Eight Legged Freaks (2002) — Why does Hollywood keep making spider comedies?

“Get away from me you eight-legged freaks!”

DnaError’s rating: Eight finger-licking legs good

DnaError’s review: Okay, stick with me here — I haven’t been sniffing too much popcorn butter or injecting pure grade heroin into my eyes (again). But believe me when I say this: Eight Legged Freaks is the best movie I haven seen all summer.

No wait! come back! Let me explain. I know the commercials make it look like some dull horror flick, but that completely misrepresents it. This is a movie about dangerous waste creating an army of evil, mutant spiders that eat a town — and makes it funny. Rolling in the aisles, can’t breathe kind of funny. Actual intentional humor! With a spice of irony here and there to liven the mix.

While described as a “spoof” on ’50s monster flicks, its more accurate to say that Eight Legged Freaks *is* a B-grade monster flick, it just happens to have a million dollar and a great sense of humor behind it. The genre isn’t mocked as much as its celebrated, every cliché reveled in, every telegraphed plot point shined up. Only the occasional quip about “no one ever believes the kid” makes it spoofy.

I haven’t even gotten to the spiders yet! These are the most maliciously ravenous creatures since Gremlins or the aliens from Mars Attacks! These critters attack the town and its hapless citizens with glee, not even an emu farm is safe from the beasts. The sight of a cuddly kitten consumed whole by a seven-foot-tall spider is both funny and a little disturbing, which pretty much sums up the movie.

Justin’s rating: I’ll beat up anyone who says that a Daddy Long-Legs isn’t a spider!

Justin’s review: I’ll be honest — if I don’t say that at the beginning of any given sentence, you know I’m lying — the first part of Eight Legged Freaks let me down. During the opening credits I was a wide-eyed cherub waiting to be delighted and thrilled; yet after a half hour or so, my childlike visage melted into hot tears of disappointment. Santa… WHYYYYYYYY?

This slightly goofy B-movie spoof seemed to be sinking into the dull depths of wherever radioactive ants and guinea pigs seem to go when people are no longer scared of them. Giant spiders had potential, but it seemed like the filmmakers wanted to do the whole cat-and-arachnid thing for a while; which is to say, have some poor moron ignore the warning music and wander off into the Killing Zone for a bad monster to quickly leap out of the shadows and snatch its prey. For once, just ONCE, I’d love to see the creature in plain sight, with nary a shadow to be found.

My slack-jawed determination to sit the rest of this out proved a happy red herring (don’t get those confused with blue herrings, which are used for cutting down trees), since the previously all-business spiders turned into giddy schoolchildren once the rampage began. You see, the people in this flick are just placeholders for the much more interesting creatures who lack a crunchy moral center. This is much like Mars Attacks, Evolution, and especially Gremlins, in that wanton death and wholesale slaughter is pretty darn funny when you’ve got the right mob of baddies doing the job.

Our giant spiders come in various packages and varieties — possibly for the Happy Meal tie-in. Imagine that, you buying your son and daughter a McDonald’s Happy Meal, and them eagerly rooting around for the OH MY SWEET CLEMENTINE, WHAT IN THE UNHOLY HELLS IS THAT? IS THAT A SPIDER? OH, WHY DID WE HAVE TO GET THE VENOM COMBO?!?!

Eight Legged Freaks becomes an engaging stomp-romp once the filmmakers gave the spiders distinct (and clumsy) habits and various fun (and somewhat human) noises to go with it. Silly noises might not seem like it should be a selling point, but you have no idea how quickly it can turn something from museum-brand serious to girl-slap-fight goofy. Since we don’t have anyone more cute or likable than Kari “Fuhrer” Wuhrer on screen, it’s not too hard to turn traitor and pull for those ca-razy spiders who are just looking for a good time. I got a lot of laughs out of their rampage, and you will too… unless, of course, the sight of 10-foot (that’s 200 kilogram) arachnids tend to make you wig out. But that wouldn’t happen, cause I know you’re not a wimp. You’re my hero.

Shalen’s rating: Four out of four fixed-lens primary eyes

Shalen’s review: I have a confession to make: I love spiders. I always have. They’re amazingly adaptable, elegant in their construction, diverse in their habits, and smarter than you think. Although I’m sure not a lot of people want to hear that last one. My own sister goes into an absolute frenzy of stomping whenever she sees one. The other sister tends more toward paralysis.

If your reaction is the same as either of those, this is probably not the film for you. Despite all its corniness, you will have the heeby-jeebies for days, especially after you hear the version of “Itsy Bitsy Spider” that plays over the end credits. It’s one of those parasitic little tunes that sticks in your head and will NOT go away. It was for me, at least. Two days later I was still humming, “The itsy bitsy spider crawled into Momma’s shoe…”

But I digress. If, like me, you are not rooting for the movie denizens who have not yet evolved the ability to hear the soundtrack and run away when bass chords start playing, you may find it a pleasant surprise. There are some cute little touches that let you know this film doesn’t take itself too seriously. Whether it’s the flamenco bit on the soundtrack each time the orb weaver shows up, the cartoon cat shapes beaten into the wall when a house pet gets eaten, or the spider swatting at people from atop a lamppost in a Gremlins-style scene of chaos, there is plenty here that is simply meant to be laughed at. I found the subtler things much funnier than the more obvious no-one-listens-to-the-kid sort of moments.

And, of course, there’s my favorite scene of all. It involves jumping spiders and dirt bikes, and I ran it back and watched it again the first time I saw this on DVD. It’s exciting, it’s funny, and it’s more or less true to life – real jumping spiders jump proportionately much further than the ones in this movie, and if anything, they miss less often. Though I probably shouldn’t admit it, I kept one as a pet for months, and I watched little Darlene do something similar to hapless flies any number of times.

That’s another thing. This is one of the first films I’ve seen with spiders that acted like SPIDERS some of the time, not just like generic Movie Creatures. The motion capture wasn’t brilliant, but it was impressive, managing to capture some of the tarantula’s tentative gait and the jumpers’ rapid skitter.

No, it’s not a classic for the ages, but if you’re looking for some entertaining B-grade fun, this is the movie for you.

Didja notice?

  • The other horror movie references?
  • “Prosperity” Ooo, Irony.
  • That David Arquette cannot emote?
  • Both of the times that Mike’s face is shown through his digital camera, the device is obviously in playback mode rather than in record mode.
  • Spiders have nice foley artists working for them
  • hahaha the parrot gets it!
  • Ostriches

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