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Eight Legged Freaks (PG-13)
Warner Bros.
Official Site
Director: Ellory Elkayem
Producers: Dean Devlin, Roland Emmerich
Written by: Ellory Elkayem, Randy Kornfield, Jason Alexander
Cast: David Arquette, Kari Wuhrer, Scott Terra, Scarlett Johansson, Doug E. Doug, Rick Overton, Leon Rippy, Eileen Ryan
out of 5

Itís movies like this that make reviewing tough. What can I tell you? Youíre either the creature-feature type or you arenít, and if you arenít, you wonít even bother reading this. If you are, well, giant spiders couldnít keep you away.

Chris McCormack ( Arquette), heir to a southwestern copper mine, returns to his down-at-heel hometown of Paradise after a decade away. His Aunt Gladys ( Ryan) tells him the mine is about to shut down, taking the community with it. Meanwhile on the edge of town, young spider fan Mike Parker (Terra) visits his chum, who raises and sells exotic spiders. Lately, on a diet of pond crickets, the spiders having been growing by leaps and bounds. Unbeknownst to them, and in the best creature movie tradition, the pond has been polluted with hazardous waste. Oh you sloppy humans, when will you learn?

Pretty soon, spiders the size of Buicks are scrabbling and leaping all over the desert community, cocooning hapless victims for their late-night snacks. Sheriff Parker (Wuhrer), who is also Mikeís mom, herds the surviving citizens into a nearly vacant mall the wheeler-dealer mayor built when he thought the freeway was going to run through town. As the puny humans make their last stand against the arachnids, the filmmakers judiciously dole out equal portions of humor and horror. Seeking refuge in a mall is an amusing idea, but thereís not really a social comment being made. It just sets up the opportunity for folks to arm themselves with a variety of mirth-provoking weapons.

Leading man David Arquette is a poor manís version of Bill Pullman, who has always seemed like the poor manís version himself. To be fair, he has a thankless, rather generic role that couldíve been filled by anyone who could memorize lines, make faces, and shriek. Itís nice to see Johansson, who has a mortal lock on that hyper-irritated teenaged stuff. A great deal of the filmís enjoyment comes from its second-tier characters. Rick Overton is delightful as the not-so-bumbling Deputy Pete, and Doug E. Doug appears to be having a ball as this filmís version of Conspiracy Brother.

Nothing here is really gut-bustingly funny, nothing gets under your skin, and nothingís really scary enough to make you jump, either. The spiders look great at first, then they move. The jumping spiders are quite good, but the swarms of running spiders are too animated-looking. Unlike, say, Them!, a fully realized giant critter story that one can watch every time itís on TV (look fast for a very young Leonard Nimoy!), this sort of thing is truly pointless if not seen on the big screen. Itís all about spectacle, and while the effects are spectacular, a true creature devotee must lament that theyíre just not making Ďem like they used to.

óRoxanne Bogucka


hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

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