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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Eight Legged Freaks
Eight Legged Freaks
Warner Bros. // PG-13 // October 29, 2002
List Price: $26.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Phillip Duncan | posted October 25, 2002 | E-mail the Author
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For some reason Eight Legged Freaks didn't find an audience at the theater. The early press often compared it to the giant monster movies of the fifties, but in my eyes it looks to be more like Joe Dante's Gremlins or Tremors. Perhaps it will find the attention it deserves on DVD.

David Arquette is Chris McCormack, a former resident of the mining town Prosperity. He's returned home after his father's death and wants set things right with the town that depended on his father. When he returns, he's reunited with the local sheriff, Sam Parker, played by Kari Wuhrer. She still lives in Prosperity with her teenage daughter and slightly younger son.

Things begin to get weird around town after the larger spider population a local scientist kept escapes. Throw in a few barrels of toxic waste and the giant spider fun begins. The film wastes no time in showing off the stars and the story really puts them through their paces. Gone are the slow and menacing bugs of the 50's, these bugs really move.

The first showcase comes when the car size spiders attack a group of teens on motorcycles at a desert gas station. Not content with merely crawling, this group of spiders travels by jumping and pouncing, a smart move by the filmmakers on two counts. Jumping spiders means less animation and more tension. The teens are frantically racing through the desert followed by the pounding sound and dust filled explosions as the spiders give chase. A testament to the effects team, they blend the digital animation and bright, desert location footage perfectly.

As the chase continues, one teen temporarily escapes the spiders as he leads them across a highway where most of them come into contact with a speeding gasoline tanker. The tanker swerves and rolls while being covered with spiders. It was this moment that set the tone for the rest of the movies for me as all of this was happening the spiders were making hilarious noises, akin to grunts, screams and howls. They were threatening, but they were also slightly comedic which is what was so great about Gremlins.

As the sheriff leads the town to mall, which will later showcase another great CGI moment when the spiders swarm through a hole, another great fact about the movie became obvious. Kari Wuhrer's character is a rare, strong female lead in a film like this. Standing tow-to-toe with Ripley from Alien, she blasts her way through many of the spiders and leads the town straight to the films climax.

As much fun as it is, it's not a perfect film by any means. Some of the plot points are a little too convenient and a few things are glossed over. However, those things can easily be ignored in a film like this, one that's full of gross effects, creepy spiders and horrific fun. Much like Tremors, this film should find a renewed and revived life on video.

Video: The 2.35:1 anamorphic presentation preserves the scope aspect of the film perfectly on the DVD. The bright and vivid daytime and violet colored nights of the desert have survived the transfer to DVD serviceably. The combination of film and digital effects are flawless and the transfer shows few flaws as well. Some of the darker scenes have a few moments of grain and noise in the background, but it's not noticeable throughout the film.

Audio: The 5.1 digital soundtrack is accentuated on this disc. The explosions and sounds fill the speakers, both front and rear, and there is a lively bass track. The sound effects of the spiders are lively and run circles around the speakers. It's not a forceful track, but it will give a discrete workout to your system.

Extras: There are several worthwhile extras on the disc. First off is the commentary from director Ellory Elkayem, producer Dean Devlin, David Arquette and Rick Overton. It's a little sparse at times, but it's an excellent mix of information and comedy (mostly provided by Arquette). Devlin discusses the influences from the older films and they all get along wonderfully and it shows they had a blast making the film. Arquette provides a few hilarious lines throughout.

There is a selection of deleted scenes, but as usual, they were deleted for a reason. Most as different takes or extra padding that was not needed. There is a short essay on the history of monster movies, which details the giant insect films of the 50' and 60's.

The best feature is the inclusion of Larger Than Life, the New Zealand produced and filmed short that got the attention of producer Dean Devlin and scored Elkayem his big screen directorial debut. It's a stylish, small budget take on the script that has a women, who's in the middle of remodeling her home, battling a giant spider that has invaded her house.

DVD-ROM features include a PC game and web site links and access to other online features.

Overall: Freaks is a hilarious film that is non-stop fun. The spiders are everywhere all of the time and I wouldn't want it any other way. Great performances by the cast combine with creative digital effects for a fun ride that audiences haven't seen since Gremlins. It should definitely find a renewed interest once the DVD is out there.

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