Eight-Legged Freaks

August, 2002, Comedy

Directed by:Ellory Elkayem

Starring:David Arquette, Kari Wührer, Scarlett Johansson, and Doug E. Doug

Eight-Legged Freaks

No, you don't want to spend $8.50 to catch this teen drive-in flick--but you might just find yourself guiltily lingering when it becomes available on cable television in a few months; not since Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward battled tunneling worms the size of sewer pipe in Tremors has anyone in Hollywood had so much fun sending up science fiction movies. After all, how can you dislike a movie that manages to work Ghandi, Mother Teresa, L. Ron Hubbard and anal probes into its dialogue within 5 minutes of the opening credits?

Stealing shamelessly from its predecessors in the genre, Freaks assembles a quintessential cast of characters, (the geeky kid, a returning home-town hero, the gal he left behind, a bumbling sheriff, etc.) into a plot as old and creaky as the 30's horror movies of Boris Karloff and Bella Lugosi. Seems some toxic waste has spilled into a pond used by a spider-loving recluse to provide food for his aracnids. When poisoned bugs from the pond cause the spiders to mutate into giant killers, guess who has to convince the townspeople a real crisis is looming? And guess who gets the girl in the end?

All this is done with cinematic tongue firmly in cheek; the "Isty Bittsy Spider" nursery rhyme seeps into the background as the cast becomes lunch for a wide variety of creepy-crawly creatures, while the-aliens-among-us theme from Men In Black  slyly rips-off  the corn-rowed narrator of HBO's series "Oz". We're also treated to the town's barber warily stalking a bloated nocturnal spider while Sinatra's "Strangers in the Night" plays on the soundtrack The folks behind this movie have no shame, and that's no shame.

In fact, Freaks posses what MIB2 lacked--a real sense of the absurdity of the material being presented. The latter film was so self-consciously trying to be hip it missed the mark and fell flat, while this vastly cheaper effort has the nerve to kid its audience even as it tries, with some early success, to scare the hell out of them. 

Kids, (of all ages) will get a kick out of this--but those with fond memories of earlier schlock entries in the category will especially enjoy and appreciate its lunacy.  

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