First rule of making a B-movie schlockbuster: don't hang around. Why waste time spinning unnecessary plot strands and weaving intricate relationship webs when you can be getting down to the brass tacks of a 20-foot tarantula trashing a trailer home?
Director Ellory Elkayem understands this, taking all of 10 minutes to get the set-up dusted. There's this exotic spider farm, right, and the owner's been feeding his eight-legged pals bugs from a polluted lake. The arachnids are growing really, really fast and... oh shit, they've broken free and are taking over the town!
Okay, so there're the broadest, brightest character strokes to give the two-legged cast colour. The town's female sheriff, Sam (Kari Wuhrer), has the hots for knucklehead Chris (David Arquette). Her young son (Scott Terra) is a spider expert, but no one listens to him because no one ever listens to kids in these kind of movies. Her teen daughter (Scarlett Johannson) is moody and hangs around with guys on motorbikes. And then there's the town crackpot Harlan (Doug E Doug), who's convinced an alien attack is imminent but refuses to believe in giant spiders. Until someone suggests they're from Mars.
This is classic creature feature fare, starting with a shadowy glimpse here, a speedy scuttle there, and plenty of off-screen chomping. Then the impressive CG beasties explode into the sun/ limelight, leaping through the air to take out teens on motorbikes and scurrying up four-story buildings in seconds. The residents go toe-to-pincer with their fiendish foes, blasting shotguns, jabbing pitchforks and revving up chainsaws, and it's loopy, gloopy fun from here on in.
Well, sort of, because Eight Legged Freaks' main flaw is the final showdown. Set in a maze of mineshafts, it just runs and runs and runs. And runs. Sure, watching giant swarming spiders getting squished and squashed is fantastic fun - - but by the thousandth spider and the thousandth splat, it all starts to feel an itsy-bitsy, well, flat.
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'50s-flavoured sci-fi with a knowing wink, this scampers along at a cracking pace. Could have done with a few more chills and a tighter ending, but you'll be shivering with delight.