Eight Legged Freaks (2002)

Do you hate spiders? Do you really hate spiders? Well they don’t like you either

Writer: Ellory Elkayem
Director: Ellory Elkayem

Eight Legged Freaks (ELF) is basically Them! (1954) with laughs, albeit based around giant spiders rather than ants. Whilst basically a send-up of the monster sub-genre, the movie also includes references to a number of other horror classics such as Dawn of The Dead (1978), Invasion of the Bodysnatchers (1956) and Friday the 13th (1980).

The plot of ELF is appropriately thin: a barrel of toxic waste falls from a lorry and contaminates a river, from whence the chemicals are carried to the “exotic spider farm” that happens to be situated nearby. Through some unclear mechanism this causes the spiders to grow to giant size and they then invade the nearby town of “Paradise”. The human cast is a selection of stereotypes including evil mayor, returning hero, sexy female sheriff, dopey deputy and conspiracy nut. All perfect fodder for a parody.

Given the above it’s perhaps surprising that the effects – by which I mean the spiders – are of very high quality. If you have even a touch of arachnophobia then ELF will be difficult for you to watch, the spiders were gorgeous. All sorts of arachnids are represented including jumpers, trapdoor spiders and of course a giant tarantula. In fact the great spiders sit rather uneasily in a film that is basically taking the mick out of a sub-genre known for dodgy special effects and men in rubber suits!

Despite the effects and multiple deaths ELF is definitely a comedy. A lot of people die but most of the deaths we see are more or less amusing even when somewhat nasty. The problem for me was that the film just wasn’t funny enough, especially in the first half.

A parody stands or falls by the quality and quantity of its humour. ELF certainly does deliver some laughs, but not nearly as many as it could or should have done. Some of the jokes – mainly sight gags – are excellent, there just aren’t enough of them to carry the movie. The result is that even at a short 99 minutes it feels too long.

Eight Legged Freaks has some great effects and and certainly delivers a few laughs but needed some serious “gagging up” to fulfil its potential.