Sometimes, the title says it all. Take today’s movie for example. Just looking at the title tells you that this movie involves spiders, and should probably be avoided by people that are scared of them. I know a couple of people that probably have a hard time even looking at the poster. Still, the fact that this is a horror/comedy probably made it easier for even the most extreme arachnophobics to at least give this movie a shot. After all, I know several people that hate horror movies but enjoyed Shaun Of The Dead. So let’s see just how scary today’s movie, Arachnophobia, really is.
The plot: Nature photographer Jerry Manley has traveled to the Amazon to join with Dr. James Atherton on his expedition into the Amazon rainforest. Along with the rest of Atherton’s team, they descend into a giant sinkhole, where Atherton uses smoke machines to stun the insects, causing them to fall out of the trees and into collection funnels on the ground. Hearing some large thuds, Atherton discovers a large, previously undiscovered spider in one of the funnels. As Atherton goes to check on two more spiders that have fallen, Manley goes to take a picture of the first spider, only to have it jump at his camera. Manley flings the spider from his camera and it winds up crawling into his backpack and later that night, while Manley is suffering from a fever, the spider winds up biting Manley and killing him. Believing that Manley died from the fever, Atherton has his body shipped back home, unaware that the spider has crawled into the coffin with Manley’s body. When the coffin arrives in Manley’s hometown of Canaima, CA, the spider escapes from the coffin after the town coroner opens it and makes it outside where a bird catches it. The bird flies off but doesn’t go very far as the spider bites it, causing it to fall to the ground near the home of the Jennings, a family that has recently moved to Canaima from San Francisco. As they are unpacking, Ross’ son, discovers a spider on one of the boxes so Ross’ wife, Molly, takes it out to the barn since Ross suffers from arachnophobia. Ross meets with Dr. Metcalf, whom he is supposed to take over for, but learns that Metcalf has decided to postpone his retirement. As he leaves Metcalf’s office, Ross meets Margaret Hollins, who chooses to be his first patient and decided to throw a party to welcome him to the town. Unknown to anyone, the spider that Molly released into the barn had mated with the Venezuelan spider and the eggs have hatched, releasing hundreds of spiders throughout the town, one of which bites Margaret after the party and kills her. Ross and Metcalf argue over the cause of death and Metcalf refuses to allow an autopsy to truly determine cause of death. The local football coach has Ross do a check-up on his team before practice but after a spider bites and kills the star quarterback, the town starts to view Ross critically. After Metcalf dies, Ross assumes the duties of town doctor and orders an autopsy done on the three victims, where he determines that they all were killed by spiders. He gets in touch with Dr. Atherton, who sends his assistant, Chris, to investigate Ross’ claims and they manage to find and capture one of the spiders. Chris calls Atherton and tells him to come to the town and when he arrives, Ross informs him of his theory that one of his Venezuelan spiders had been in the coffin with Jerry Manley, survived the trip, and mated with a regular spider to create these dangerous hybrids. Accompanied by local exterminator Delbert, Ross and Chris head to the mortician’s house while Atherton, noticing a picture of Ross’ barn, has the sheriff drive him out there. Atherton attempts to capture the male spider but the spider winds up killing him. After discovering the mortician and his wife are dead, Ross, Chris, and Delbert mark the site of every occurrence on a map and realize that the epicenter is Ross’ house. They head there and while Delbert checks the barn, Ross and Chris go to get Ross’ family out of the house, only to find the house swarming with spiders. Everyone manages to get outside except for Ross, who winds up falling through some rotting flooring and lands in his cellar. Realizing that his cellar is the spider’s nest, he begins looking for the egg sac, as well as the Venezuelan spider. He finds and kills the queen, then attempts to burn the egg sac but the male spider surprises him, causing him to fall, where he winds up trapped under a wine rack. As the spider approaches him, he manages to use a piece of debris to fling the spider into a nearby fire. As the egg sac starts to hatch, the male spider leaps out of the fire and lunges at Ross, but he uses a nail gun to shoot it, sending it flying into the egg sac, causing it to catch fire, while Delbert gets Ross to safety. After the events in Canaima, the Jennings decide to move back to San Francisco, where they only have to worry about earthquakes.
Arachnophobia was well received by the critics, earning a 91% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Many critics felt that while it did not offer much as far as genuine chills, it was a solid tribute to Hollywood’s classic creature features. Advertisers were not really sure how to market it and eventually decided to market it as a “thrill-omedy”. The movie was a box office success, making over $53 million domestically and earned over $30 million in rentals. For Mythbusters fans, this movie was the first movie that Jamie Hyneman worked on.
This is a great movie to watch. Jeff Daniels and Julian Sands were both really good as Ross Jennings and James Atherton respectively but I honestly thought John Goodman kind of stole the show as Delbert. The story was really good and really seemed like the classic movies from the 50’s and 60’s. In fact, there was a lot about this movie that reminded me about another spider movie, Kingdom Of The Spiders. The scenes with the spiders were well done and it was pretty neat how well they were able to get the spiders to move. A fun movie to watch, even if you don’t like the eight-legged stars.
Rating: 4 out of 5