Friday, June 27, 2008

Movie review: Eight Legged Freaks

Just a thought experiment here. I used to write movie reviews for my own amusement; the dumber the movie, the better, believe me. I thought thought I'd post a few of them here and there, as an example of my writing style, and to demonstrate how I think I excel when I'm being this snarky.


We interrupt this review to announce the fact that we are not perturbed by the absence of a hyphen in the movie’s title. We understand that inflation and the depletion of our natural resources has made certain punctuation marks prohibitively expensive. Further, we acknowledge that this particular offense against grammar is not as egregious as abominations such as spelling “through” as “thru.”

We now return you to your regularly scheduled review.

Eight Legged Freaks was everything I expected it to be, though not all that I had hoped for. What I expected for my $6 was a decent B-movie with good effects; a fun, goofy plot; some laughs; and the sight of Kari Wuhrer’s breasts. I was amply rewarded with the first, second, and third points; yet sadly disappointed by the fourth. What I had hoped for was Tremors all over again.

ELF only cost $30 million, which in this day and age is a miracle of restraint and modesty. Most of the money seems to have gone into the effects, with a more than decent fraction left over for the script – which is more than you can say for most movies costing 3 times as much, you have to admit. A great deal of the savings came from the decision to cast some B- and C-level actors, mixed with some relatives unknowns.

For example, David Arquette is nobody’s idea of a hero (well, perhaps he’s Courtney Cox’s idea of a hero, but that’s their own business). I was, in fact, rooting for him to be eaten by a spider several time. Alas, it was not to be. Similarly, hot though she is, Kari Wuhrer -- as the prettiest sheriff this side of Suzanne Somers -- isn’t in the same price range as Jennifer Lopez (with whom she co-starred in Anaconda); and they probably saved a few extra bucks – a la Halle Berry in Swordfish -- by having her keep her top on. Too bad, too, as she has since gotten herself de-implanted. Well, life goes on.

The plot, such as it is, is a silly delight. Not much effort is made to incorporate logic or sense into the script, and the movie gets away with it by being so good natured. The town of Prosperity, AZ (where it seems to rain an awful lot) is dying, and the Evil Mayor has rented the empty gold mine to a toxic waste company for dumping their product. Naturally, a barrel of the stuff gets knocked off the delivery truck and lands in the local river (which again seems awfully babbly and verdant for Arizona).

The sludge contaminates the water, which contaminates the local crickets, which the local spider breeder captures for food for his collection of exotic spiders. Not much time is wasted in the buildup, as the sheriff’s nerdy son visit’s the breeder just in time to have him explain in amazement how much his little pets have been growing lately. The kid soon leaves, the small-for-the-moment spiders escape and attack, and hilarity and adventure ensue.

There are some good laughs, enough to satisfy, but on the whole it fell well short of the mark – “the mark” in this case being Tremors, which is something of a B-movie masterpiece. Part of the problem was this movie’s gruesomely high body count, which often clashed with those aforementioned laughs -- if the people standing around congratulating each other at the end are any indication, I truly wonder what happened to the rest of the town.

Still, I may be taking this silly movie a bit too seriously, when taking it even remotely seriously would be a mistake. Like I said, the movie supplies you with a steady stream of chuckles, a good supply of laughs, and one or two screamers. For instance, when the sheriff’s daughter [Ed: a pre-superstar Scarlett Johansson] has to fight off her boyfriend’s Russian hands and Roman fingers with a taser, leaving him writhing on the ground and clutching his balls in agony, he shouts at her: “Don’t you think you overreacted!? All I did was cop a feel!” Precisely what I was thinking, while guffawing.

The spiders themselves are very well done, with the animators posing them just short of cartoonish. They make lots of squeaky non-spidery noises, pull double-takes when startled, and generally have a greater acting range than David Arquette, who it should be noted is not computer animated.

So like I said: my $6 was very well spent. It might even be said that this was the least disappointed I’ve been at a movie so far this year, considering that I knew exactly what I was getting into when I stepped into the theater. And not only that, I got a grand collection of coming attractions: for Star Trek: Nemesis, Dreamcatcher, Shanghai Knights, and The Two Towers. Unfortunately, I also was subjected to the trailer for Swimfan for at least the 3rd time. Let me save you all some time and trouble: it’s Fatal Attraction with teenagers.

Anyway: Eight Legged Freaks: good dumb fun. 6/10.

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