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Film / Eight Legged Freaks

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"Do you hate spiders? Do you REALLY hate spiders? Well, they don't like you, either!"

Eight Legged Freaks is a 2002 horror-comedy film directed by Ellory Elkayem, executive produced by Roland Emmerich, and starring David Arquette, Kari Wührer, Scarlett Johansson, Doug E. Doug, Rick Overton, and Leon Rippy.

The plot concerns a collection of spiders that are exposed to toxic waste, causing them to grow to gigantic proportions. It's set in an Arizona nowhere town called "Prosperity" - which just happens to have a mall, just so survivors can battle spiders with improvised weapons. There are mine shafts for that Survival Horror feel. There's even a scene where jumping spiders chase dirt bikers. Get some popcorn and watch spiders gobble bystanders and get squished by the heroes! Narm Charm!

Yeah. It's a 50s monster movie made with 21st century visual effects, and it's exactly what you're expecting.

This movie contains examples of:

  • Affectionate Parody: The film is one of old 50s mutant monster movies. It's not hard to notice the multiple signs that it doesn't take itself seriously.
    • The spiders panting in exhaustion and squeaking "uh-oh" are pretty obvious signs.
    • There is a scene in which a spider jumps on a moose's head, mounted on a wall, and takes a bite, only to visibly complain about the taste and spit out the stuffing.
    • And then there was this advert: "If you're only going to see one film this summer about a giant mutant spider, make sure it's the right one."
  • All Webbed Up: Being a movie about giant spiders, obviously this happens a lot of the time.
  • Alien Blood: The spiders have green blood.
  • Anal Probing: There's a bit where Harlan goes on a tirade about aliens and this very subject. Turns into a Brick Joke over the course of the movie.
    Harlan: ...I mean, what do they expect to find there? It's just wrong!
  • Antlion Monster: One subset of the Giant Spider horde includes a small group of Trapdoor Spiders, who quickly begin snatching away people into their burrows when the whole town is under attack. Mark manages to get past them by throwing a ladder on top of the hole in front of him and walking his way across.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: Harlan believes in alien conspiracy theories, but thinks the emergence of giant spiders in the town is nonsense until he actually sees them - then he thinks they are in fact the aliens he was talking about. Lampshaded by Chris.
    Chris: (completely fed up with Harlan's insistence) Okay, they are spiders from Mars! Satisfied?!?
    Harlan: (very nervous) Not really...
  • Artistic License – Gun Safety:
    • Most people of Prosperity obviously never learned how to properly handle a loaded gun, but the mall's janitor is easily the worst offender. When he's given Lee Harvey Oswald's rifle, he constantly keeps his finger on the trigger and the gun itself pointed at whoever's currently standing in front of him. Sam has to actually push the barrel out of her face so they can talk when she turns around to him.
    • While the survivors are escaping in the mine tunnels, at one point, Mark tosses his loaded crossbow at the sheriff so she can shoot a giant spider, while they are a tight group in an enclosed space. It's unclear why he has to take the risk of tossing the crossbow in the first place rather that making the shot himself beyond The Main Characters Do Everything; she might have a clearer shot from her spot, but it's not evident at all.
    • Subverted inside the mines, as the large concentration of methane gas means that a single spark from guns or matches is enough to blow the whole place to hell with everyone still in it.
  • Attack of the Killer Whatever: Attack of the Killer five-foot (for starters!) Giant Spiders!
  • Auto Erotica: Bret tries to have sex with Ashley in his pickup truck. She refuses. Emphatically.
  • Badass Biker: Bret shows some good motorcycle skills when he escapes from jumping spiders, and he spends a good chunk of the film riding through an underground mine without ever crashing.
  • Bad Boss: The giant tarantula accidentally stomps one of her spider goons flat without even noticing while she's on her way to tear down the gate into the mall.
  • Big Bad: Consuela, the female Orb Weaver, as far as an animal with animalistic instincts can be considered evil.
    "You know how women like breakfast in bed."
  • Blind Without 'Em: Norman gets a double-dose of this. He has two pairs of glasses, one for distance vision and one for close-up, and he needs to switch between them a few times in different circumstance. Obviously, this results in his death by giant spider.
  • Book Ends: Harland's broadcast narrates the film's opening scene and he's the last voice the audience hears before the credits roll.
