Arachnophobia (1990)

Eight legs, two fangs and an attitude.

   Arach·no·pho·bia: the pathological fear or loathing of spiders. Some people would have you believe that it's a fear without basis - and maybe they are right. I mean, it's not every single spider in existence that can cause death or even harm to a human, so the fear of a little tiny creature that springs on you from nowhere and builds nests to trap it's victims and suck them dry is totally irrational, right? If you haven't figured it out, I'm a tad bit arachnophobic - but I've been working at changing that slowly over the years through sheer willpower. Most people have an awesome story about why they have a fear of spiders, and yet mine is both weak and highly entertaining: I was taken to see this movie when I had no business in theaters. In that sense, it demonstrates the power of movies and the lasting ways they can affect us, and in turn I can't think of any other movie that would make more sense to do for my one hundredth review. Stick around and see if this movie is a web of lies, or if it puts the fear or spiders into you.

   A photographer arrives to a location late, having been laid up by a fever at his last stop, and the entomologist team is less than enthused about it. The rush to a nearby helicopter and whisk off to the location they are going to, where upon they hope to find some new species of bugs. As they draw near to their destination, their local guide tells them he shall go no further and queues us (the audience) in to something potentially dangerous. After setting up their gear, it's time for some science marvels with a smoke generating gizmo, which in turns causes most of the local bug life to suffocate and fall from the lofty tree they smoked down into their little collection trays. Some interesting butterflies and the likes fill the trays, and the team is suddenly drawn to a loud clang in a nearby tray. Investigation causes the camera to pan dramatically to reveal a seemingly dead (and rather large) spider laying in the dish.

   Surprise! That thing wasn't dead! It jumps at the photographer, who in turn (like any decent human) freaks out about the creepy thing jumping at him, throws it to the ground and stomps on it. Obviously, the bug folks aren't too enthused about this, but their sadness quickly turns back to excitement when they find the other spiders they smoked out of the tree are also alive, giving them two more of the thus-far unknown species to examine back home. As they go to leave the location, they aren't out of the woods yet when a particularly thoughtful spider jumps onto the equipment and hides in a backpack. Back at camp, the photographer is feeling under the weather from his fever, and decides to take a nap, a bad choice for him, as that same spider climbs into his tent and decides to give him a different kind of nap - a dirt nap.

   The man's body is sent back to his home town, the entomologists assuming he died from his fever and knowing nothing of the devious spider companion that snuck into the coffin box. Now back in civilization, it leaves the morgue and gets nabbed by a crow. The crow doesn't realize that it's newest meal is actually a death-incarnate in spider form, and finds itself dropping dead mid-flight over the recently acquired property of a doctor and his family. The poor town is in for a real shock, as this super-spider decides to hook up with a local spider and make itself a little army of go-getters. Can the new doctor figure out the culprits as townsfolk start dropping dead, and can they quell the eight legged menace before it's too late?

Doctor doctor, what cha gonna do?

Doctor doctor, what cha gonna do?

   So lets get down to business. Effects on the larger super-spiders are believable, but not enough to fool a guy who's already pretty dang terrified of spiders. Smaller spiders, on the other hand, sent enough shivers down my spine an onlooker might have thought I was having a seizure. Whether or not those are real little spiders just shot close up or juxtaposed over things or not, I have no idea and care not to know - when it comes down to it it's believable enough that it creeps the absolute crap out of me. Locations at the start of the film are also quite beautiful, even if it is partially a spider-infested deathtrap of a jungle.

   Actors are a nice spread of good, annoyingly good, and just weird. Although we can assume the town's newer doctor is the hero (as he is the main human character), by the end it's the exterminator who steals the show. The main reason for this is most likely his generic "idiot craftsman" outer experience, and yet the absolute joy he goes about his job in the later sections of the movie (and also some of his lines are just gold). If anything is to fault when it comes to acting, death scenes of humans (particularly the first one) seem sort of super overdone. In all honesty, having not seen a person go into cardiac arrest from super-venom coursing through their veins, it very well could be an accurate description.

   Audio comes in clean, and lines are delivered pretty well. Music plays mostly background, and in turn will be mostly forgettable to the general masses - although it does help boost some of the scenes. Pacing is quite well handled, and I admittedly went from "this isn't as bad as I remember" to cowering in my seat by the end of the movie. Jump scares exist, but just how scary this movie is will truthfully depend on the individual. If you have the slightest fear of spiders, it's really going to enhance the amount of terror involved. That being said, the movie comes of more believable than it's slash-happy horror relatives and therefore could also for that reason be deemed more frightening.

This is what my nightmares are made of.

This is what my nightmares are made of.

   When it comes down to it, this is admittedly the first time I have managed to sit through this entire movie in 20 or so years. That isn't to say I enjoyed every minute of it - as a person who feels anywhere from anxious to flat out petrified in the presence of spiders, it did a very effective job of reminding me that I don't like spiders. As a movie, it's pretty well built, solidly handled, and entertaining to watch. As with every movie, it won't be for everyone, but if you want to traumatize your little kids over spiders I don't think there is gonna be a better movie than this. In the meantime, if you're into horror movies or creature flicks, it's not such a bad idea for you to flick it up.


Starring Jeff Daniels, John Goodman, Julian Sands, Brian McNamara, Harley Jane Kozak