Eight Legged Freaks

Ever since Bud Abbot and Lou Costello first bumped into a reanimated corpse in the imaginatively titled Bud Abott and Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948), the genres of Comedy and Horror have been inextricably linked. Sure there were others before that made the mix, and comic relief was a staple in the classic horror movies of the 20's and 30's, but no film was ever so able to both scare an audience and make them laugh at the same time as that one, and it's success spawned two sequels, numerous television sketches, and in my opinion, heavily influenced Scooby Doo, but that's another discussion.

Filmmakers have been chasing this particular dragon ever since, with varying degrees of success. For every American Werewolf in London, there is a House II: The Second Story; for every Tremors, an American Werewolf in Paris. The sad truth is that there have been so many bad comedy/horror hybrids that the good ones frequently go unnoticed by audiences. Slither is one example, Eight Legged Freaks is another.

Written and Directed by Elroy Elkayem, the story is straight 50's drive-in: A small cargo of Toxic Waste finds its way into a lake near the small town of Prosperity, Arizona (a town which, in typical movie fashion, fails utterly at living up to its name).  In short order, the local insect life ingests the water and are themselves ingested by the spider collection of the local kook (an uncredited Tom Noonan), who soon grow larger, escape and ingest their owner and the local fauna,  then make their way into town. By the time they get there, the babies are the size of, and able to go ten rounds with, a cat (which one of them does in one of the best scenes of the movie). Before long, they're the size of a car, with the queen mother towering over them at a grand 20 feet in height.

Kari WuhrerDavid Arquette, and a youngish Scarlett Johansson do a great job of filling the classic roles of the Small Town Sherrif, Prodigal Hero, and Rebellious Teenager while the script has  plays with the old stereotypes and turns them on their ear. Case-in-point: The wise professor/scientist role in this film is filled by a young boy (Scott Terra). All of this is played with energy and just the right touch of camp.

The best characters in the movie, however, are the spiders themselves. While realistically detailed in their Computer Models, they chatter with each other in odd little noises, react, and perform cartoonish pratfalls. The fact they do this while still managing to be deadly, and frequently creepy adversaries-is a testament to the Director's skill. The invaders in Mars Attacks! wish they were as memorable. Credit must go to the producing team of Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich, who manged to bring the special effects prowess and experience from Independance Day and Godzilla to a movie that's a hell of a lot more fun and better than either those movies ever were.

So is this recommended fof a Cavalcade? Absolutely! It's a wild, fun little ride that is perfectly suited for a Drive-In. Check your brain at the door and enjoy the entertainment.


Once upon a time as a boy, I used to explore deep into the woods behind my house and explore the vast microscopic universe of the insect kingdom. Waterbugs, Wood Ticks, Beetles, Ladybugs, Ants, Bees, Yellowjackets, and Wasps all held equal fascination for me. The entimology wing of the Natural History Museum was my second favorite  stop after the dinosaurs, what with the living bee hive within the Plexiglas box that I could see inside.

This all changed in the swealtering hot summer of my 12th year, when I was sitting on the front porch of my friend's house, talking about whatever it is that 12-year-old boys talk about when trying to escape the cloying heat of Maryland's humid sweat box. I felt a strange pinch, looked down, saw a large red ant, and flicked it off my arm-thinking nothing of it.  Not long after, I felt another pinch, this time on my leg. Looking down there was yet another ant, which I again swatted away. Before long, I felt another 10 pinches and realized that I was swarmed, running home to my mother who threw me in the shower and helped get the hive off of me. Since then, I've been less inclined to get anywhere near anything remotely insect-like.

I share this tale with you so that you understand when I say that I was distinctly creeped out by Bug,  a movie where a seismic disturbance leads to an invasion of giant cockroaches capable of causing fires with their hind legs, you realize my disquiet has very little to do with the actual quality of the film, and everything to do with my own neurotic phobias.

Yes, this film is bad, but you could probably already tell that from the description. That said, the first half is not as stupid as one might expect, though there is signifigant padding for time. After the initial introduction of the main characters and the afore-mentioned earthquake, things plod on for another 40 mintues or so before anything really interesting happens. Wait, no...there is a scene where the cockroaches take down a cat in a scene that would be disturbing if it wasn't so hilarious. After that, there's nothing for the better part of an hour.

There are a lot of scenes with the main protagonist, Prof. James Parmiter (Bradford Dillman) looking intently at the smoldering palmettos as he figures out exactly what makes them tick (and tick they do, as this their associated sound effect), and other scenes where they talk about the bug's origins, their lifecycle, carapice,yadda yadda yadda. Every once in a great while, somebody gets their head set on fire. But nobody in the film seems to really mind all that much in the next scene. Small towns, go figure.

Where the movie takes a bizzare turn is when the Proffessor gets all disappointed about the short lifespan of the deadly insects (I guess because that would mean the movie would end earlier) and decides to "improve them" by cross-breeding them with another roach to create, you guessed it: HYPER INTELLIGENT PYROTECHNIC COCKROACHES that can spell words, formulate complex strategies, and even eventually fly.

Those cooky college Professors, they just never leave well enough alone.

Then the film just kind of ends... That's it, no doom, no real anything. Kind of pointless, really. So is this cinematic gem worth a Cavalcade? Not really, unless you fast-forward past the insufferable padding with the horrible 70's synth track music and skip straight to the cat attack and the games of bug scrabble.