Monday, 2 February 2009

Eight-legged films

Journey to the Centre of the Earth (Asylum version) started me thinking about this: For no reason at all, a quick round up of some of my favourite creature flicks over the years:

Spiders (2000): This is what happens when special effects technicians get to direct films. What you get is conspiracy theorists, genetic experimentation, secretive government agencies, a couple claiming to be alien immigrants, creepy crawlies, and the Space Shuttle - all in the first ten minutes. The heroine is a feisty college rag journalist who would rather interview the said immigrants than cover any serious science stories; while Mother-in-Law and her offspring are worthy additions to the Hall of Fame of cinematic monsters. As far as I can tell the whole spectrum of special effects are employed here, from costume and puppetry through stop-motion to CGI, as each generation of spiders, larger than the last, presents new cinematic challenges.

There is a sequel - Spiders 2 (2001) - linked to the first film only in that it is another film featuring large numbers of giant spiders, this time running amok on a container ship.

Other notable arachnid-inspired films: Arachnid (2001): jungle survival film commits the cardinal sin of taking itself too seriously, particularly given the silly ending; yet at its best contains echoes of Predator.

Arachnaphobia (1990): unusually focus is on small, or at least normal-range spiders. As you might expect from a Spielberg production this is very effective visual cinema, and I remember this film as being extremely creepy.

Eight-Legged Freaks (2002): does exactly what it says on the tin (as I may have read in a review at the time). Hilarious from the outset, with a Mars Attacks attitude to body count and superb cgi - I read somewhere that first they tried to scale up realistic spiders but these were too cute and not scary enough. Everything's there - radiation, the small boy who sees everything but whom no-one believes, etc. Curiously the Achilles heel of the spiders (every B-movie monster needs an idiosyncratic weakness - see Evolution for more details) turns out to be that they are vulnerable to gunfire.

Tarantula (1955): the original giant spider, still a highly enjoyable film.

In searching for the illustration I discovered I haven't covered even half of this topic - will need to further research the titles "Earth Vs The Spider" and "Kingdom of the Spiders" amongst others...


Nathan said...

I've never really been a fan of Spider films, because I know they're playing on a general fear of spiders. As I'm not actually scared of spiders, I have the vague assumption that they won't bother me. I'm intrigued by Arachnid though, might take a look into it

Catherine Boone said...

Thank you for sharing this post. I love spiders.