and you’ve got yourself a champion. B