  • The Cavalry Arrives Late: After Chris initially fails to convince the authorities of the graveness of the situation via 911, a small army of cops and firemen later waltzes in just in time to... do nothing - the spiders have already been defeated by that point.
  • Chainsaw Good: In a mall, Pete manages to lift the garage-door-style mesh that locked one of the stores, since the caretakers apparently neglected to lock it. He log rolls under and slams it down. However, the spiders reach their legs through, yanking him right up against the mesh but unable to bite him. His solution? Grab a nearby chainsaw and slice through all their limbs.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Bret's dirtbike, initially used early on just for tearing around the desert due to teenage boredom. Later on, it's instrumental for escaping the mine in the climax.
    • And the bottle of perfume.
    • The taser gun - twice.
    • The dangerous concentration of methane in the mine.
  • Cool Guns: The cops wield several shotguns and rifles, but the one that is coolest (at least through Rule of Funny) is a Mannlicher-Carcano rifle that the deputy isn't sure why the station even has it. The Mannlicher-Carcano is the rifle that killed Kennedy, and it's called exactly that by two different characters.
  • Conspiracy Theorist: Harlan, who believes the Giant Spiders are the alien invaders he has warned about his whole career. Amusingly, the county's entire emergency service force is apparently avid fans of his show, so they fall under this category as well.
    Harlan: You ain't getting that anal probe near me!
  • Conversational Troping: Harlan, being a conspiracy theorist, assumes the spiders are aliens. On the second broadcast of his radio show, he talks about the anal probes. This movie has do to with neither aliens (as far as we know) nor Anal Probing.
  • Covered in Gunge: Deputy Williams gets covered in increasing amounts of slimy greenish spider blood and intestines the longer the movie progresses.
  • Damsel in Distress: Gladys gets captured by a male orb weaver spider, and Chris wants to rescue her if there's any chance of her still being alive.
  • Date Rape Averted: While they are in his truck Bret gets very handsy with Ashley who refuses his advances and then zaps him with a taser that her mother gave to her in case this happened. Unusually, while the movie certainly depicts Bret as wrong and Ashley as right, it portrays his actions as being due to a moment of teenage hormone-driven boneheadedness rather than those of an evil rapist. Bret survives the entire film and he gets back with Ashley.
  • Death Glare: Combined with Kubrick Stare. Delivered with four big black-golden eyes at once! A visibly pissed-off jumping spider levels it at some escaping dirt bikers during the chase scene outside of town early on.
  • Dirty Coward: Mayor Wade's approach to supporting his fellow citizens in defending the mall from the spider army? Quietly sneak away to hide in the mines below the town and lock the door behind him, so the others can't lead the spiders to him.
  • The Dragon: The giant tarantula apparently leads the spider army for Consuela.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: Strangely, Zeke the cat. His fight with a spider as big as he is just about destroys the drywall they're behind, it's clear that he's giving the spider the fight of its life due to all the banging, and it's quite possible that he took the spider with him as the final seconds of their fight is shown to be shorting out the light they're above.
  • Dying Town: Prosperity is a middle-of-nowhere Podunk mining town with a supposedly empty mine. It's the "supposedly" that makes Chris return to town to try to save it (he hopes to rediscover a gold claim his dad supposedly found before dying) and it's because of this that Mayor Wade has conspired to allow corrupt companies to hide their toxic waste inside the mine after his attempt at resurrecting the town's economy (or so he says) with a mall went bust.
  • Escort Mission: Rescuing characters from a spider's lair deep in some abandoned mines.
  • Expy: Chris bears a few similarities to Dewey from the Scream films, another character played by David Arquette.
  • Fair Cop: The sheriff is played by Kari Wührer, known for many Ms. Fanservice roles. Lampshaded by the horndog teenagers when they call her "the sexiest sheriff in the county".
  • Freudian Slip: After not having seen each other for years, Chris' attempt at asking his childhood crush Sam for a chance to catch up leaves his mouth as a request to hook up instead. Fortunately for him, she seems to find his slip more amusing than anything else and readily agrees to go out with him.
  • Funny Background Event: during the rush to the mall after the spiders Zerg Rush, one man can be seen doing Good Old Fisticuffs with a spider, which then proceeds to beat him to a pulp with funny sound effects if you are listening closely.
