Arachnophobia ***1/2


Here is a movie that makes my skin crawl to this day.  Let me start by saying that I have an awful fear of spiders.  I’m not sure where it comes from, just that I can’t get within a few feet of them without my heart racing.  So before the age of computer generated imagery, filmmakers had to use real spiders for this movie, which adds to the over all effect of the film. 

In a way this is a good thing.  Almost all the spiders I have seen in films during the past 15 years, have been created in post production by a computer.  No matter how much they perfect their craft though, nothing can ever replace the feeling of seeing an actual creatures as opposed to a computer generated one.  In fact computers can never really replace real stunt work either.  When a stunt man jumps off a building, it actual feels like a living person is falling to his death, but when it is computer generated, it loses the desired effect I believe.

Arachnophobia” comes from this former era and is all the more effective because of it.  Is this a good thing?  It is if you love realistic cinema, but if you despise spiders, then nothing could be worse.

The story involves an expedition by a group of scientists in to the Amazon.  They are looking for a particularly hard to find spider which when it appears, looks to be twice the size of my hand.  After it kills the photographer who has accompanied them, it stows away in the coffin for a journey back to America. 

When the coffin arrives back in the photographers home town, the giant spider escapes, making its way to a local farm.  It is here that it breeds in secret, creating a legion of very deadly babies that branch out and start picking off the locals. 

The main characters are a family who is new to the area, lead by the father played by Jeff Daniels.  He is a doctor who has found a job taking over for a small town physician who is retiring.  Just so happens he is deathly afraid of spiders.  Boy is he about to face down that fear. 

Apart from the spiders, we meet a fairly routine group of characters that make up this small town.  There is the usual small town dramas and family quarrels.  When a string of strange deaths come about, all the strands of the plot come together leading up to a finale that is pretty much my worst nightmare.

The director, Frank Marshall, seems at home in a small town like this.  He generally follows these characters around, giving us little glimpses in to their private lives all the while sneaking in a few disgusting spiders here and there.  I have to really praise the cast here because they perform their tasks around live spiders which is something I could never ever do. 

In fact the real power of this film comes from all the scenes involving the spiders.  They jump on to peoples faces, drop down from lamp shades and hide in bowls of pop corn.  The ending scene in particular is an incredible feat considering they were working with live creatures. 

I would be very interested to see a documentary about the making of this film.  I have a feeling that it is just as scary as the movie itself.


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