Why Did It Have to be Spiders?

Eight Legged Freaks doesn’t immediately bring to mind Americana, but it is. Little is more purely American than a conspiracy-fueled, small town being invaded by a nuclear menace. It’s how the nation reckoned with Hiroshima and Nagasaki, using their aftermath to build a shielded unreality where fallout became mere genre fodder.

It’s an absolute joy to watch Eight Legged Freaks tear down and mock that absurdity. A conscious choice to cast a stiff, numbing David Arquette in a useless hero role plays up how similar the protagonists from the 1950s were – Americans who will do anything to protect their town and get the girl.

… none captured the tenor or even better the tempo more than Eight Legged Freaks

Calling Eight Legged Freaks brainless isn’t so much wrong as it is dismissing the genuine mockery this movie makes of atomic age monster flicks. It’s not without the careful touch of mainstream, marketable flair – Tremors and Gremlins both feed into Eight Legged Freaks – but cognizant enough to play up tropes.

Tropes breed gargantuan spiders, a mere toxic waste barrel dropped into a lake that by the end, is little more than a punchline. No one questions why, there’s no real science, and the only smart one is pre-teen kid. Like in the ‘50s, it never matters how the mutations happened so much is that it did and a bunch of intrepid folks can save their land.

By the end, everyone gathers in the local mega mall, an otherwise useless structure in the town of Prosperity, but a symbol of moronic economic failure. George Romero used malls to commentate on capitalism through zombies; Eight Legged Freaks uses it to show how ridiculous it is to assume a few luxury clothing shops can save a town locked in a time that left it sixty years prior.

Released to theaters in mid-2002, Eight Legged Freaks even got lucky, covering another national trauma by time traveling back to a time well before 9/11. In a way, it was the last of its kind. The late ‘90s brought a number of goofy monster movies to life – Lake Placid, Deep Rising, Deep Blue Sea, the utterly forgotten Bats – all looking to play into the nostalgia. Some worked, some didn’t, but none captured the tenor or even better the tempo more than Eight Legged Freaks. The genre died off again, maybe because the reality they were trying to hide overwhelmed everyone.

Video

Shout/Scream Factory dishes out a new scan for this long, long overdue Blu-ray release. It looks great. Cleaned up to near perfection (a stray dirt/dust speck aside), stable resolution lets Eight Legged Freaks bloom in HD. Easily resolved grain and occasional spikes pose minimal challenge to the encode. Transfer consistency at its best.

Aging digital effects do inevitably dim things a bit, but that’s no issue with the master itself. Their soggier color goes up against impressively bright, well saturated primaries. Gorgeously rich location scenery balloons sunsets, greens, and earth tones.

Outstanding black levels give shadows proper density. Crush happens, part of that on the digital compositing, although other scenes suffer a little too. It’s minimally invasive to detail, and there’s plentiful contrast to go around on the other end. All of this emboldens texture, giving Eight Legged Freaks additional material to justify an overall superlative boost from the archaic DVD.

Audio

Pleasingly bold low-end support gives spider attacks audible scale. Range gives the DTS-HD track a suitable kick as necessary, bold enough to feel modern, but not shake a room.

A mundane surround mix lacks any precision. Design doesn’t follow the camera (the early cat kill should come primarily from the rears, but doesn’t), and it’s a wonder if the rears activate at all. Front-loading is the clear focus, using the stereos frequently at least. Given the countless opportunities to show off, the mix lands on the lame side.

Extras

Ported extras from the original DVD include a fun commentary from actors David Arquette, Rick Overton, director Ellory Elkayem, and producer Dean Devlin. Elkayem’s short film is next, and a trailer after that. A newcomer to the menu is a packed making-of with the title It’s an Invasion. That lasts 41-minutes, so it’s no throwaway, and brings in key players to look back on the production over Skype. Recommended.

Eight Legged Freaks
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
4

Movie

Delightfully cheeky and totally unoriginal, Eight Legged Freaks breaks no ground, but it’s written with enough wit to sustain the appropriately short runtime.

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 51 full resolution, uncompressed HD screen shots grabbed directly from the Blu-ray: