Eight Legged Freaks (2002)

*. Scarlett Johansson just before she became a star. Next up would be Lost in Translation. But is there anything in Eight Legged Freaks that would suggest such an elevation to the A list? I don’t think she’s anything special playing the teenaged Ashley. Her later career turned into a bunch of roles that seemed like variations on a robot (the AIs in Her and Lucy, the cyborg in Ghost in the Shell, the alien in Under the Skin, whatever Black Widow is supposed to be). So at least we’re still at a point here where Ashley is a real person.
*. What’s more surprising, if sad, is the subsequent decline of Kari Wuhrer. I like Wuhrer, and she’s actually quite good here in a leading part. She certainly plays above her co-star David Arquette. But while she’s kept working (no mean feat in this industry), Wuhrer mainly went on to appear in a lot of bargain-basement horror work. Sequels such as The Hitcher II: I’ve Been Waiting, Hellraiser: Deader (the seventh film in that franchise), The Prophecy: Uprising and Forsaken (the fourth and fifth entries there), and Sharknado 2: The Second One. What a filmography!

*. We needn’t spend much time on the movie itself. Things go downhill from the title, which is missing a hyphen. These aren’t eight freaks that happen to have legs but an infestation of giant spiders, the result of a toxic chemical spill. Obviously it’s meant as a send-up of a concept that had already been parodied enough by now. None of it is very new, or funny. Most of the humour is strained, even as a cartoon. I think by now it’s a movie that’s pretty much been forgotten.
*. For good reason. It’s a monster movie mainly, and the monsters are terrible. I’d say the CGI has just dated badly, but even at the time it looked bad. As Desson Howe remarked in his contemporary review, “those spiders look like special effects.” And not good special effects either. I honestly prefer the giant hairy spider in Tarantula!, even taking into account when that film was made.
*. So pretty much all we’re left with is Scarlett Johansson before she was a star. Which isn’t saying much in my book, so I won’t say anything more.

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