Eight Legged Freaks (12)

Review by Jack Foley

HAVING destroyed half the world with alien invasion in Independence Day and after allowing Godzilla to run riot in New York, filmmakers Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin now turn their attentions to small-town America and a threat of a different kind - that posed by giant spiders!

Eight Legged Freaks, a daft but thoroughly enjoyable creep-fest that is likely to have anyone with arachnophobia squirming in their seats, is a thrill-a-minute joyride through B-movie heaven that is virtually guaranteed to have you checking behind the curtain before you go to bed at night.

Harking back to the good old days of schlock-blockbusters such as Tarantula and Them, Eight Legged Freaks also makes the most of advances in effects technology to deliver a goo-laden money-maker that, for the majority of the time, is likely to have audiences in a spin.

What’s more, it wastes little time in setting things up, taking all of 10 minutes to unleash its over-sized creepy crawlies following a toxic chemical spill close to an exotic spider farm and then littering the first half of the movie with teaser glimpses as, first, the family pets become food fare and then, latterly, the humans.

In between, we get to meet the town’s unwitting food supply, including David Arquette’s mining engineer, Chris McCormick (returning home to confront the demons of his past), Kari Wuhrer’s feisty Sheriff, Sam Parker, a single mother with the hots for Chris, and her children, Ashley (Scarlett Johansson) and Mike (Scott Terra), a nerdy brainbox who may ultimately possess the knowledge to save the town from extinction.

Given that most of the characters on display are mere parodies of other disaster movie fodder (the corrupt figure of authority, the teenage tearaways, the conspiracy theorists, etc), it is little wonder that you care very little about them, except to guess who’ll be eaten next.

But this is more about the arachnids and they don’t disappoint, coming in a variety of forms, from the fast moving jumpers and the blink-and-you’ll-miss-them trapdoor spiders, to the web-spitters and the giant tarantula, which should have you shrinking back into your seat with its quiver-inducing antics.

Director Ellory Elkayem also packs proceedings with some tremendous sight gags, including a spider-laden petrol tanker which jacknifes into the phone lines, and the final face-off between Arquette and a female orb-weaver involving a tiny bottle of perfume.

Not everything works, of course, and the film is neither as outright funny nor as jumpy as it could have been, but given that it has its tongue planted firmly in its cheek and that it hits more than it misses, it would seem an itsy bit churlish to be overly critical.

Peter Parker must be scratching his head with frustration, for these eight legged freaks are set to give spiders a bad name - again!