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Film: Arachnophobia

A thriller/comedy (or "thrillomedy") film released in 1990, Arachnophobia featured Jeff Daniels and John Goodman and was produced by Steven Spielberg. This was the first film directed by Frank Marshall. It was also the first film released under Disney's Hollywood Pictures label.

The film concerns a hybridized strain of spiders with a hive mentality and super-potent venom that kills in a matter of seconds. The spiders, accidentally transported to a sleepy California town from Venezuela in the coffin of their first victim, terrorize the town for weeks while the newly-arrived city-mouse town doctor (Daniels) struggles to make sense of the mysterious deaths. Aiding him is an Eccentric Exterminator played by Goodman in one of his most popular roles. The film was a financial and critical success thanks to its mix of horror and humor.

There was also an MS-DOS game released that was vaguely related to the movie, in which the player took control of Goodman's character who was sent to eliminate the spiders.


This movie has examples of:

  • Aerosol Flamethrower: Effective against deadly spiders. Appears in both the movie and as the ultimate weapon in the game.
  • The Amazon: The killer spiders come from an unexplored jungle in Venezuela.
  • Answers to the Name of God
    Ross: (After destroying the nest with his Improbable Aiming Skills) Thank God.
    Delbert: Don't mention it.
  • Asshole Victim: Dr. Metcalf is a contrarian, pompous jerkass who screws over Jennings, so his death by one of the spiders is a bit karmic.
  • Autopsy Snack Time: A mortuary worker munches a sandwich while the crate containing the photographer's body is being opened, then sets it down on a worktable used for preparing bodies.
  • Awesome Mc Cool Name: Delbert McClintock.
  • Brother Chuck: Chris disappears after trying to pull Ross out of the house near the end.
  • Brick Joke: "Not the Chateau!"
  • The City vs. the Country: The doctor and his family move into a small town. The townspeople immediately resent him for being from the city.
  • Cobweb Jungle: A lot of areas become this after the spiders are released.
  • Completely Different Title: In Sweden the movie is known as "Imse vimse spindel" translating as "Itsy Bitsy Spider".
  • Corrupt Hick: Sheriff Parsons.
  • Eccentric Exterminator: John Goodman's character Delbert McClintock has various quirks, but seems like a nice guy. He also has a bit of an inflated opinion of himself, but he does come in handy when he kills most of the drone spiders at the end.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: Implied by Dr. Atherton. The spiders are a hive species, giving birth to androgynous soldier drones, but after the hive gets big enough, the queen would be able to birth a young queen to make her own hive somewhere. Atherton says this would happen once the town has been devoured, and more than one young queen would be produced. Take this to its logical conclusion...
  • Epiphany Therapy: "Come to the barn and look at this gigantic web taking up most of it. That'll cure your arachnophobia."
  • Evil Overlooker: This film is a fairly subtle example. Take a good look at the moon on the poster/cover.
  • Failed a Spot Check: Delbert, primarily, but most of the sheer terror of this film comes from how easily the spiders are overlooked.
  • Fan Disservice: There's a scene of a girl showering when one of the lethal, venomous spiders crawls out of the shower head. She remains oblivious as he gets washed off her body until she notices the spider dissappearing down the drain.
  • Giant Spider: Mostly averted. None of the spiders in this film are larger than your hand, but they are deadly venomous. Downplayed with the original spider, the General, which is the size of a baseball mitt—giant enough.
  • It's Quiet... Too Quiet: It's repeatedly mentioned that the main character doesn't hear crickets, despite living in the country. That's because the main web is in his barn.
  • Jerkass: Dr. Metcalf arranges with Dr. Jennings for him to take over his small town clinic when he retires. Then Metcalf decides on the fly to go back on his promise when Jennings has already bought a home and settled his family in town. He views him with unjustified contempt as a big-city wig who looks down on the townspeople, badmouths him to the town, and berates his concern about the increasing sudden deaths largely out of spite.
  • Kill It with Fire
    • Infernal Retaliation: The General proves to be a hardcore little bugger even after being set alight.
  • Orifice Evacuation: A spider crawls out of one of the victims' noses when the body is discovered.
  • Primal Fear
  • Shout-Out: Delbert's attire is largely inspired by Ghostbusters. The MAD Magazine parody, A Knack For Phobias, makes the connection explicit.
  • Spiders Are Scary: The film is about a group of hybridized spiders that invaded a California town and begin killing the inhabitants that live there.
  • Spider Swarm: Played Up to Eleven. The Venezuelan spider species presented in the film consists mostly of drones that lack sex organs, and they have a hive with a queen similarily to bees or ants. It is implied that if let to breed freely, the spiders would eventually give birth to a new queen capable of birthing fertile offspring, eventually leading to the whole world being overrun by the extremely aggressive and venomous strain of spiders.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Dr Atherton. He's the foremost spider expert in the country, and he's been extensively informed how dangerous the new breed of spiders are. He sees no problem however in investigating the huge spider's nest in the barn all by himself, with no protection whatsoever. And then deliberately twanging the spider's web, apparently to get it to show its face. Predictably, he dies within minutes.
    • Granted, he didn't expect the General to be up there, and the General already had a grudge against him for killing its mate in the forest...
      • Never mind the fact that he expected whatever was up there to come crawling down the web as opposed to swinging up in his face.
  • Why Did It Have To Be Spiders: Doctor Jennings is deathly afraid of spiders because of an encounter with one in his infancy.


April Fools' DayHorror FilmsAsylum: Blackout
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