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Eight Legged Freaks (UK) (DVD Details)

Unique ID Code: 0000044064
Added by: RWB
Added on: 27/2/2003 11:54
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    Review of Eight Legged Freaks

    5 / 10


    In the 1950s many `B-movies` were released - films that broke away from the more mainstream titles and instead focused on topics such as genetically-mutated insects who have a penchant for human ass-kicking.

    Ellory Elkayem, a director from New Zealand, decided to make a short film in this genre a while back. Entitled Larger Than Life, it was shot on monochrome and stylised to appear like it was a genuine B-movie and not a contemporary piece of film-making. With support from the New Zealand government, the film was shown at a US festival, where producer Dean Devlin saw it and then revealed to Elkayem his intent on reviving the genre on the 21st century silver screen.

    Due to the apparent calibre of the short, a big screen adaptation was green-lighted, by the name of Eight Legged Freaks. And it sounded something like this:

    The residents of a rural mining town discover that an unfortunate chemical spill has caused hundreds of little spiders to mutate overnight to the size of SUVs. It`s then up to mining engineer Chris McCormack and Sheriff Sam Parker to mobilize an eclectic group of townspeople, including the Sheriff`s young son, Mike, her daughter, Ashley and paranoid radio announcer Harlan, into battle against the bloodthirsty eight legged beasts.


    1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen. This was released in 2002 so the quality of the film stock is high, thus the print is crisp and clear, and the transfer has replicated this quality without any artefacts visible, such as dust or grain. The colour definition is also good, with deep visuals.

    Eight Legged Freaks relies on the visual presentation to create tension and suspense - and although Elkayem appears to be a competent director, especially since this is his first main feature, the spiders themselves are one of the main downfalls of the film. They are all, of course, CGI, and they all appear artificial and lifeless, and do not look as if they pose any kind of threat to the human race. When they appear any sense of danger evaporates, and although this is billed as an action comedy, the laughs will not be with the film but at it, mainly due to what appears to be CGI from the early 90s.


    Dolby Digital 5.1 (English) & Dolby Digital 2.0 (French & Italian). The soundstage is vast and well defined, with the rear channels - with the rear-left in particular - being used frequently to reproduce every little sound echoed by the oncoming spiders. The subwoofer however is not used as well: there is little bass in the film, which is a shame as some good rumblings would have benefited the action sequences enormously. Going back to the positives, the main audio stream is crisp and clear throughout, and is used for the dialogue.

    As well as directing, Elkayem also co-wrote the script for this, and it must be said that his passion for this genre is evident. By writing in the trademark biohazard spillage and subsequent escape of the creatures, Eight Legged Freaks will feel like putting on a familiar pair of shoes for fans of the B-movie genre. But, in today`s cinematic society, it offers little compared to other action films, let alone other more `serious` films. The characters are undeveloped and are mainly there for spider fodder, and although the Sheriff and her daughter are more rounded, this feels rushed and not taken seriously - after all, this is hardly going to be watched by a group of people who care about a strong narrative and characters. The dialogue itself is OK, by no means memorable or great, but luckily, for the most part, the cheesy factor is not that high.


    The extras begin with an audio commentary from stars David Arquette and Rick Overton, writer/director Ellory Elkayem and producer Dean Devlin. As with 90% of commentaries it is worth listening to, and is not boring, but this is not the best commentary to be released since DVD was born. Worth tuning into on a repeat viewing though.

    There are about 10 minutes of additional scenes, which add a little more depth to the proceedings. Some of them should not have been cut (highlight: young geek exclaiming "Oh cool, a Casiopeia E175 with 64MB of RAM!").

    Elkayem`s short, Larger Than Life, is on offer too, and it is actually quite engaging for a film that clearly has a low budget, yet looks as if it was a real labour of love. In ways better than the main feature.

    A theatrical trailer rounds off the package.

    The menus are designed as if they were a poster from the 50s (fonts and all), and are animated slightly with some music in the background. They are easy to navigate.


    This does what it says on the tin - it is a tongue-firmly-in-cheek flashback to the 50s, spiders and all. But, that is where the problem lies. The actual B-movies were not that great, and this isn`t actually as good as some of them, even though cinematic technology has evolved copiously since then.

    I recently saw Empire of The Ants, a film from a good few years back that featured giant ants (if you didn`t get that already), and although the presentation of the film had aged significantly, it was still watchable and fairly enjoyable.

    However, Eight Legged Freaks has no charm going for it, as, unlike Empire of The Ants, it is actually trying to be cheesy: something that just doesn`t sit well in the context of the film.

    This might offer entertainment to pre-teens and the odd fan of the B-movie genre, and perhaps even the odd action junkie who has nothing else to watch, but compared to other disaster films in particular this ends up at the bottom of the pack.

    The disc itself is good presentation-wise: trademark DVD visuals and audio; but the extras need some real work. Warner Bros. have recently dropped the RRP of their DVDs, and it seems that the special features have suffered for it. The commentary, deleted scenes and short film might be good, but they are not enough to give full insight into the production. A making-of and interviews with the cast and crew would have been a good start.

    If you really have nothing else to watch, this might just be a justified rental - but rental only. The film has little replay value, and it is poorly executed, although the odd good set-piece prevents this from entering `utter crap` terrority. The acting is also nothing to write home about, and the lead, David Arquette, looks bored for the most part. The DVD is average: let down by fairly poor extras, meaning that overall, there is little to recommend this.

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