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  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 2.35:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer ( )
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  Subtitles
    English
  Extras
  • Deleted scenes
  • Teaser trailer
  • Audio commentary
  • Cast/crew biographies
  • Featurette - Short film - Larger Than Life
  • Production notes
  • Animated menus
  • DVD-ROM features
  • Dolby Digital trailer

Eight Legged Freaks

Roadshow Entertainment/Roadshow Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 95 mins . M15+ . PAL

  Feature
Contract

As one of those defiantly arachnophobic-ish types, I feel it my duty to defend those of us who harbour feelings of sheer terror at the sight of those hideous little eight legged yukky things many simply call “spiders”. Basically, the thought of something a fraction of my size possessing the potent-poison-power to render me somewhat dead – with Xs in my eyes even - isn’t one I believe either particularly fun or indeed fair – and besides, they’re downright bloody ugly to boot! So why in the name of all that’s furry am I reviewing this? Just call me a sucker for all that is B-grade and cinematic...

And when you think modern-day B-grade, a couple of names should spring to mind quicker than one of those horrendous jumping spiders can leap at you in a single bound. That wacky guy behind the wondrously OTT Independence Day, Dean Devlin, is on board in a production capacity, and that beacon of B-acting in David Arquette takes top billing. When coupled with New Zealand director Ellory Elkayem, seemingly a delightfully warped and twisted Peter Jackson-alike in outlook, then how could things ever go wrong?

The “plot” as such couldn’t be much simpler - after all, it’s just padding to bring a little bit of coherence to the big-bugs-go-splat-now proceedings we have all paid to revel in. Chris McCormack (Arquette) returns to his hometown only to find that Prosperity Valley isn’t exactly living up to its name. His father founded the place as a mining town, and as there ain’t much mining going on now there sure ain’t much in the way of prosperity. His past saw him entangled in a web involving she who is now Sheriff of the town, Sam (Kari Wuhrer – the official pistol-packin’ hero-babe and love interest for the film), and her son, Mike (Scott Terra), who happens to be one of those creepy little weirdo kids who thinks spiders are all like way cool and stuff. His favourite hangout is the shack of one creepy little weirdo scientist who thinks spiders are all like way cool and stuff, who’s into experimenting with all things arachnid. His latest discovery is that the water from a nearby river (one which we know now features a barrel of toxic ooze all thanks to one stupid rabbit and a klutzy truck driver) serves as great spider-steroids, causing his collection of eight-legged normal-sized yukky creatures to grow larger then nature ever intended. Unfortunately it seems he never considered just how big they may actually grow...

"Giant spiders? What kind of bullshit is that?!"

As beloved pets start to disappear ranging from kitty cats to puppy dogs to ostriches, the townsfolk are at a loss to explain just what is going on, not particularly helped by local DJ Harlan (Doug E. Doug) - a man who makes one ‘Spooky’ Mulder look completely unfettered by anything vaguely resembling paranoia in comparison – with his espousing of theories on it being aliens. Naturally young Mike knows what’s goin’ down – but, as we all know, nobody ever believes the kid in tales such as this. When the spiders decide to go completely gung-ho on the townfolks’ asses, be it alien-induced or otherwise, the good citizens of Prosperity realise they’re up to their necks in super-giant fuzzy-legged monstro-bugs that have grown to enormous proportions, that are now seemingly hell-bent on getting a touch of revenge for years of brutal squishings that have been committed upon members of their family tree, erm, web. Will Prosperity survive to propser again? Will the dodgy mayor get his comeuppance? Will Chris and Sam get it on? Oh come on, what do you think?!

Basically, Eight Legged Freaks is a bit like The Poseidon Adventure, but without the boat, the ocean or indeed the slight problem of being rather upside down... It also has very Gremlins-like overtones, most notably in the vaguely human characteristics our arachnid fiends have had cast upon them in the form of reactions and sounds. Combine all this with some fabulous directorial teasing and copious amounts of those creepy moments where you find yourself screaming “behind you!” at the screen, plus a very Mars Attacks!-like general mood, and any genuine fan of B-grade schlock dumbness – those who were weaned on stuff like The Blob - will surely be in heaven, knowing full well that any expectations of a coherent plot, realistic drama or Oscar-potential acting are sheer follies of the highest order.

