I wouldn’t go so far as to say that “Eight Legged Freaks”, a movie about mutated spiders that go on the attack, is a good film. I’m just saying it’s not all that bad; in fact, it’s actually quite fun to watch. “Freaks” is a throwback picture that manages intentional humor by being self-irreverent and tongue in cheek, both things that elevate it from being just downright dumb, which is such a possibility with movies in this subgenre.
Like all movies in its subgenre, “Freaks” takes place in a remote town in the middle of nowhere, all the better to have just about anything happen to its poor townspeople and not have the National Guard be called in. (Consider another Animals Attack film, “Komodo”, which also takes place at a remote location. Remote locations is a criteria all Animals Attack films can’t live without.)
The spiders, the “eight legged freaks” of the title, reside in a spider farm in the outskirts of town when a toxic chemical spill mutates their size so that some of them are as big as trailer homes. Now with the power to break free and run amok, the spiders, well, run amok, and before all is said and done, a lot of townspeople have been eaten, cocooned, or beaten down by huge shadowboxing arachnids!
Kari Wuhrer (“Poison”) plays Sam Parker, the town sheriff, whose son, it turns out, knows more about spiders than he should for a boy his age. It’s up to Sam and Chris (David Arquette), her love interest, to stop the invasion before it’s too late. There are some minor back stories, with Chris nursing the longest crush in the history of mankind for tough chick Sam, and Sam dealing with her 16-going-on-30 daughter Ashley (Scarlett Johansson, of “Ghost World”). All of this is mildly amusing, but in a movie called “Eight Legged Freaks” you shouldn’t expect more than what is given, and be grateful they even bothered with that in the first place.
The plot breaks down like this: spiders grow big, spiders attack, townspeople runs, townspeople fights back, spiders are defeated. It’s really as simple as that. The spider cgi is surprisingly very good for a movie of this budget; the sound effects for the spiders when they attack, or are beaten back, are also quite funny. “Freaks” works because it plays for laughs, and the spider attacks, where people are snatched off their feet or get smothered by “jumping” spiders, are never gruesome. There is no gore to speak of unless you count spider goo.
The actors all do their parts well enough not to be a distraction. The sometimes annoying David Arquette is not so annoying here, and Wuhrer is always easy on the eyes, and actually plays tough very well. Scarlett Johansson, a burgeoning star, seems out of place in a B-movie like this one, but maybe she just wanted to get the generic picture bug out of her blood. Doug E. Doug turns in a hilarious performance as a pirate radio DJ who believes in aliens and refuses to believe the spiders are actually spiders, but rather aliens in disguise.
There are a number of gaping plot holes to find in “Freaks”, but I won’t waste my time (or yours) by listing them all. Something as minor as “plot holes” is insignificant when you’re talking about a movie like this one. The film is funny, moves well, and the spider attacks are a heck of a good time. That’s all that could possibly be asked of “Freaks” and that’s all that was given.
Ellory Elkayem (director) / Ellory Elkayem, Randy Kornfield, Jesse Alexander (screenplay)
CAST: David Arquette …. Chris McCormick
Kari Wuhrer …. Sheriff Samantha ‘Sam’ Parker
Scott Terra …. Mike Parker
Scarlett Johansson …. Ashley Parker
Doug E. Doug …. Harlan Griffith