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Monster movies are a strange genre; you get either ten released at once or none for ages! Well the last big monster movie to be released was Jurassic Park 3 (correct me if I am wrong!) and since then there has not been a movie of this type worthy of watching. Well that was until the middle of last year when Eight Legged Freaks was released to audiences. Unsure of whether it would be a spoof movie or a serious scare feast, I was apprehensive about it. So much so that I gave it a miss in the cinema. The movie went on to prove me wrong and was a worldwide success. Thankfully I have the chance to catch the movie again now with this region two release.

Eight Legged Freaks
Movie
Eight Legged Freaks is set in the town of Prosperity (Arizona) however, unlike its name the town is no longer thriving. The town used to flourish mainly due to its gold minds. Unfortunately those mines have been bled dry over the years, and now the town’s community are struggling to come to terms with the decline in business. To make up for this the mayor comes up with the bright idea of building a local shopping centre on top of the mines. This may sound like a reasonable idea, but the mayor has ulterior motives for the development. Taking a backhand payment he agrees to store toxic waste in some of the disused mines below the mall. This decision backfires when one night a delivery of the waste by truck goes horribly wrong. The waste truck careers off the road and its contents are spilt into a nearby pond.

This is where the real fun starts as we are introduced to Joshua (Tom Noonan), who is the local spider expert. Joshua regularly collects locusts from the pond where the toxic waste was spilt. The same locusts were then used to feed Joshua’s many spiders, and soon he notices an alarming growth spurt in the spiders. Excited by the news Joshua calls over his young friend Mike Parker (Scott Tera), who also has a liking of spiders. Joshua sees the development as a potential money making idea, but in true monster movie tradition his greed is soon short lived. One of his growing spiders escapes and ungratefully kills its keeper, Joshua.

At the same time as all this is happening we are introduced to Chris McCormack (David Arquette), who used to be a resident of Prosperity. He has returned to the sleeper town after a decade in exile. Before leaving the town Chris had a relationship with Sam Parker (yes, Mike Parker’s mother), but things didn’t work out and Chris made a sharp exit! Chris has returned to his old town to reclaim the gold which was left to him by his father and to try and patch up things with Sam (Kari Wuhrer), who also happens to be the local sheriff.  

Eight Legged Freaks
When making his plans for the reunion, Chris doesn’t account for the mass chaos, which is about to begin.  Joshua’s gruesome death is soon discovered by Mike, who also realises that the spiders have escaped. This is where the movie really kicks into gear and the action begins. Most monster movies leave the identity of the beasts secret until the final scenes, however Eight Legged Freaks treats us to a monster fest from about half an hour in. It’s true to say that the movie isn’t complete original, borrowing a lot of its ideas from other movies. For example the end scene is suspiciously similar to a chase scene in Jurassic Park involving the T-Rex. However, the fact that the movie does not take itself seriously is probably why it succeeds on so many levels. At times is can be terrifying, while at other times it can be tremendously funny (watch out for the cat fight!).

Due to the screen time that the spiders get I was quite interested to see how realistic the CGI critters would look. There are occasional glitches, but for the majority of the film they are extremely well done. My other reservation with this movie was David Arquette. He has never convinced me in any films that I have had the misfortune to watch him in. However, in Eight Legged Freaks he is perfectly watchable and gives a competent performance. Eight Legged Freaks is a fun movie, which has a slight b-movie feel to it, yet entertains from start to finish. In my opinion it is one of the best no-brainer movie of last year, and I have no hesitation in recommending it.

Video
Warner can normally be trusted to provide an excellent presentation and this disc is no different. Eight Legged Freaks is presented in its theatrical aspect ratio of  2.35:1 and is anamorphic as well. I am not going to beat around the bush with this transfer as there is very little wrong with it. Image detail is spot on, while the colours level also appear to be realistic. A large chunk of the movie is shot in dark surroundings, but the black levels never buckle under the pressure. Grain levels were mainly kept to a minimum, and are probably no more obvious then when released in cinemas. I spotted no sign of edge enhancements and compression artefacts were also non-existent. Overall an impressive transfer which contributed to my enjoyment of the movie.

Audio
This disc is accompanied with three soundtracks. Included are Dolby Stereo French and Italian tracks, but the highlight has to be the English Dolby Digital 5.1 track. This track really comes into its own once the spiders are released. Subtle effects are exploited by the rears early on, but as the mayhem ensures the rears are used constantly. There are several occasions towards the end of the movie that you will swear that there are a herd of spiders scuttling toward you. Believe me, its that impressive. Dialogue is also clear throughout and compliments the more active periods of the track. All in all a pretty decent effort. This is probably one of the creepiest soundtracks that you will hear all year, and we are only in January!

Eight Legged Freaks
Extras
Nothing would give me more pleasure then to report a monster of extras on this disc, but sadly that is not the case. This release on paper has a reasonable number of extras, but there are no elements which will have fans jumping for joy or watching again. First up is the commentary with David Arquette, Rick Overton, Director/Co-Writer Ellory Elkayem and Producer Dean Devlin. The commentary starts off with the director chatting about his short film, which inspired Eight Legged Freaks. It is interesting to hear the background of the movie and the director tackles the subject in a way that he doesn’t sing his own praises too much. The commentary contains interesting snippets of information like the fact that the movie was shot in forty days. This is a short amount of time when compared to the one hundred plus days that the Patriot took to make. It is obvious from the commentary that all involved enjoyed making the movie and their enthusiasm comes across in their conversations. Fans will enjoy this commentary, as it is very informative and doesn’t fall foul of boring/undirected chitchat, which some commentaries do.

Next up are the deleted scenes. I lost count of the number of scenes included here due to the nature that they are presented on the disc. There is no option to view each individual scene so unfortunately you have to watch a continual stream, which lasts for just over thirteen minutes.  The scenes cover various moments in the film. For example one of the scenes would have been shown at the beginning of the movie, while there is also a scene which would have been shown at the very end.  Most of the scenes involve further character-building and were probably cut to ensure that the movie was action packed. This is only speculation though as there is no commentary to compliment these scenes.

Also provided on this disc is a theatrical trailer, which I can remember seeing in the cinemas last year. The trailer starts off by asking a few questions like “Do u hate spiders?.” The trailer then sparks into complete mayhem with a number of the key action scenes flashing onto the screen. This trailer is actually quite thrilling but at the same time manages to have a b-movie/cult feel to it.  The trailer lasts for just over a minute. You will also find a Cast and Crew section on this disc but sadly it just lists the people involved with the movie. Cast and Crew sections can be either very detailed or sparse, and unfortunately this one falls in the later category!

Eight Legged Freaks
Saving the best to last is the case here with the introduction of Larger Than Life: The Short That Inspired The Film. This is the much talked about short film that inspired Eight Legged Freaks. The movie is shot in black and white. The story is pretty simplistic with chemicals escaping and contaminating spiders. There are lots of moments which you can tell inspired Eight Legged Freaks. It is also obvious from the short that it was shot on tight budget, but nevertheless it is quite entertaining.  The short lasts for just over thirteen and a half minutes.

Overall
After a long overdue rest the monster genre is back with a vengeance in the form of Eight Legged Freaks. While not being the scare fest that some people may have been hoping for, the movie makes up for it in other areas. Eight Legged Freaks is a movie that all monster movie fans should have in their collection. As for the DVD itself, Warner have treated us to a solid package which has an impressive transfer and accompanied by an equally strong soundtrack. The extras list could have been boosted a little, but overall there is very little to grumble about. Eight Legged Freaks is definitively purchase material!


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