Rated PG-13 - Running Time: 1:39 - Released 7/17/02

I'm not going to waste much time reviewing this movie, because its producers didn't waste much time making it. The second "monster movie" to be released in the last 5 days (after Reign Of Fire), Eight Legged Freaks is the feature debut of writer/director Ellory Elkayem, and it is a throwback to the days of movies where people are devoured by immense, badly animated ants or bees or cockroaches, but it has the advantage of digital computer effects. Like Starship Troopers, this is a "bug movie" made in the computer age, so it boasts adequately real-looking creatures, in this case spiders, which grow and multiply with alarming speed and take over a small Arizona town. The film stars David Arquette, who has had an impressive string of trashy movies in the past few years (Ready To Rumble and See Spot Run spring to mind), not to mention his annoying 1-800-CALL-ATT commercial series. While the gigantic spider animation is not bad in this movie, just about everything else is absolutely awful, including the story, the dialogue, and especially the acting.

The story, penned by Elkayem, Randy Kornfield, and Jesse Alexander, takes place in the small town of Prosperity, Arizona, where a barrel of toxic waste is spilled in a lake, infecting the crickets which are then used as food for the residents of a local man's "exotic spider farm." After a few weeks, the arachnids grow to disproportionate size and strength, kill their owner, and begin to invade the town. Meanwhile, a former resident named Chris McCormack (Arquette) comes back into town following the death of his father, who died of methane gas poisoning in a mine where he had been searching for gold. Since then the mines have been empty, and when the spiders find their way in, they begin to populate the caverns like nobody's business, and people soon start disappearing. While Chris tries to get his courage up to admit to the very attractive sheriff (Kari Wuhrer) that he has always loved her, her bookish son Mike (Scott Terra), a spider expert, learns the terrible truth.

So what can I say about this movie? It's another bad acting extravaganza wrapped around a marvel of special effects. If you are one who is deathly afraid of normal-sized spiders, you may be somewhat unnerved, but this film is so campy it's not really scary. Director Elkayem has wisely chosen not to take his subject matter too seriously (not the case with Reign Of Fire), so in places it almost comes off as a tongue-in-cheek comedy—but it's not really funny enough to make that work, either. Arquette, known for being silly and superficial, tries to fit the action-hero mold, and it doesn't work any better than when he's doing karate chops while telling people to "dial down the center." This movie may have some appeal to those who love kitsch—otherwise, forget it. **½

Copyright 2002 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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