The late 1990s and early 2000s were a weird era for films. There is definitely an influence from Y2K, and it seemed like there was an attitude that anything goes from some and a tightening of the belt from others. The world was in an odd place, and this influenced everything in culture like music, television, and films. 2002 gave us a wide variety of horror, like Queen of the Damned, Fear Dot Com, Cabin Fever, Bubba Ho-Tep, Dog Soldiers, and Bloody Mallory. This was the end of an era and the start of another for David Arquette it seemed. A time when he tested the “leading man” waters. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite go as planned as box office bomb after box office bomb came. Films like Ravenous, Ready to Rumble, 3000 Miles to Graceland, See Spot Run, and The Grey Zone all featured Arquette in some form but failed to make him stand out. Today’s film, Eight Legged Freaks (watch it HERE), is yet another one that never stood out, but it sure is a special one. Well, there was something different to all his films at the time, but this one has a special place in my heart.
Eight Legged Freaks came to us just 2 years after the third Scream, a series that put David Arquette on the map for most. For me, I had seen him in Buffy the Vampire Slayer from 1992 which I had seen one late night in high school. How would I have rated it back in those days? Eh, probably like a 7 out of 10. These days? I’d actually rate it higher, like an 8.5 out of 10. This film grew on me through the years and random rewatches. You see, there are issues present, but the power of nostalgia and missing simpler times helps make it better in a way. Also, being older and appreciating giant monsters and animals in films definitely helps. This is one of those movies with plenty of issues, but they are all easy to overlook if you’re looking to have a good time. The writing, directing, acting, and all have all become more charming with time. Watching this cast now? Great. Back then, I may not have cared, but now, I do. So, let’s see more in detail.
The story here is that of just about any SyFy Original on a random Saturday between 2006 and 2016: a spill leads to spiders and tarantulas at a spider museum to mutate and grow exponentially huge. Not just one, not just a few, a whole load of them, of all kinds and types, leading to a poor man running the museum getting a bad surprise, and soon the whole town is overrun by these Eight Legged Freaks. From there, we get the town sheriff, her son who is a bug enthusiast because someone here has to be. Her daughter—oh hey Black Widow—and a past friend who may just want to be a little bit more. Of course, there’s a whole small town of people for the spiders to devour, but these 4 are the central folks and we get to spend a lot of time with them. The story is simple and one that feels incredibly familiar, but that’s somehow comforting. It’s written competently by Ellory Elkayem, Randy Kornfield, and Jesse Alexander, with Elkayem directing the film into a serviceable giant bug movie. That’s the thing here, the story and direction are perfectly fine. I’d even say they are good. It’s not great or anything, but it’s good, it’s entertaining, and well put together, and sometimes that’s all it needs. Originally, I thought the film had lost points for the story. Nowadays, it’s a beloved type of silliness that I gladly watch over and over, so it’s gaining a few points for being exactly its cheesy self in the best of ways. Giant spiders? Check! Giant tarantulas? Check! Nonsensical reasoning in how the spill happened? Check! Faces and names from the 1990s beloved cable tv series and films? Check and check! A now very well-known face in an early part? Also, check!
Because, yeah, the cast here counts for a lot. Like a whole lot of a lot. David Arquette is our hero who has come back to town for reasons and who has a long-lived crush on the town Sheriff. His part is predictable as hell, but Arquette is great in it. He’s charming, he’s got that sweet side to him, there’s something here that makes you just adore him. If you ever doubt that Arquette is perfect for this part, go find the documentary You Can’t Kill David Arquette from 2020. It’s a deep look into the actor, his career, his rise, his fall, his return. It shows that back in the early 2000s, there was a period where wrestling was so important to him, but also, there was so much more to him that was ignored back then. The documentary is a fantastic look and helps explain my forever nerd love for Arquette. Here in Eight Legged Freaks, he’s exactly what he needs to be, but it may not have been the right type of leading man for 2002.
Playing the town Sheriff and his love interest is Kari Wuhrer who most knew from Sliders. She was in 49 episodes of the series and it’s one of those shows that’s worth finding and checking out. It’s highly binge-able to this day. Here, she’s charming and badass, giving the giant freaks a run for their money while being a single mom and a Sheriff. She’s no damsel in distress but still manages to be a good love interest though. Heck, the fact that she’s a well-rounded woman with more than just a desire for the man at the center of the story, makes her significantly more interesting. This is definitely a strong point to the film for me and I think it was back when I first saw it, I may just not have identified it right away.
