by Ian Kidd
Review of 1990 comic horror fim "Arachnophobia".
Arachnids Attack Arachnophobe!
The other night, I had the good fortune to slip in the dvd of one of my favourite ‘fun’ movies of all time, the Steven Spielberg-produced 1990 classic “Arachnophobia”. If you’re unfamiliar with this flick, let me inform you that it essentially an update of 1950s ‘Big Bug’ movies (albeit they’re not THAT big), in which nice Jeff Daniels plays a nice small town GP who begins to fear that a recent wave of deaths in said small town may be being caused by killer spiders! Everyone thinks he’s nuts, of course, but a newly-discovered-in-the-Amazon spider has hitched a ride to town, mated with the local arachnid populace, and created a mutant breed of spider who can kill with a single bite! It’s classic B movie material, but have no doubt, “Arachnophobia” is a cut above the norm. It’s admittedly stock characters are brought to life by some wonderful actors (Daniels, Harley Jane Kozak as his rather dishy wife, Julian Sands, whose... er... eccentric screen presence here fits perfectly as the eccentric Professor who knows all about said spiders, and a wonderful comic turn from the legendary John Goodman as local exterminator Delbert), fine dialogue, and a mix of thrills, chills and warm humour that make this movie a pleasure to watch. Incredibly, it seems to be a rather underrated, forgotten-about little gem, that didn’t really make it big at the box office. Why this should be is something of a mystery, although one theory is that too many people really are so scared of spiders that they didn’t want to go see a movie about them! Mmm, seems a little odd to me, personally. Can’t stand the little buggers myself, either, but it doesn’t stop me squirming most enjoyably through the safety of the cinema screen (or the television, nowadays). One would imagine people are scared of being murdered by a crazed serial killer, too, but it doesn’t stop them flocking to the latest “Halloween” or “Saw” movie. Of course, the other explanation, as some cruel wags would have it, is that it didn’t do very well because most Americans don’t know what the “arachnophobia” actually meant!
Not that I would ever put forth such a suggestion. Of course not, perish the thought (cough, splutter etc).
One of the other notable elements of “Arachnophobia” is that it was made just before the start of the CGI revolution, something which, it must be said, makes it all the better. I couldn’t help but think that if it were made nowadays, the spiders would all be CGI, fake-looking as all hell, and not half as scary as they are here. Back in 1990, of course, the filmmakers simply chucked dozens of the real thing all over the set, with far, far scarier results. The main exception, of course, being “the General”, the big bad South American spider that causes the trouble in the first place, which was the creation of Chris Walas and company. Again, however, this animatronic monster is still far preferable to what would be the modern-day computer graphics equivalent. It certainly looks squirmingly real enough as it crawls up a helpless Daniels’ leg in the hide-behind-your-hands climax.
As the movie reached it’s end, and the credits roll to the amusingly cheerful yet appropriate strains of a song called “Don’t Bug Me”, I couldn’t help but sit back, and give a little sigh of satisfaction. “Arachnophobia” has been a firm favourite since I first saw it at the cinema back in 1991, and it remains a complete pleasure every time I see it.
I have a feeling these spiders will be “bugging” me for quite some years to come.