I can’t decide if Eight Legged Freaks is brilliant or an absolute failure. One on hand, it’s clearly billed as a horror comedy, so there’s definitely the possibility I’m laughing with the movie. But there’s also enough in the movie that comes across as bad film making that I hesitate to say it’s all intentional. I can safely say, however, that it is a pure joy to watch, be it a masterpiece or a disasterpiece.
Eight Legged Freaks is the tale of a small town overrun by giant spiders after an accidental spill of toxic waste contaminated a pond which then contaminated crickets which were then fed to spiders. It’s important to note that, though the crickets are apparently larger than average, we never see any of them. It is only the spiders that become giant. And start attacking people. And also learn how to chitter in ways that are clearly a rudimentary form of speech.
If the description of how and what the spiders came to be don’t sell you on the movie, don’t worry. It also has explosions, radical dirt bike stunts, a plot to save the town from financial ruin, corrupt officials and, honestly, pretty much anything else that you can think of.
Like David Arquette riding a motorbike, with his aunt, through an exploding mine while being chased by a horde of spiders. Spiders sliding down a wire Indiana-Jones style while shouting like Tarzan. And just a good old Taser to the groin. There’s honestly just so much to love about this movie that I could spend the next couple hundred words just going scene by scene describing its schlocky insanity. And as much as I want to, there’s just so much more to see that I would hate to spoil all the fun.
Eight Legged Freaks is the definition of “so bad it’s good” and I honestly believe it deserves a place in the pantheon next to The Room and Birdemic: Shock and Terror. It has just such an incredible escalation of ridiculousness. It never falters in its action, there’s never a lull of mediocrity to grind the enjoyment to a halt. Each moment manages to be better than the last, finding new and inventive ways to be wonderfully bizarre. Where do you go from a desert dirt bike escape? To dozens of spiders exploding in a gas tanker while audibly screaming. Obviously.
“But Sean!” I hear you cry through your computer. “You said this was either a masterpiece or a disasterpiece, but all you’re saying is how enjoyably bad it is!”
You’re right, I did! And this is honestly where it gets tricky. Eight Legged Freaks has lots of ’80s “the kid is right, but the adults won’t listen” and “saving the town in multiple ways by accident” tropes with a heaping helping of ’90s rad-itude. It revels in these clichés, creating a movie that feels very Spielburg-esque, but in a tongue-in-cheek way. It raises the movie from a silly movie about giant arachnids to the level of clever parody or satire.Rad.
The quality of this movie so varied that I can watch one scene and be blown away by how clever it is with its use of tropes to create humor, but the next scene is so wild, so out of left field, I retroactively doubt that its smart enough to be creating these moments intentionally.
Take, for instance, the Taser to the groin. The scene starts with a rad ’90’s teen attempting to get into Scarlett Johansson’s (yes, actually) pants before she tazers him, complaining that her mom was right. This, by itself, is the logical conclusion of the trope. Girl falls for bad boy, mom warns against him, boy pushes too far, girl realizes mom was right and leaves. Adding the Taser gives the scene the punch that shows it to be a joke, a hyper-extension of the cliché.
But then the boy soils himself. And it’s not just visual, no. You get the full audio-visual nightmare. It takes the joke just one step further, and in doing so debases itself. It’s reduced back to the weird silly movie about giant arachnids. The movie treats this as the true punchline, that “watch this teen soil himself” is what makes the scene funny.
For every moment of clever film making, there is an equal and opposite moment of just terrible film making. That seems to be the core tenant of Eight Legged Freaks and why I will never be sure how to categorize this movie. And yet, I will continue to recommend this movie to anyone with a penchant for silly movies or a love of schlock. It’s dumb, it’s over-the-top and it is absolutely worth your time.