A half-funny, half-scary B-movie that fits right in with monster movies of the ’50s, as well as the likes of Tremors and Gremlins, Eight Legged Freaks certainly can’t be accused of taking itself too seriously. Even the initial premise — a bit of toxic waste finds itself in a local lake, which then leads to giant spiders terrorizing the small town — is silly. But it’s hard for me to dislike a movie similar to this one, because it’s just a lot of fun, and it doesn’t care what the snobby among us think.
The film opens with the aforementioned toxic waste falling off a truck and winding up in the lake. It contaminates the crickets, who are then fed to the spiders kept at a spider farm owned by a creepy man named Joshua (Tom Noonan). The spiders are growing larger after eating these crickets, he notes, and these “steroid crickets” are going to make him millions of dollars. Of course, he doesn’t live long enough to prosper, as the spiders escape from their cages, kill him, and then make nest in an abandoned former gold mine that happens to be filled with methane gas.
Coincidentally, this is happening just as the owner of the mine, Chris McCormick (David Arquette), has wandered back into town. The reason for his return is unclear, although it doesn’t really matter, as once the spiders start attacking, he leaps into action. He’s joined by the Sheriff, Sam (Kari Wührer), on whom he’s had a crush since his youth, and Sam’s two children: a spider-loving kid named Mike (Scott Terra) and a rebellious daughter, Ashley (Scarlett Johansson).
Everyone has to team up to save the town from the invading spiders. The majority of the film takes place over the course of one night, and it’s during this night when the most fun of Eight Legged Freaks occurs. The buildup is almost painfully slow, but once we trudge through the first half hour and get to the humans vs. spiders warfare, it’s a lot of fun. We get to see people armed with all sorts of not-really-a-weapon weapons, some ill-planned attempts at saving themselves, and some (hopefully purposefully) terrible CGI spiders. It’s a win for all involved, really.
Okay, so it’s not a win for the actors, who get to spout hilariously bad lines of dialogue for 90 minutes and are given such underwritten characters that you have to think they were sketched out in an afternoon, after which point the screenwriters said “good enough” and called it a day. They’re all likable enough, though, which is good for this type of film. You don’t want to see them all die, which only works to the film’s benefit.
It’s also not a win for whichever special effects team was hired to do the CGI spiders. Whether they were chosen due to a lack of talent, or because they understand how to make it look like they’re talentless is something you best ask the filmmakers, but if they were to create a portfolio of their work, this wouldn’t be a film to include. The spiders are often stiff, have little texture, rarely feel as if they’re actually there (as opposed to just being superimposed afterward), and have a completely different sense of lighting when compared to everyone actually being filmed.
But apart from these groups of people, it’s kind of a win, I guess. I mean, the director made a funny and occasionally scary B-movie which plays out better for horror geeks than the general audience, the trailers alone will scare arachnophobes, which is always kind of funny, and the film might get a whole new audience to watch monster movies of the ’50s. Them! plays on the television of one of the characters in Eight Legged Freaks, and it’s just a reminder that Them! is pretty awesome.
For my money, Eight Legged Freaks is a pretty good time. If you like Tremors or Gremlins, or the monster movies of the ’50s, you’re likely to have a good time with this one. It skirts the line between being an homage to these types of B-movies and being worse than them, but I thought it fell on the right side. It is funny, sometimes scary, and as soon as the spiders start doing their “kill everything in sight” thing, is incredibly entertaining. I suggest giving it a watch.