By: Tom Doty Times Columnist
September 6, 2013
Let me preface this review with a statement for any arachnids out there: We all appreciate the work you do, keeping the bug population down. Who knows what would overrun us, if you guys weren’t out there killing and eating all manner of insect?
That said, we are creeped out by you furry eating machines. Just check out this guide to spider cinema if you don’t believe me.
“Eight-Legged Freaks” — Giant spiders tear down a desert community in this fun fright flick. You get to see all manner of spiders blown up to human size here. There are jumpers, trappers, and flat-out monster-sized specimens. Luckily, we have David Arquette (Deputy Dewey from “Scream”) and a handy bottle of perfume when things get rough. 2004, rated PG-13.
“The Giant Spider Invasion” — This time the Midwest is in for a licking, as space spiders (sans David Bowie) attack Wisconsin. The cast tries hard, but they just can’t sell this lame effort that culminates in a huge arachnid on the attack (actually a clumsily built spider cover that is then slipped over a Volkswagen). 1975, rated PG.
“Spiders” — Now we are getting somewhere. Here you get an intrepid reporter trying to prove that the government has accidentally imported space spiders off a space probe (aren’t any of these critters local?). A tight budget gets a huge lift here, thanks to inspired direction, a game cast and excellent CGI. Two sequels have followed, and not a clunker in the bunch. 2000, rated R.
“Arachnid” — Jack Sholder (“Alone in the Dark”) directed this one. Here, you get an alien who makes a spider huge to hide from earthlings who come looking for him when he crashes on a remote island. Good effects help and it moves pretty well after the first half-hour sets up the players. 2001, rated R.
“Tarantula” — Jack Arnold (“Creature from the Black Lagoon”) directed this classic that sees Leo G. Carroll (“Man From U.N.C.L.E.”) cast as a scientist trying to increase the world’s food supply. Unfortunately, he messes up his DNA and creates a giant tarantula that threatens to destroy the world. Luckily, Clint Eastwood is on hand as a fighter pilot who incinerates the hulking beats before it can make it to town. 1955, unrated.
“The Incredible Shrinking Man” — Alright, I am cheating here, as we only have a giant spider because the main character is shrunk to the size of an ant. It totally works, though, thanks to an excellent script by the late, great, Richard Matheson that he adapted from his equally fine novel. Jack Arnold directs again and manages to connect with the universal nightmare of being at the mercy of those little critters we swat, spray and brush out of our way.
A whole column could be devoted to the more mainstream films that keep their spiders at a normal size, like “Arachnophobia” or “Kiss of the Tarantula,” but it wouldn’t be half as much fun.
Best line: “They’re not aliens. They’re spiders mutated by contaminated waste.”