While it’s one of the more famous B-movie about spiders and most of you it’s most likely quite familiar with it, i wanted to feature a good, fun one about giant spiders, and i feel it’s worth talking about it again, especially for newer generations, as this still holds up in hindsight.
The fundamental value it’s that Eight Legged Freaks it’s a homage to the 50’s monster movies made with affection, deep affection, and unlike some of the modern b-movies that are shit at the core and try to pass off their own cynical uninspired slob as “comedic”, this is an actual horror comedy that fully embraces, understands and playfully uses the many cliches of giant monster movies.
You know there’s some understanding of the material in question when a movie like this opens with a deliberate, tongue-in-cheek prologue showing what caused the giant spiders to grow larger in the first place, the classic barrell of radioactive waste that falls into a lake, here leading to a deluge of crickets appearing and being used by an exotic spider farmer to feeds its arachnids, which keep growing in size and appetite. Until they break out of their confinements and shit.
It has all the usual hallmarks, from the setting of a small rural town (this time a minerary small community in Arizona), a corrupt major that feeds into the demands of crooked businessmen trying to basically rob the people of their land, a nerdy young boy who quickly figures out what’s happening but it’s not believed by anyone, a good hearted but awkward man that comes back to his hometown after years with unfinished business, the kinda dopey right-hand man of the local sheriff rude teens on BMXs, the crazy alien conspiracy guy talking on the radio, and so on.
But it just revels in the conventions, does them well, the characters are funny, likeable and are not made utterly stupid so the plot can be drawn out to fill the runtime, so they can actually kick some spider ass and are not “held hostage” by the needs of the narrative, which in turn makes the movie more fun and helps a lot in regards to the pacing, there’s no boring scene about a hillbilly exploring his nasal cavities for minutes in search of gold nuggets or some other ridiculous, tiresome padding.
It’s a funny movie, and has the classic trope of featuring footage from older B-movies that it’s homaging, like the brief showing of a bit from Earth VS The Spider, The Visitor and even Them!, and it has plenty of references or fairly obvious homages, the most striking being the survivor barricading themselves into the mall like in Dawn Of The Dead (or the Gremlins-esque cackles or comical routines given to the spiders), but you can spot a lot of various “inspirations” (and some more – or less – direct spoofs), and the plot basically lifts or indirectly references older giant spiders movies, for example it being set in Arizona like Kingdom Of The Spiders.
And it all comes off right because it’s delightfully executed in a goofy way, supported by a good cast (including a young Scarlett Johansson and David Arquette), decent acting and honestly great production values. The box art claiming it to come “from the producers of Indipendence Day and Godzilla (1998)” is no lie, and the special effects are as good as you would expect from that marketing blur, with a mix of surprisingly still decent looking CG (that back in the day would have been pretty damn good) and good practical props for the spiders, all quite well put together.
Honestly, there are movies from the late 2010s with CG creatures that don’t look as half as good as this (and should be ashamed for that alone), so “not bad” for a movie that’s almost 20 years old.
If i ever had to put down a “best/essential creature features list”, there’s no doubt Eight Legged Freaks/Arac Attack would make the cut, as it hits all the right spots, it’s derivative but quite aware of what it’s doing, reworking with wit the old material it “steals-homages”, and clearly has a genuine affection to the older B-movies it spoofs or reuses to make a fun comedy monster movie, filled with good actors, great effects and excellent pacing. I would even say it’s by now a classic B-movie of its own, adapting the formula for new decades but keeping fun and simplicity at its core.