  • Genre Savvy: Mike is the only one who knows fully well he's in a horror movie, and is well aware of what the spiders are gonna do. He's also well aware that no one will believe him, and lampshades it constantly.
  • Giant Spider: The Movie.
  • Glass Smack and Slide: One spider attempts to jump through a shop window, only to smack "face"-first and spread-eagled into the glass, make a groggy noise and slide down slowly with an audible squeal while the people inside stare in disbelief.
  • Groin Attack: With a taser, applied to Bret. Date Rape Averted in style.
  • Hate Sink: Mayor Wade: You can't hate the spiders, but you can hate him.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Subverted - twice. Both Pete and Harlan take it upon them to stay behind so others can escape the spider onslaught. Pete goes all One-Man Army on the critters and comes out unscathed (though Covered in Gunge); Harlan makes a mad dash through the milling hordes and disappears for an apparent Offscreen Moment of Awesome to return alive and well after the movie's climax, and with the cops in tow to boot.
  • I Can't Believe I'm Saying This: When Sam makes her emergency broadcast to warn everyone, she gets to "the town is being overrun by giant spiders," and the look on her face clearly says "I can't believe I just said that" and "no one is going to take this seriously" simultaneously.
  • Idiot Ball: A diner full of customers, watching the spiders outside. When the spiders start jumping at the window, attempting to break through, nobody considers moving in any capacity until the spiders actually manage to do so.
  • Impact Silhouette : The entire fight between Deputy Willis's cat and a spider of about the same size consists of this, with Willis and his wife watching from the outside as the two duke it out inside an air vent and slam one another against the wall.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Sam's a damned good shot. Pistol, rifle, shotgun, crossbow; every result is the same - fountains of spider guts! Chris also shows off some pretty impressive skills with a shotgun, blasting a jumping spider out of the air from quite some distance away and without even properly aiming the thing.
  • Improbable Weapon User: Chris again. When a spider climbs into Ashley's room and begins to cover her in webbing, he tries to fend it off with a wooden chair. The chair loses, but points for trying.
  • Improvised Zipline: And another one for Chris — he uses his jacket and a radio tower's anchoring cable to make a smooth escape from a bunch of pursuing spiders climbing up behind him. One of them attempts to follow him the same way. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Ironic Name: Prosperity, the rural town that's mere weeks away from being abandoned/relocated due to its flatlining economy.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Bret starts off as a sex-obsessed Jerkass, but ends up as a much nicer guy and even gets back together with his girlfriend. He plays Support Party Member to the Hero. Perhaps the taser to the balls acted as electroshock therapy.
  • Karma Houdini: Downplayed with Mayor Wade. After building a useless mall, trying to turn the town into a toxic waste dump, and locking the survivors in the mall when the spiders attack, Chris saves him ensuring his survival, but at least his stupid mall blows up.
  • Large and in Charge: The bigger spiders boss around the smaller ones, while the entire Spider Swarm is led by a gigantic female Orb Weaver that the other ones don't even go near for fear of being eaten.
  • Let's Get Dangerous!: Subverted. As the townsfolk arm themselves in the mall, it looks like there's going to be a massive battle with the spiders. Then when the spiders break in, the vast majority are too scared to do anything and simply retreat en masse.
  • The Mall: Built in an attempt to bring money into the town — or, more specifically, to fill the pockets of the developers. Part of the climax takes place here.
  • Mauve Shirt: Townsman Mark doesn't have any notable scenes in the first act or richly colorful quirks. However, when the spiders attack the town, he escapes the trapdoor spiders through the creative use of a ladder as other characters are dying all around him, and then gets a respectable number of scenes and lines for the rest of the film while most of the other survivors are main characters or extras.
  • Mayor Pain: Wade has shades of both archetypes but leans more towards the evil side, what with his selling out the town to some shifty toxic waste disposal company without telling his citizens squat, and all of his previous plans that cost a lot of money and led nowhere, like his ostrich farm.
  • Mentor Occupational Hazard: Leon is an older miner who speaks in support of Chris and his late father's vision and mentions having taught Chris everything he knows about mining. He gets the most disturbing death in the movie around the half-hour mark.
  • Mighty Glacier: The tarantula is one of the biggest spiders alive, so of course the mutant tarantula becomes perhaps the biggest spider in the movie, with earth-shaking strength and the ability to knock over trailers with ease.
