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Eight Legged Freaks

Warner Bros. // PG-13 // October 29, 2002
List Price: $26.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Aaron Beierle | posted October 16, 2002 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:

A film that wasn't a success in the Summer only because it would have made a far better Fall choice, "Eight Legged Freaks" successfully updates the 50's monster movie for modern audiences. While certainly better than the David E. Kelly-scripted "Lake Placid" and "Bats", I even found the film more entertaining than "Tremors".

The film's trailers suggested the kind of movie that parodies the genre and, for the most part, it does. However, the film does manage to generate some considerable scares at times, which should be heightened by those who have arachnophobia. Director Ellory Elkayem doesn't always succeed in his first effort, but he has a fine sense of how to play the comedy and time the scares right.

The film stars David Arquette (yes, a scary enough prospect by itself, but he's actually good here) as Chris McCormack, a former resident of Prosperity, Ariz. who returns home only to find that the town is about to become overpopulated. As the film opens, a tanker truck has spilled a barrel of chemicals into the local river. A little mutated grasshopper is taken by a spider collector and fed to some of his creatures. Soon enough, the spiders have grown to incredible size and launch their attack on the town's unsuspecting residents.

The film announces its town with the first attack, a delightfully entertaining battle between a cat and one of the giant spiders that takes place throughout the walls of a house. The film's continuing scare scenes - such as spiders that jump with remarkable strength and speed - are convincing and well-done with expert CGI, but they do eventually turn a little tiring. However, I did like the little cartoonish voices they had when they got in trouble - one went "ow ow ow ow" as he was dragged by a car.

Although the film's main concern is making the spiders look cool, the film's performances actually aren't half bad, either. Arquette is considerably less over-the-top than he usually is, making for an unexpectedly good performance. B-Movie Queen Kari Whurer is solid as the town sheriff and potential love interest for the Arquette character. Doug E. Doug and Scarlett Johansson provide solid support, as well. The film's biggest off-screen star is John Ottman's score. While Ottman didn't exactly find success as a director ("Urban Legend: Final Cut"), his work as a composer (the Oscar-worthy score of "The Usual Suspects") has often been outstanding. His score here is one of his best, perfectly complimenting the on-screen action - playing the comedy without underlining it too heavily and making the action feel more dramatic than it is.

Maybe I was in the right mood, but I found "Eight Legged Freaks" to be a surprisingly fun and entertaining picture. The cast and the director have the perfect sense of how to play the material and there's a great mix of jokes and thrills. Hopefully the film's Halloween week video debut will find more success than its theatrical release.


VIDEO: Warner Brothers presents "Eight Legged Freaks" in 2:35:1 anamorphic widescreen. There also is a severely cropped pan & scan edition available, although that edition obviously does not present all the action. Keeping in line with the studio's recent efforts, "Eight Legged Freaks" boasts stellar image quality with only a few minor concerns. Sharpness and detail throughout the presentation are superb, with only a few stray instances of minor softness.

The only noticable problem with the presentation is the occasional mild grain, which may have been intentional, as I didn't see the film theatrically. The print used is otherwise wonderful, with no noticable scratches or marks. Very minor edge enhancement is present during a few scenes, but this hardly proved to be bothersome. No pixelation was seen, either.

Colors are well-rendered, as the film's vivid color palette looked nicely saturated and crisp, with no smearing. Overall, a very nice transfer that only occasionally looks a bit rough.

SOUND: "Eight Legged Freaks" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 (the posters should have said "Recorded in Spider Surround" or something fun). The film's audio presentation is not exceptionally aggressive, but still has plenty of fun moments where the spider's squeaking sounds can clearly be heard from the rear speakers. There's also some solid low bass when some of the larger beasts lumber on-screen. Dialogue sounds good (except for a slightly rough-sounding line or two) and sound effects/music came through crisply and clearly.

MENUS: The menus aren't animated (which is a shame), but the score plays in the background.


Commentary: This is a commentary from director Ellory Elkayem, producer Dean Devlin (those familiar with the commentaries of Devlin's producing partner Roland Emmerich will be pleased that he does not appear here) and actors David Arquette and Rick Overton. This track is a good mixture of silly and informative - Overton and Arquette provide the laughs, while Elkayem and Devlin tend to focus more on the film's special effects and technical details. There's a few pauses of silence here and there, but I found this to be an entertaining and enjoyable track.

Also: 11 minutes of deleted scenes (mainly filling out story/character details) with no optional commentary; the film's trailer, cast/crew bios and DVD-ROM weblink/interactive game. Also included is the director's short film, "Larger Than Life", a terrific black and white short that earned him the opportunity to direct "Eight Legged Freaks".

Final Thoughts: It looks like the filmmakers had fun making "Eight Legged Freaks" and I had fun watching it. It's not art, but it's very successful entertainment. Warner Brothers provides a very nice DVD for the film, with good audio/video quality and a few solid extras. Recommended - a must for any Halloween party.

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