Retro Rewatch: Eight Legged Freaks

PoppaScotch

Retro Rewatch is an ongoing editorial that takes a look into certain films, conventions, crazes, and characters of the horror genre years after their heyday. It is an effort to try and put the magnifying glass up to the horror world with the much needed luxuries of time and perspective applied in order to fully understand the impact and social significance of these projects/themes/ideas (if any). So for this installment of Retro Rewatch, I present to you the often forgotten film Eight Legged Freaks.

It’s kind of odd to consider a film from 2002 as “retro” but sometimes that term doesn’t necessarily apply to the date that the movie came out, but rather the intentions of the filmmakers to reference a different time of cinema.  Without a doubt, despite your personal feelings of the movie it was an attempt to modernize the big bug movies of the 40s and 50s and bring them into the popular culture in hopes of starting a new revolution of irradiated monster attack films.  If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’ll just go ahead and tell you that it didn’t happen, but oh buddy do I wish it did.

Eight Legged Freaks falls into a very special niche group of movie fans.  It appeals to people that enjoy a large apocalyptic scenario, a plot that clearly comes secondary to the setup, gore fans, people looking for a fun time via slap stick comedy, and viewers who would rather watch a brainless and fun romp rather than something they have to think about.  That is a very specific group of people (or otherwise, a very specific mood to be in) which no doubt shows in the lackluster box office numbers and the small (if existent at all) fan base.  But the movie has at least one fan: Poppascotch.

Don’t get me wrong in the least Eight Legged Freaks is far from a perfect movie.  Hell, it’s pretty far from being just a passable movie, but that doesn’t take away the fact that the film is a whole lot of fun to watch.  However that only applies if you decide to check both logic and reason at the door.  The plot holes in the film are numerous and all equally outlandish as the idea that giant spiders are attacking the entire town.  For example, the spiders in the film are fast enough to track down and kill a bunch of kids on motocross bikes, which ok I’ll buy for the moment, but later as the towns people are running in the street and towards the mall, half of them make it just fine against spiders that can travel upwards of 60 miles per hour?  Also, how in the hell did those trap door spiders set up shop behind a bar so quickly and efficiently?  Those are two major plot holes and I haven’t even touched the surface yet.   In a round about way of schlock cinema comprehension, this can all be explained.

The reason that so many of these crazy and outlandish events exist in the film is because they simply look cool and at times, move the plot along.  When can the trap door spiders make themselves hidden so quickly?  Because it’s awesome, that’s why.  Why is it ok if a motorcycle with a combustion engine can start and fly through the mine with no problem at all, but the slightest match strike could ignite the methane gas in the mine?  Because they we wouldn’t have a sweet race through the mine later kill joy.  The movie doesn’t exist to be a pillar of realism; it exists to give you an hour and forty minutes of entertainment at the expense of realism.  Isn’t that what movies are all about?

A popular viewer stance in movies today seems to be that realism is king.  In many situations that don’t portray absolute realism, or at least set the movie in a real world environment, there always has to be a reason that the perception of reality is being altered.  In The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, they had a beautiful dream world that is accessed through the Imaginarium.  In the critically acclaimed film Inception, all the cool visual effects took place in a dream.  The point I’m making is that if reality is going to be distorted at all past the point of believability, then it has to be explained to the audience.  When did this happen?  I didn’t sign up for this.  When I watch a film, I want to explore the world of the film along with the characters, and more times than not, unrealistic situations or scenarios don’t take me out of the movie, I just roll with the punches.  Apparently people aren’t willing to do that anymore.

I could go on and on about the problems with movie going audiences today, but that’s a whole other article, for a whole other time.  Eight Legged Freaks is what the discussion is all about and if you take the film for exactly what it is, then it’s a great movie to pick with a six pack and a pizza and some good friends.  You don’t need to listen to ever single plot development in the film, and it’s ok if you miss a few jokes because it doesn’t matter.  The movie isn’t about portraying a real world scenario; it’s about taking you through a ridiculous situation with some horror, some laughs, and some fun characters.  In some ways, I want to think that if the three stooges were still alive and relevant of today’s popular culture, then this would be the horror comedy hybrid that they would make.  It’s not perfect by a long shot, but it’s a lot of fun if you can just shut off that big ole melon of yours.

Is it a cult classic, a fitting analysis, or complete forgettable?:  As much as it hurts to say, it’s completely forgettable for most because it takes all the hamminess out of the big bug movies by actually cracking jokes rather than playing it all seriously.  For a few people though, it’s a cheesy and ridiculous cult classic.  I’m one of those select few.

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