  • Modesty Towel: Ashley is wearing a towel after exiting the shower when she nearly gets cocooned.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The trailer portrayed the film as some sort of action-horror title with a lot of focus on scary parts. It's actually a horror-comedy.
  • Non-Malicious Monster: The spiders aren't evil; they kill for food, for territory (evidenced by a spider dueling Chris and his chair) or to satisfy the female spider as per their mating rituals.
  • Noodle Incident: The town — for reasons unknown even to them — has Lee Harvey Oswald's rifle.
  • Oh, Crap!: Harlan when he looks out his trailer window and sees a massive tarantula.
  • Outrun the Fireball: Towards the end of the movie. Chris and Gladys on a dirt bike escape an igniting mine shaft.
  • Parental Neglect: Bret obviously suffers from Wade's lack of interest in his stepson's life. When he tries to inform him that he's going out for the evening, not even quipping loudly that he might partake in an orgy and steal some cars elicits a noteworthy reaction from his father (who's arguing with his investors on the phone the whole time).
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: The CGI artists had problems with the giant tarantula - scaling it up realistically turned it into an adorable fuzzy thing reminiscent of a high-quality stuffed animal. They had to remove more than half its hairs before the terrifying monster-truck-sized spider was noticeable beneath.
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter: The spiders of all things. Sure, they're giant man-eating beasts with way too many legs for comfort, but the way they behave when they're not currently eating someone is just plain adorable. They pant in exhaustion while chasing someone, they cough comically when they're forced to run through a dust cloud, and they make all kinds of funny noises during most other activities. When the swarm assaults the mall, one spider can be seen squatting on a wall post, beckoning the others on with two of its legs like a general of old waving his sword at the enemy lines. Another one uses a child's tent as disguise to sneak up on some poor guy, freezes when he turns around suspiciously, then continues when he looks away. Really, there are too many instances to list.
  • Rule of Fun: It doesn't take itself too seriously plot wise.
  • Rule of Scary: Likely reason for toxic waste resulting in rampant violation of the Square-Cube Law.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: The predominant reaction throughout the movie whenever someone is faced with one or more giant spiders. By the time the critters make their presence "officially" known by means of their Zerg Rush on Prosperity, the whole town (or what's left of it) hauls ass as quickly as they can. Even those characters with guns or other weapons eventually follow suit due to the spiders' sheer numbers. Unfortunately, spiders this size can run a lot faster than humans, and jumping spiders this size can leap very long distances, so unless you managed to get into a car, you're screwed anyway.
  • Shown Their Work: Most spiders have poor eyesight despite their eight eyes, but they make up for it with the ability to sense even the slightest vibration, be it through the ground (like prey moving around) or through the air (talking and other sounds). They also tend to flee when faced with intense scents. Therefore the best way to hide from giant spiders would probably be to stay as quiet and still as possible, and even the idea with the perfume might have some merit in a situation like this. Of course, all bets are off when jumping spiders show up - their primary eyes are huge, movable and specifically evolved for identifying and tracking prey.
  • Spiders Are Scary: For the citizens of Prosperity at least, and to most arachnophobes probably. To the remaining portion of viewers they're more likely to be adorable and funny instead of scary.
  • Spider Swarm: Par for the course. The entire town ends up getting overrun by giant-ass spiders.
  • Stacy's Mom: Bret's friends make a bunch of lewd jokes about Sheriff Samantha Parker (who is also his girlfriend's Ashley's mother) behind her back after she pulls them over and fines them for speeding. She hears them and it goes not very well for them.
  • Strange Minds Think Alike: Both Deputy Williams and Harlan notice at differing points that there is a Mannlicher-Carcano rifle among the various firearms in the Prosperity police's arsenal, and both even call it "the gun that killed Kennedy". Williams' reaction to noticing it is more of a "why do we have this?" while Harlan's is full-blown "This Is Gonna Suck", though.
  • Super-Persistent Predator:
    • Despite having a lair full of cocooned meals ready to go, the female spider at the end feels the need to chase down Chris and Gladys, who are on a MOTORCYCLE.
    • Almost all of the spiders in the movie are this, really, as spiders are primarily ambush predators. Even the most active hunters, like the tarantula, aren't this speedy in pursuit of prey. Possibly justified by the toxic waste making them more aggressive and active.
