Eight Legged Freaks (2002) / Comedy-Horror
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for sci-fi violence, brief sexuality and language
Running Time: 99 min.
Cast: David Arquette, Kari Wuhrer, Scott Terra, Scarlett Johansson, Doug E. Doug
Director: Ellory Elkayem
Screenplay: Jesse Alexander, Ellory Elkayem
Review published July 23, 2002
Sometimes it's best to let sleeping genres lie. Eight Legged Freaks is an attempt to bring back the b-movie creature features with enhanced CGI for today's more discriminating audiences. Ellory Elkayem (They Nest, Return of the Living Dead: Necropolis) writes and directs it, but fails to realize one thing that the original monster flicks had going for them that makes them obsolete today. Back in the Fifties, there was the novelty for audiences to see that which they've never seen before, namely a 50-foot woman, a giant lizard eating a city, or even spiders a thousand times their normal size. But for today's movie-going public, such special effects bonanzas are commonplace in sci-fi, horror, and fantasy. The biggest reason Eight Legged Freaks is such a failure is that showing us large spiders eating people, no matter how well-rendered they are, is going to produce more yawns that shrieks.
Eight Legged Freaks is set in a small town in Arizona, where a chemical spill causes a chain reaction of mutations among the local spiders causing them to grow in sizes larger than humans, and what's worse, they begin feeding on the local citizenry. A motley crew of locals band together for survival, and without the means to communicate to the outside world, must fend for themselves in figuring out a way to end the spider menace before the town is extinct of humans.
Of course, the creature feature has been done with some success in more recent years, and such films as Gremlins, Tremors, and especially, Arachnophobia come to mind. However, lumping Eight Legged Freaks in that category seems inappropriate, as these were moderately entertaining because they were either semi-satirical or tongue-in-cheek, and not just an excuse to see humans getting chomped. Freaks has no real humor value other than some eccentric characters and a goofy nature, and if there's any social commentary or satire to be found anywhere, it must have happened during moments when I nodded off or looked at my watch, because I certainly did not find it during the times I forced myself to watch what's on-screen.
The cast is full of comic actors, most of whom have annoyed me at one time or another, and I loathe having to see more of them, especially if it's in a bad film. I have no idea why David "1-800-#" Arquette, Kari "Remote Control" Wuhrer (Hit and Run), or Doug E. "It's because I'm Black" Doug (Hangin' with the Homeboys) are found appealing enough to try to carry a dumb scare flick, but it would be hard to find another cast of actors we would like to see devoured by giant arachnids more. The writing is about as devoid of intelligence and originality as can be, and the directing relies so much on special effects to carry the day, that a sense of style seems curiously absent in all other respects.
I guess there might be an audience out there for people who love truly bad films that shamelessly know they are bad. I can appreciate camp humor, or even a dumb popcorn movie, but Eight Legged Freaks wasn't smart enough to keep my interest, and yet not bad enough to really laugh at. It's about as dull as Jurassic Park would be without the intelligent premise and character development, except these creatures have eight legs. We humans only have two, but luckily that's still good enough to walk out of any theatre or room with a television where this might be showing.
©2002 Vince Leo