Arachnophobia (1990)

“The itsy-bitsy spider crawled up the water spout; down came the rain and washed the spider out.”

Justin’s rating: When Charlotte Goes Bad!

Justin’s review: One of my favorite movie stories comes from an experience while watching Arachnophobia. I was back in high school, over at my friends’ house, and we rented it to watch one lazy Sunday afternoon. My friends’ older sister (we were maybe freshmen back then, she was a senior) came into the room to get a book and do some studying. About midway through the movie I glanced over and noticed that she was holding the book but was secretly watching the film. And getting seriously freaked out about it, I might add. Her body tensed up and nearly withdrew to a sitting fetal position. Now, it’s not that scary of a movie, but this was a girl that would get freaked out over anything.

So really, there was no choice at all. None. I simply had to quietly reach over and do a spider-walk up her back with my fingers.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a human being’s voice burst through the sonic barrier, but she got darn close. I was also hit multiple times with her textbook, which gave me a life-long fear of calculus.

Arachnophobia is the feel-good eight-legged film of the 90’s. From the dark heart of Africa, where evil and Wal-Marts thrive, the most deadly spider in the world hitchhikes its way to the USA. It knows our track record for dealing with horror movie threats. The spidey figures, hey, it’ll get in at least a couple dozen good kills before the standard fiery climax, and that ain’t bad.

In horror movies, there are two types of people who have correctly identified the danger and are never believed by others: either a teenager (and not believed by parents due to youth and general insanity), or a fairly intelligent adult (and not believed by others due to a large web of idiotic plot setups). Not being a teenager, Dr. Ross Jennings (Jeff “Still Fighting The Civil War” Daniels) has a hard time getting people to believe him when the killer spiders start their Gestapo goose-stepping around the countryside. Hey, who are you going to believe? A rational human being with a Ph.D. from a snooty university, or Mrs. Hairy Fangy Arachnid, who most likely eats her young while watching soaps? Exactly.

Arachnophobia billed itself as a horror/comedy mix, but was a tinge too light in either subject to get full course credit. Comedy came too little, too late in the form of bug killer Delbert (John Goodman) and a few humorous false scares. As for the horror, it’s simply impossible to be that scared of a fairly small and cuddly spider that’s posing as this new ultra-dangerous spider hybrid. With the exception of playing hide-the-fang, what can a 1/1000th ounce spider do to you? Do a full body tackle and drag your women off to its cave? It’s this sort of logistical problem that has every character in the movie making the most idiotic decisions possible just to give the spiders a fighting chance:

DAD: Well honey, I think I’m going to go wander in the attic for a bit with this faulty flashlight!

MOM: That’s fine, I was considering dusting the undersides of everything in the cellar anyway!

KID: Mmm! This spider looks like a gummy treat!

But really, Arachnophobia is the harmless sort of fun movie that you’ll catch on some cable channel and end up watching to its finish despite any compelling reason to do so. It has a few true moments of creepiness — and will give you the skin jitters the next time you feel a bug land on you. And for no good reason, I have to say that Delbert’s diagnosis of the termite-infested house tickles me Italian Pink every time: “Wood bad. Put in good wood.”

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