Director(s): Frank Marshall
Writer(s): Don Jakoby, Al Williams, Wesley Strick
Starring: Jeff Daniels, Julian Sands, John Goodman
There are certain scenes or themes in horror history (and of course in my vault) that have been immortalized as the the source of fears embedded in our culture. The most obvious would be legendary movies like JAWS that made people afraid of their toilets, bathtubs, swimming pools, oceans, puddles or any body of water for that matter and Stephen King’s IT (original TV version) that left its permanent mark on our world that clowns are downright bone-chilling.
There are some however, that get lost in the shuffle in the great tapestry of the horror universe but there was one in particular that had me scanning the floor of my garage before entering or creating loud noises around the area before putting my hand in a dark area to reach for something. Arachnophobia was a wonderful flick back in the 90s that for a brief moment in time, gave everyone in the world the fear the title suggests; the VERY rational fear of f*cking SPIDERS. Yes, I know tons of folks who were scared of spiders whether or not this flick existed but for a short period of time, I felt everyone got to share that uneasy feeling of eight, gangly legs tiptoeing their way up your legs then maybe your chest and then, why not the neck or face? Maybe you’re asleep while it happens or perhaps you didn’t even notice while you were leaning on a wall? Yes, I remember watching this flick as a child and for a brief moment in my timeline, I was cautious and fearful of the creepy crawlies that exist in almost every home which is very indicative of how successful this film was in its goals (besides making money of course).
The film follows a new doctor in a small town settling with his family when rare, killer spiders start taking over and the deaths start piling up. With the help of some experts and a local exterminator (the COOLEST character in this flick), the war on the killer arachnids will determine the fate of the small town. A brilliant move in this flick is how it plays like a cat and mouse game although, you already know the culprits of the murders but you’re following the main characters as they get closer to the real answer. So many times in the movie where you’re screaming in your head, IT’S KILLER SPIDERS YOU IDIOTS! But alas, the movie wouldn’t be as suspenseful if the characters knew everything right away, right?
Since the murderers are a mix of real and beautifully crafted puppet spiders, the characters in the movie drove the story in the sense that a mystery was to be solved and by the time everyone is on board that killer spiders accidentally transferred from the jungle were at their door, the audience is already invested in the killer showdown. The last 20 minutes of this movie is what nightmares are made of for anyone who ever cringed at a spider coming their way. The practical effects were top notch as the real spiders were mostly used in wide shots as they take over a wall, door, window, etc. while the puppet spiders were used for the fight scenes which were done SO well to the point where it did felt like more of a slasher movie than a creature feature. John Goodman’s performance as the militant exterminator, Delbert was the most memorable character in the whole flick since his arsenal of fire and poisons made you wish you had that kind of artillery the next time you see a spider web.
It’s odd in the realm of remakes that this hasn’t been considered yet (not saying I’d want it, but just surprised based off the current trends) because it seems that the advances in practical effects would escalate the terror of creatures that are still feared today. I mean, the the fear of the S creatures; Snakes, Sharks and SPIDERS are still so dominant today that I’m surprised the studios didn’t try to cash out on this phenomenon. Sure, they can make a NEW movie that would re-instill the fear of the arachnids to the public but why pursue creative new directions and originality when we can just slap on a familiar name and re-do the story (sarcasm much?)?
Or perhaps the next time you know someone with a slight fear of spiders you can introduce them to an innocent movie about a doctor and his family fighting off mysterious spiders that came from the jungle…and maybe just leave out the third act where the spiders go absolutely APE SH*T and start congregating to attack all human kind.
Life is FAR more interesting when we take interest in things that scare us.