If Eight Legged Freaks is noticeably hungry for social relevance, director Ellory Elkayem at least acknowledges that the monster pics from the post-Cold War era were less urgent than their sci-fi counterparts. The film’s conspiracy brother sees the film’s spider attacks as alien inventions as if offering an apologia for Elkayem’s refusal to invite any sort of modern reading of this not-so revisionist text (what’s with naming the head spider Consuelo?). A toxic spill turns a hungry horde of arachnids against the citizens of the poor town of Prosperity, Arizona. An evil landowner greedily pines for ownership of the coal mines left behind by Chris McCormack’s (David Arquette) crazed father. If the propagation of the overgrown spider species can be forcibly read as a response to environmental carelessness, the film’s gruesome attacks become the necessary cure for the town’s purposefully stunted growth. What with the ironic town moniker, the “going out of business” sign at the local mall and a waitress’s sad declaration that her diner is always empty, Elkayem seems mindful of the town’s economic enslavement. While the attacks invite human action and, in turn, welcome the town’s prosperity, Elkayem remains curiously unconcerned with any long-lasting effects. The pulse of the film feels entirely too modern while the satire is played so low that it might as well be nonexistent. Eight Legged Freaks may be lots of fun (it certainly packs a few potent scares) but Joe Dante could have balanced the modernism with the nostalgia in his sleep. The self-reference is less irksome than half-assed (Scott Terra’s Mike Parker is strangely hyper-aware for the archetypal boy-who-cries-wolf) while Arquette makes for a thoroughly boorish hero. His delirious “They’re here! They’re here!” outcry is suggestive of the film’s failed potential. He might as well have been screaming, “Elkayem, thanks for trying!”
- Ellory Elkayem
- Jesse Alexander, Ellory Elkayem
- David Arquette, Kari Wuhrer, Scott Terra, Scarlett Johansson, Doug E. Doug, Rick Overton, Leon Rippy, Matt Czuchry, Jay Arlen Jones, Eileen Ryan, Riley Smith, Jane Edith Wilson
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