Playing her bug-loving nerdy son is Scott Terra who is adorable and annoying all at once, so perfect for the part. Looking him up now, the kid hasn’t been in anything since 2010. His career started in 1997, so he was definitely one of those kid stars. You know, adorable, decently talented, unfortunately, done with their careers before they were full grown. Playing the Sheriff’s daughter is something some will be surprised to see here and someone who proves the rule that all big, major, A-List actors have some random horror or sci-fi film in their past. Think Halle Berry in They Came from Outer Space, Nicole Kidman in Dead Calm, or even Charlize Theron in Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest. Here, we get future Oscar Nominee Scarlett Johansson as the rebellious daughter, Ashley. She’s a teenager who starts off making odd decisions but turns out getting better, another strong writing point. Not a stupid blonde that can be easily killed off, but a girl who knows how to use a Taser. She does pretty well here, and there are definitely signs that she was bound for bigger films.
I know you’re going to think I’m crazy here but the story is actually pretty strong. The more I think about it, the more I love its cheesy side and how it has strong ladies, a nerdy kid who has something to bring to the table, and a hero who is far from perfect. The cast does quite well with this, and they really do handle all the insanity thrown at them with talent and a straight face most of the time, which can really be a challenge in films with CGI giant spiders taking over a town, eating a cat in a wall, splooshing leads in web, gathering would-be victims in a cave Aliens-style.
And now! Drum roll, please! For the main attraction! The big stars! The monsters of the film! The Eight Legged Freaks! The CGI surprisingly hasn’t aged all that badly! Yes, some of the special effects were practical, but most of them are clearly CGI or CGI enhanced, and oddly enough considering this is from 2002 and the budget was $30 million for the whole film. They are perfectly monstrous, perfectly charming, and exactly what the film needs considering its tone. Here’s the thing though, my knowledge of spiders and tarantulas isn’t much, but I’m pretty sure the sizes they grow to aren’t proportionate to each other in nature, but who cares? I mean, yeah, some bigger nerds than me probably care. I think I know at least one of them who will message me once he sees this, but whatever dude, you can’t take my love away from this cheesy thing. This does mean that the spiders and their friends, while looking pretty good, do require a bit of suspension of disbelief. I can deal with that. Hell, I’ve suspended more disbelief in much worse movies through the years, this year even, with new movies too. The special effects here are fun and that’s what matters. Also, those webs they shoot? Perfectly icky and lovely. I adore the effects here.
And that’s the big charm of this film, it’s perfectly imperfect. The cast is charming and talented, with some of the secondary cast providing the cheese, adding to the small-town vibes and to the SyFy original style. There’s something here. It’s all charm and it’s all smiles from everyone involved. It’s a film filled with good intentions and a love for giant bug films. There are issues on every single level and yet, it doesn’t matter. The film is fun to watch, it’s well-shot, has good performances from the leads, some fun giant bugs, and an old-school monster movie feel to everything with a modern setting. There’s something special here and the fact that this is solidly a B-movie is a non-issue, it’s actually part of the charm for me. I love me a good bad movie. I’m part of a group that purposefully looks for the best of the worst to show each other each Monday, a group mostly made up of film reviewers who love film no matter what. This is the type of film I love to bring them; this is the type of film I love to bring everyone. It’s fun, it doesn’t take itself too seriously, it has plenty to offer, it does take its audience for idiots, and it doesn’t wink at you too obviously. Yeah, it fully knows what it is, everyone seems to be in on it, but also, everyone is clearly doing their best, making this my favorite type of film. An 8.5 out of 10 may seem a bit much but go rewatch the film and tell me why I’m wrong. Go ahead. I’ll wait here while rewatching the best giant spider attacks from the film. This is one of my favorite giant beasts attacking a town films and until we get another mid-range budget film that manages this as well as Eight Legged Freaks, it will be hard to dethrone.
Two previous episodes of Revisited can be seen below. To see more of our shows, head over to the JoBlo Horror Originals channel – and subscribe while you’re at it!