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.

Leave a Reply