Eight Legged Freaks is a comedic monster movie released in 2002 that parodies but also attempts to emulate the style of old B-movie horror flicks from the 1950s and 60s; the kind of films that often ended up being unintentionally more humourous than horrifying (at least, to today's audiences). The plot is formulaic enough for such emulation: An accident exposes a number of spiders to radiation, which has the cult classic movie effect of making them grow large enough that humans become suitable prey. The spiders make their home in an abandoned mine beneath a small, rural town in the middle of nowhere, easily cut off from the rest of civilization.
The human stars of the film are Chris (David Arquette), a native of the town recently returning home after ten years, local sheriff Sam Parker (Kari Wuhrer), her deputy, Pete (Rick Overton), and children, Ashley (Scarlett Johansson) and Mike (Scott Terra), and a local paranoid conspiracy nut with a radio show, Harlan (Doug E. Doug). There are other human characters but they mostly get eaten by the spiders, run from the spiders for a while until the heroes rescue them, or run from the spiders for a while and then get eaten. This isn't bad. In fact, there's a couple characters that I was disappointed to find having survived in the end.
Eight Legged Freaks is somewhat predictable with a few clichés but this is forgivable as the film is supposed to be this way, the same as past monster movies were. The film even acknowledges this, with the sheriff's son talking at one point about how no one ever listens to the kid when he tries to explain the danger of giant mutant spiders for the first time. Many of the characters are exactly how you would expect them to be. This doesn't matter though because this movie has giant spiders in it. Honestly, if you're not seeing this movie for laughs and enormous arachnids, you're seeing it for the wrong reasons.
Though those pesky human things are entertaining, the real stars of the show are, of course, the computer-generated spiders. The film seems to drag at times: Specifically, the times when there aren't any giant spiders on the screen (though many B-movies of yesteryear also seemed to drag on during scenes without their rampaging monsters, so perhaps this was done on purpose). If spiders creep you out, these giant mutant movie spiders might creep you out too. Despite their oversized appearance and the obvious comedic effect the filmmakers went for, the spiders do appear realistic (well, if they were smaller, that is). Counter to this, the ravenous arachnids make all manner of high-pitched noises which couldn't be taken seriously at all. One good example of this is a point in the movie at which Chris slides down a thick cable by wrapping his jacket around it and holding onto the sleeves, screaming as he goes. A spider pursues him, making a similar screaming sound in its own high-pitched way, with its legs wrapped around the cable.
The spiders vary in configuration as well. Not only is the audience treated to giant spiders, but giant jumping spiders, giant trap-door spiders, a giant tarantula, and a giant form of spiders which are attempting to gather food as offerings for the female of their species, who's three times as large. SPIDERS!
I bestow Eight Legged Freaks with the honourable rating of six and a half out of ten giant, mutated, radioactive, man-eating spider legs. Just don't expect Shakespeare, because the spiders would eat him too.
Eight Legged Freaks
Directed by: Ellory Elkayem.
Written by: Ellory Elkayem, Randy Kornfield, and Jesse Alexander.
Starring: David Arquette, Kari Wuhrer, Scott Terra, Scarlett Johansson, Doug E. Doug, and Rick Overton.
Released by: Warner Brothers in 2002.
Rated PG-13 by the MPAA for violence, brief sexuality, and language (gasp!).