EIGHT LEGGED FREAKS review
Is EIGHT LEGGED FREAKS the greatest giant mutant spider movie of all time?
Well, it certainly wants to be. I’m very partial to the original TARANTULA with John Agar and the deformed Leo G Carroll. And that giant spider in KRULL was always so cool to me. I think dramatically the best giant spider was in THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN, but then technically that wasn’t a Giant Spider movie so much as it was a Tiny Man movie. The weird giant bat spider from THE ANGRY RED PLANET always won me over. As a child those evil spiders in the Rankin Bass animated THE HOBBIT always got me going, and the thought of seeing Peter Jackson’s take on Shelob is enough to make me shiver in anticipation, but certainly EIGHT LEGGED FREAKS is the most fun giant mutant spider movie of all time.
In fact, I’d say EIGHT LEGGED FREAKS is the best thing since Pimento Cheese. It is a dairy product, and the lactose intolerant may have mucus issues with the film and revolt. In fact the thing that keeps me from just automatically singing the praises of this film unconditionally is that frankly… it was missing something.
It is easily on par with TREMORS, in fact… personally I think it might be better than TREMORS and that’s almost its problem. You see, in terms of modern B-horror glory on screen, the king of these has been Joe Dante’s amazing GREMLINS. TREMORS is up there, but it isn’t near the same level as GREMLINS.
As I was watching EIGHT LEGGED FREAKS, between the attacking giant spiders and the bevy of cool visual tricks that they could all do… Beyond story tributes and story swipes from films ranging from the other great GIANT BUG films of all time to 7 FACES OF DR LAO to DAWN OF THE DEAD and so on… When the characters were not in immediate peril or fleeing or hatching plans… I really wished they’d had some soul.
Oddly enough, the closest to one of these we get may in fact be Doug E Doug, who was shot to look like he was in a John Carpenter movie at many points in the film, but basically is stuck playing a cross between Randy Quaid’s ID4 paranoid and Robin Williams’ GOOD MORNING VIETNAM persona. Doug delivers several really wonderfully funny moments and gags. I enjoyed him quite a bit.
But I really wanted a soul in this movie. In GREMLINS you had the same manic energy and spirit of wanton mayhem that you have here… but there was something more. There was a sadness amidst the hilarity. A sense of loss at the lives being extinguished, something was lost when the people died. I just flash back to Phoebe Cates’ sad tale about why she hates Christmas or poor Billy Peltzer being in genuine danger when facing off against Stripe at the end. He was injured. That gun was real, his life was close to over, the miracle that saved him felt honest.
Those things made GREMLINS something a bit more than just a funny take on a classic genre, but a new hybrid… Something that was genuinely new and moving and vital and real. Something that reached in and touched something a bit more than just the funny bone and the love of make-up and effects… while also touching those things.
EIGHT LEGGED FREAKS is very fun. That’s all it wants to be. None of the deaths really concern us. We’re never asked to grieve for the deceased. There are really no issues to be solved for the characters other than how to kill these bastard spiders without dying. And that is enough in this film for it to be one of the best damn Drive-In films in a long time.
In fact watching this film, you just wish you had a 1953 4-Door Chevy Bel Air with those big ass seats… You’ll wish you had the tinny Drive In speakers and that out door theater and your best girl or boy next to you under the stars… Sporadic horn beeps to show approval throughout the film. The jump scares bringing her/him closer… and then for the inevitable stinker 2nd film… the full on make out session commences and Drive In Nirvana has been reached.
But alas… there are not nearly enough Drive Ins in the world. Instead, you’ll find the megaplex theateropoli the only refuge to see this flick in (although there are a few Drive Ins and if one is near you and playing this film, DO NOT PASS THAT OPPORTUNITY UP!).
Ok, you want to know about the film…
Gotcha. Ok, A barrel of some anonymous bio-hazard toxic waste falls off the back of a truck that dodges a wascally wabbit on a night road, only to have this mystery barrel crack open into some little creek/ravine. Things get weird as crickets drink the water, are then caught by a kook with a Spider Museum. These contaminated Crickets become super Spider Steroids. Faster than you can contemplate the social ramifications of SPIDER-GOAT, mayhem is underway.
A couple of weeks later, the shit really hits the fan, and the world of this small desert community is changed forever by an attack of giant mutant spiders. All types of them too. In a way, there’s a whole educational aspect of EIGHT LEGGED FREAKS, because you learn about all these different types of spiders and how they hunt, kill, cocoon, pounce and generally… What would happen if a bunch of different types of spiders grew really big, you will learn exactly how badly you’d be screwed. Which is important, because these types of movies really serve as survival guides in case the ensuing fucked up situation were to actually happen.
