Back Add a Comment Share:
Facebook Button
Movie
The town of Prosperity, Arizona is but a shell of it's past existence. The town's primary employer the McCormick gold mine has long since run dry causing the majority of the residents to be unemployed and on the brink of financial ruin. It's a sleepy little town with very little going for it other then a huge mall that was put in by the mayor. The aim was to try and expand commercialism and rejuvenate the local economy. That practice didn’t prove to be successful, so to keep the town afloat he has resorted to storing toxic waste underneath the city in the mines without notifying the members of the community. One night, a truck driver carrying a shipment loses control of his truck sending a barrel flying into a nearby pond. As luck would have it this pond is a frequent destination for a local spider enthusiast by the name of Joshua (Tom Noonan), who visits to get crickets and other insects to feed his spiders.  Josh shares his interest with Mike Parker (Scott Terra) the son of town sheriff Sam (Kari Wurher) who does not approve of her son's relationship with the strange man. Josh tells Mike that the spiders are growing and soon thereafter becomes the first victim of the spider's attack.  

Around this same time Chris McCormick (David Arquette) the owner of the local gold mine decides to come back to his home town. He's been gone for the past few years after he broke up a fight between Sam and her husband and hopes that he can finally get up the courage to explain to her the reason why he left.  However rekindling that relationship will have to wait as the mysterious disappearance of pets and the growing size of the spiders prove more of a distraction

Eight Legged Freaks
I'll be the first one to admit that I was sceptical about seeing this film.  The trailers looked pretty corny and well anything starring David Arquette immediately falls to the bottom of my must see list. However, I had passes to the advance screening which happened to fall on a relatively dead Monday night so I decided to give the film a shot. Imagine my surprise when an hour and a half later I had enjoyed myself and wasn't complaining about how I wasted my time.

"Eight Legged Freaks" is a small film that is made purely for entertainment purposes. There's no confusing this for a serious drama or even a serious oriented comedy. It's main focus is to have fun with itself and to take the audience on a fun ride for 99 minutes. Director Ellory Elkayem's main focus is on the spiders which look and feel real despite their super charged powers that enable them to run faster, jump higher and do just about whatever else is required of them in the script.  The CGI created spider's looked great and while I never felt like I was in danger, they do look as real and lifelike as one would expect from a major Hollywood feature film.  The film does sort of have that classic 50's "B" mutant monster movie feel to it as it is campy and fun. However regardless of how real the spiders themselves look, the viewer is also constantly reminded that these are fun creatures as they make all sorts of cute sounds. One has to expect that a film involving a bunch of giant spiders isn't going to tackle some deep down thought provoking issues though the concepts of love and redemption are touched upon in the script.  

As good as the non human characters are, watching a film entirely composed of CGI spiders that run amok would not make for an exciting and complete movie going experience. The cast that appears alongside these creatures is lead by an unexpected bunch of actors who's past work wouldn't lead you to believe that they could carry anything more then a bit part in some cheesy comedy or drama.  Having David Arquette as the biggest name in your film is a thought more scary then a bunch of spiders to a lot of people. Sure he was good in the "Scream" films, but did anyone actually like or even see "See Spot Run" or "Ready to Rumble". Arquette plays the straight man here as a man who's come back to find that is hometown is being overrun by giant spiders and that the girl that he loves just might love him back. Arquette who's usually fairly over the top and zany, tones it down quite a few notches here to give as good of a performance as I've seen from him.  Starring in the female leading role is B movie queen Kari Wurher who is certainly not known for her acting ability.  Wurher who looks great (as always) in the film actually shows some talent playing the layered character of a mom who wants to protect and eventually save her children, while realizing that she just might have finally found the answer to her life's question. Also contributing to the film are Doug E Doug as a local paranoid radio host and Scarlett Johansson who showed such promise in "The Horse Whisper" and "Ghost World", but has yet to find that break out role.

"Eight Legged Freaks" is a film that owes a lot of it's success to the films of the 1950's. In many ways this film is a satire of many films that came before it. Director / Screenwriter Ellory Elkayem along with screenwriter's Jesse Alexander and Randy Kornfield have assembled a fairly predictable, but still highly engaging and fun motion picture that, when combined with the performances of actors David Arquette and Kari Wurher make the film work better then it should.  There is no mistaking this film for anything more then a bunch of funny jokes, chilling thrills and a group of actors doing the best they can with the material.  The film may not have been a hit at the box office but I think it'll gain a cult audience here on DVD. Recommended.

