Eight Legged Freaks

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(2002) ★★★★

Arizona black-sheep David Arquette returns to his run-down hometown of Prosperity to find the place crawling with giant mutant spiders. Supersize trapdoor spiders, tarantulas as big as houses, and nasty striped jumpers that pounce like the lethal bugs in Starship Troopers. Sheriff Kari Wuhrer rounds up the surviving citizenry and heads for the shopping mall – concrete and steel might be their best chance of survival in a gleefully staged, splatter-shot arach-attack action of facetious tone. Like its comic creature-feature predecessors Tremors and Arachnophobia, Freaks skilfully mixes genuine jumps and jolts with some intentionally funny dialogue. And director Ellory Elkayem brought his own special expertise to the project: inspired by the atomic horrors of the 1950s in giant bug movies like Them! and Tarantula, the New Zealand film-maker paid tribute in 1998 with the funny mutant spider short Larger Than Life. In Canada two years later, he made his feature debut with the unpretentious small-town creepy-crawly shocker They Nest. The rest, clearly, is hysteria.

Certificate: 12