Have I mentioned how irrepressibly silly EIGHT LEGGED FREAKS is? It is. It is very very silly. For all you folks that were pissed about the miracle leaping fire dodging dog of ID4… you get yours in this one. Speaking of ID4, remember that ending that drove you Linux and Unix and code users’ brains wacky? Well for me, this has a wrap up that I find even more ludicrous, but because this is a movie that tonally requires insanely goofy shit to happen, it actually works quite well. I didn’t hear any moaning in the audience, so they bought it. I mean… after all, they’re in a giant mutant spider movie… I think logic went out the window when toxic crickets were causing regular spiders to grow all big and stuff. Heheheh…
The greatest unanswered question I was left with, and quite disappointed by not being provided with the answer in the film. At one point in the film some characters are rhetorically wondering out loud whether Kari Wuhrer’s Sheriff character wears French Cut or G-String panties. Now, usually I don’t watch my Giant Spider Movies concerned with the desire to learn about the undergarments of my lead actresses, but they put it out there. They floated the concept, the hope and the dream that there would be a pantied Kari Wuhrer fighting Giant Mutant Spiders… That some evil arachnid was gonna rip those Sheriff-y pants right clean off of her, and suddenly we’d have a pantied police officer with a pump action shotgun cleaning up the streets of her Arizona town like some sort of pistol packin’ pantied parent! But, NoOOOooOOOooOOOOooOOOooo! Lies, all Lies. They didn’t give me that.
In fact, after that scene they commit another evil transgression against the male brain. There is a scene of Scarlett Johansson wrapped up in a towel after her shower. First off, we miss the shower. Uh… HELLOOOoOOOoOO? What the hell? Ok, so we have a toweled Scarlett Johansson being attacked by a giant spider and the towel stays on? She doesn’t take it off and use it as a whip thing to fend off the giant spider? I mean, my god, how could you conceive a scene of the nubile wet Scarlett Johansson, a towel and a Giant Spider and not have her do that? Ok ok, I know this is a PG-13 film dammit, but… but… PG-13 is just another way of telling ya, YOU’RE DREAMS ARE CRUSHED BOYO!
Sniffle. Sniffle. Heh.
Ok, now one aspect of the film that I haven’t gone into that I simply must is John Ottman’s wonderful score for EIGHT LEGGED FREAKS. I had somehow completely missed the memo telling me that John Ottman was scoring this Giant Mutant Spider movie, but he is. That’ll teach me not to read my FILM SCORE MONTHLY front to back each month. Well, his score is very very fun, but in a way there is a lot of adaptation of existing music that you know. In fact his adaptation of a nursery rhyme into the score of the film during the Tarantula versus Doug E Doug’s shiny silvery cigar tube of doom… BEAUTIFUL!
Actually, whoever the music director on this film was… bravo all around. Having the Mall music being a MUZAK rendering of “STRANGERS IN THE NIGHT” was wonderful.
Now, the best actor of the film is this little kid Scott Terra. That boy is a jewel, and when I went to my trusty Internet Movie Database, and looked him up… I was rewarded. This wonderful boy is going to be playing the 12 year old Matt Murdock in DAREDEVIL!!! That’s right! This is the boy that gets his face hit with the radioactive isotope thingamagig while trying to help that old lady across the street and develops keen senses and blindness all at once. How cool is that? Not only is he in this film, but the little bugger steals a great deal of the movie. How Ace is that? I can’t wait to see him in DAREDEVIL.
Lastly, I need to talk about Centropolis’ Giant Mutant Spider FX. Hehehehehe… Ok, Dorothy Parker, who was sitting next to me spent half the movie gnawing on her kneecaps because of you folks. Those little buggers and big buggers are awesomely realized. Are they the slightest bit fake? Oh yeah, but ya know what… This is a Giant Mutant Spider movie… There’s probably a bit of you that would always be thinking, “That ain’t real!” Of course, with the proper amount of intoxication, that can be remedied. All joking aside though, these are the exact special effects that when you watch a movie like THEM! Or THE KILLER SHREWS or THE GIANT GILA MONSTER or BEGINNING OF THE END or THE GIANT LEECHES or THE TOMATO THAT ATE CLEVELAND… Well ya know how you always come out of those movies saying, “If only they had had 30 to 40 million dollars, that could’ve been a great film!” hehehehe… Well, I never had that thought, but my god… Somebody must do a serious remake of THEM! And do it balls out serious. I love that ol black & white film, but folks, the effects are here to deliver on the dreams of those old Reynold Brown movie posters.
In a world of political correctness and touchy sort of feely Love Thy Enemy bullshit, Giant Mutant Insects, Wabbits, and whatnots are exactly what we need. We need these things badly. Ok… ok, I need these things badly. I need them because of those bug molds that I had as a kid, where I would make clay insects to fight against my Star Wars and CHIPS action figures. I mean, until you’ve seen Ponch going toe to toe with a giant clay centipede, you haven’t really lived. I mean that you silly fuck. This could bring about the renaissance of the B-horror film. Sigh… Dream a little… Sigh…
I really wish I had a Drive In locally to see this film. Apparently, according to Moriarty, it is opening at a Drive In in Los Angeles this weekend… I Can’t Even Imagine How Cool It Would Be To See It There!
So, in the final assessment, EIGHT LEGGED FREAKS falls between TREMORS and GREMLINS in terms of B-movie coolness. I do find myself wondering what Joe Dante would have done with this material. Somehow, I think it could have been even cooler with his touch, but ya know what… We’ve got a Giant Mutant Spider movie in theaters. They really really financed and produced a Giant Mutant Spider movie. It is in theaters this Wednesday. Next thing ya know we’ll see flying pigs and skeletons attacking folks in theaters again! What a crazy world we live in!