Video
Warner Brothers presents "Eight Legged Freaks" in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Also available separately is severely cropped Full-Frame (4:3) version. For the purposes of this review I've chosen to focus on the widescreen version of the film as it best recreates the director's intention of how the film should be seen. I had the pleasure of seeing the film theatrically though the advance screening I attended was held in one of the smaller auditoriums of one of the older multiplexes.  I was less then pleased with how some of the film looked during that screening, though I'm happy to report that none of those problems carry over to this DVD release. For the most part the 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen framing features a fairly sharp, crisp image as I only detected moments of softness. Colors are bright and vibrant when they need to be as well as subdued during other moments. In terms of problems with the film to digital transfer, I noticed some minor edge enhancement and some moderate grain that I don't remember occurring on the theatrical print, as well as one instance of shimmering on some blinds. Since the film was released to theaters this past summer there's nothing in the way of print flaws and the print is in tremendous almost unused shape. It's not 100% perfect but this is another excellent transfer from Warner Brothers.

Eight Legged Freaks
Audio
Warner Brothers Home Entertainment presents "Eight Legged Freaks" with an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack as well as 2.0 soundtracks in both English and French. Having seen the film theatrically I had a good idea of what to expect from the film's audio mix.  The best way to describe the film's soundtrack would be that's it both very strong in places and decidedly average in others. The beginning of the film is fairly quiet in terms of overall sonics, with things limited to the front speakers and the odd surround effect. However as the action picks up in the second half of the film so does the soundtrack providing some pretty impressive, if not overly aggressive instances of surround speaker use.  Directional and off-screen sounds are used frequently to keep the viewers off guard as to what might occur, but the mix could have been much creepier in tone.  The score by John Ottoman is presented nicely throughout the entire sound stage but in some cases doesn't appear to match up with the tone of the scene.  One problem I had with the audio mix was that I felt the dialogue could have been recorded much cleaner and a bit louder as it never quite had the presence I would have liked.  Fans of low bass won't be disappointed with that aspect of the mix as it does tend to rumble quite a bit lower and louder then I remember theatrically although it's still a far cry from some of the earth shattering bass tracks present on current releases.  All in all the disc sounds better then the sneak preview screening I saw though there's always room for improvement.

Extras
Although not labelled as such Warner Brothers has put together a fairly impressive collection of extras for another film that didn't really hit at the box office. The big ticket item on the disc is the audio commentary with actor David Arquette, director Ellory Elkayem, producer Dean Devlin as well as actor Rick Overton. However due to time constraints, I was unable to review the track.

What would a movie be without some footage that winds up on the cutting room floor. The deleted scenes section of "Eight Legged Freaks" contains no fewer then 11 scenes that weren't fit for the final cut of the film.  The 11 scenes deal mostly with character interaction, development and background information that while important in a dramatic feature film isn't really all that important in an action packed oversized bug thriller. Although these scenes are presented without optional audio commentary from director Ellory Elkayem there is almost no question that these scenes were removed to tighten up the pace of the film.  There is some good material here but nothing in terms of action packed or bug related scenes. The scenes are presented in fairly rough non-anamorphic widescreen form, and play as one long program off the menu though the feature is chapter encoded.

Larger than Life is a 12 and a 1/2 minute long short film from director Ellory Elkayem, which according to the packaging earned him the attention of Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin that eventually lead to him receiving the job as director of "Eight Legged Freaks".  The film is shot entirely in black and white and tells the simple story of a mutated giant spider that terrorizes the home of one woman. Presented in 1.85:1 non anamorphic widescreen the film is in excellent shape considering it's from 1997 and anything but a major release. The program is prefaced by an introduction from the director (in text form) as well as a Thank You to the New Zealand film office for allowing Warner Brothers to include it on this DVD release.

Also included is the film's theatrical trailer (2.35:1/DD 2.0) as well as cast and crew biographies and a few screens of text detailing early "Spider" films as well as a host of DVD-ROM features.

Eight Legged Freaks
Overall
"Eight Legged Freaks" was one of a select few films that really surprised me over the summer. I only wish it had a chance to grow a larger fan base before leaving theaters. However the film was released in the middle of the summer surrounded by many high profile films that needed all the screens they could get to make their millions. Warner Brothers have done the film justice with this DVD release which includes a strong video transfer, above average audio as well as some good bonus material including the short film that gave life to the main feature.  In the end the film is a fun one and that's all that matters. Recommended!


Links: