Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Retro Review: Eight Legged Freaks

 Yeah. That's right. The summer of 2002 had a number of memorable films - Spider-Man, Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, Insomnia, Undercover Brother, The Bourne Identity, Scooby Doo, Lilo and Stitch, Minority Report, The Road to Perdition, The Kid Stays in the Picture, xXx, One Hour Photo, Signs, and uh, The Master of Disguise* - and I'm going to talk about a movie most of you forgot. Oh, who am I kidding, most of you never saw Eight Legged Freaks, so what you forgot is that a movie called Eight Legged Freaks ever existed. But it did, and among all of the other movies I saw in 2002, that was one of them.

 Actually, despite the fact that I haven't seen Eight Legged Freaks in, oh, six or seven years, it's still a better movie than anybody would have ever given it credit for. Think of it like 21 Jump Street - you know how all of a sudden your friends are raving about that movie even though when all of you saw the trailer you were like "eh?" Well, you aren't going to be as enthusiastic about Eight Legged Freaks but it is a movie that's much better than the trailer suggests.

 Here's the trailer, just in case you also wiped it from your memory:

  So yeah, the Men in Black-ish music, the dumb spider sound effects, and the presence of David Arquette is probably good reason to assume that Eight Legged Freaks would suck. I get that. But because this fell in a period where Cap'n Howdy still "watched everything," I went to see the movie with some friends, assuming at the very least we'd have some laughs and tear it a new one. Only that didn't really happen because behind the bland marketing is a well meaning throwback to schlocky giant monster movies from the 1950s.

 Yes, David Arquette is the star of the film, but it also has a respectable supporting cast that ranges from "wow, they were in that?" to "Wow! They were in a real movie?" For example, a post-Ghost World / pre-The Island Scarlett Johansson plays the daughter of Arquette's love interest, who is played by none other than Skinemax staple Kari Wuhrer (also in Hellraiser: Deader, Anaconda, Sliders and The Crossing Guard? Really??). Also appearing in Eight Legged Freaks is Doug E. Doug (Cool Runnings, Cosby, and Mo Better Blues?? Man, I have got to watch some of these movies again), just to remind you that in 2002 Doug E. Doug was still working. That's not meant to be a slight to Doug E. Doug, by the way, but I have a feeling more of you said "who?" than said "Wow! Doug E. Doug!"

 And look, I realize that this particular headlining cast (with the addition of a bunch of familiar character actors and Tom Noonan) isn't helping make my case but Eight Legged Freaks is actually a lot of fun. The cast is clearly having a good time while still taking the premise of giant spiders banding together to attack a small town seriously enough that the movie doesn't collapse on itself. Believe me, the idea that solitary creatures like spiders would wander around in packs (different arachnids, mind you, not even the same kinds of spiders) is enough to deep six something like Eight Legged Freaks, but the movie isn't trying to be anything other than a quasi-modern version of Them!.

 For some reason I don't see Eight Legged Freaks on television that much, which is weird because it wouldn't require much editing and it's the kind of movie that belongs on a Saturday afternoon matinee showcase on some channel... TNT maybe. I'd say Syfy but they're busy with their own crap like Camel Spiders (which borrows roughly the same formula of vaguely recognizable "stars" fighting a CGI monster menace). But that's just it: Eight Legged Freaks is better than Camel Spiders. You're going to enjoy Eight Legged Freaks more, and if you consider yourself a fan of Syfy Originals, there's no reason not to seek this movie out.

 Just don't seek to hard. I mean, it's not like it's going to be hard to find (check the bargain bins or markdown section at used DVD stores) and like I said, this isn't going to change your outlook on marketing in trailers or anything like that. Eight Legged Freaks is a enjoyable, if slight, movie that wants nothing more than to make you chuckle, and it mostly succeeds at that. Seriously, put down Camel Spiders and give this a shot. It's not like Camel Spiders or Arachnaconda won't be playing next week before the next Syfy Original airs.

 * Seriously, did you think I was going to say Halloween Resurrection?

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