  Video
Contract

If you’re idea of heaven is seeing bloody huge creepy and icky computer generated spiders getting seven shades of shite blown out of them in gloriously pristine, 16:9 enhanced 2.35:1 widescreen vision, then Eight Legged Freaks is the DVD for you.

Not a follicle is missed with this fabulously detailed transfer, as the hairy little buggers splatter all about the screen. Be it light or dark, everything we’re supposed to see we do – even if sometimes it is through only marginally spread fingers over our eyes. Colour is superb, skin tones are spot on, the print is completely clear of unwanted garbage (well, except for the spiders, of course) and there’s basically nothing of consequence here to complain about at all.

  Audio
Contract

SPLAT! SQUISH! SPLODGE! Holy moly, they’re all around us! A quite fabulous Dolby Digital 5.1 mix plops us dead in the midst of all the splatterous carnage, with excellent selective use of the rear channels and lots of satisfying scrunches and thumps for the subwoofwoof to get its teeth into. Dialogue is both perfectly synched and distinct at all times – regardless of the volume of the effects ooze-shed that’s going on, and it all adds greatly to the sheer mindless fun of proceedings no end.

All this shares time with a fabulously playful B-grade (in the best possible way) score from John Ottman and a selection of rather generic and naff squealing guitar wank and a fabulously creepy version of the kindie classic Itsy Bitsy Spider from one Joey Deluxe. Even if we did know it as Incy Wincy Spider...

  Extras
Contract

Suitably arachnid-infested animated menus with a distinctively B-grade feel to them are our introduction to Eight Legged Freaks. Delving into the ‘special features’ menu offers up some good, and a couple of not so good, bonuses.

Starting with the good, the short film which started it all, Ellory Elkayem’s Larger Than Life, is included here in all its somewhat Hitchcockian, Kiwi-accented black and white g(l)ory. Made back in 1997, this un-enhanced 1.85:1 mini-feature runs for 13:37 and is certainly a lot more po-faced than the feature it inspired, however it still has its own certain charming humour and is definitely a fun watch.

A commentary is also included, featuring director/co-writer Elkayem, co-producer Dean Devlin, plus actors David Arquette and Rick Overton. After quite a few initial gaps, the quartet winds up and into proceedings, presenting us with an always fun balance between hard filming facts – locations, effects, what was computer generated and what was real etc – and more light-hearted stuff such as the value of a good blow to the head.

A selection of 11 additional scenes is also included. Totalling 13:10 in all, these 2.35:1, anamorphically enhanced deletions, extensions and alternative scenes all come across a fair bit fuzzier than the final feature, and whilst offering the odd amusing moment they really wouldn’t have added much to the final product except perhaps for 13 minutes and ten seconds...

Rounding out the package are a teaser trailer, devoid of annoying voiceover in favour of playing up the “whoa, look at the bloody huge spiders!” side of things to suck us gullible B-film lovers into rushing to the cinemas on the day of release. There’s also a trivia section entitled Creepy Crawling Giants, which is a bit of a potted history of oversized bugs on film, a rather lame cast and crew section which kind of gives away this disc’s Warner Bros origins, as few of those listed are actually interactive, an Easter egg which delivers some trivia on a variety of spiders (check our googies section for more info) and an interactive DVD-ROM game billed rather enticingly on the packaging as High Voltage Spider Killing Challenge. Hmm, oh to own a DVD-ROM drive...

  Overall  
Contract

Fabulously presented in the audio and video departments, and with a reasonable selection of extras to sink your fangs into, if your life has lacked a touch of schlocky cinematic po-faced silliness with a bit of an added cringe factor – both due to the horrid little icky bad guy stars of the film and some delightfully hammy lines (“It’s a spider, man!”) – then Eight Legged Freaks just may be the tonic you’ve been sorely in ‘nid of...


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      And I quote...
    "Uh-oh, the ‘nids are getting bigger..."
    - Amy Flower
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Pioneer DV-535
    • TV:
          Sony 68cm
    • Receiver:
          Onkyo TX-DS494
    • Speakers:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse RBS662
    • Centre Speaker:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECC442
    • Surrounds:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECR042
    • Subwoofer:
          DTX Digital 4.8
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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