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
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
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
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.