  • Supporting Protagonist: Bret spends much of the movie inside the mines where the spiders made their nests, far away from the main cast. Yet he manages to survive thanks to his motorcycle and joins the survivors of the mall attack after breaking down the mine entrance Wade locked down.
  • Take That!: Roger Ebert's review opened by saying that this film delivered everything that Men in Black II did not. And see the Affectionate Parody entry for the other 2002 blockbuster this film's taglines took aim at.
  • Teen Pregnancy: Kari Wührer was 35 at the time of filming, but her character, Sheriff Samantha Parker, doesn't really look the part. It gets some explanation when her teenage daughter Ashley (played by then-18-years-old Scarlett Johansson) reveals during an argument between them that Sam got pregnant with her at age 16.
  • Tempting Fate: After his cat got electrocuted to death fighting a giant spider, his wife left him, and his boss just crashed his after-work hours and instructed him to bring her every single gun the department has available, Deputy Williams just can't resist quipping that this situation couldn't possibly get any worse. The movie's grand finale commences shortly afterwards, naturally.
  • Title Drop: "Get back, you EIGHT LEGGED FREAKS!"
    • Interestingly, that line didn't start out as a Title Drop; the title of the movie was originally Arach-Attack according to the commentary. Unfortunately, the title sounded too similar to "Iraq attack" when said out loud (the movie came out not long after America's war in Iraq started), so the title was changed at the last minute to reflect the line—which was, incidentally, ad-libbed on-set by David Arquette.
    • It still retained this title (or the alternate spelling Arac Attack) in other countries. Which itself gets titled dropped a couple of times throughout the movie.
  • That Poor Cat: We are treated to a cat getting into a fight with a spider of equal size. Most of it takes place in an air vent where we see the cat slammed against the wall multiple times (via Impact Outline). Though, in fairness, so does the spider.
  • This Loser Is You: David Arquette plays Chris McCormick, a well-meaning, sensitive schmuck just trying to save what's left of his hometown and pour his heart out to his high school crush. Actually a rather respectful application of the trope; he listens carefully to the Child Prodigy, and though he's skeptical at firstnote , when he finds the sharp four-foot-long leg of a twelve-foot-long spider he immediately realizes, "This ain't no cactus!" and runs right to him. He never fails to fight hard for the town. Result? Karmic Jackpot. The girl, after one too many Cannot Spit It Out moments, exasperatingly admits that yes, she's known that he beat up her philandering husband for her sake for years now, came back to town because he genuinely wants to help, that he loves her, and that she loves him back. And then he finds the Mother Lode and makes the entire town filthy stinking rich! (Too bad a large majority of townspeople have become spider food by that point...)
  • Toxic Waste Can Do Anything: Spiders consume toxic waste. Spiders get taste for humans and ability to grow far beyond their maximum size. The very end of the movie shows that the stuff also makes Deputy William's bald patch grow some new hair. The film gets a little slack as it has a strong comedic bent and doesn't take itself too seriously.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: As you'd expect. And the movie's damn fun anyway!
  • Traveling-Pipe Bulge: One of Chris' miners is hosing down a blast hole when the water suddenly stops coming. His solution to the problem is putting the hose to his mouth and sucking on it, all the while something can be seen moving ever closer through the otherwise slack hose. Needless to say his fate isn't pretty.
  • Tyop on the Cover: Of the most technical variant. Since the movie's title has no hyphen between "eight" and "legged", its name technically means "eight freaks, each of which possess legs".
  • Uncertain Doom: There are at least ten teenagers at the dirt bike track when the jumping spiders attack, but only six or seven are killed onscreen while Brett escapes, leaving a couple of them unaccounted for.
  • Vapor Wear: It's less obvious under her jacket, but Sam spends the climax of the movie in a tight white t-shirt with no bra.
  • Waxing Lyrical: While trying to disperse the crowd after Chris punches Wade, Pete says 'you don't have to go home but you can't stay here', quoting Semisonic's famous one hit, Closing Time.
  • You Have to Believe Me!: Mike learns about the giant spiders far earlier but lampshades this trope due to being a kid. Chris is the first to believe him after finding a spider's skin in a very large hole, but Sam still remains a skeptic until one spider attacks Ashley.
  • Zerg Rush: The jumping spiders. Additionally, the mall scene where the spiders simply plow into the mall.