Eight Legged Freaks DVD Review

Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich can burn. After what they did to Godzilla, they deserve to suffer. But, anyone can redeem themselves and both of them did, lending their services to Eight Legged Freaks. Easily one of the best (and entertaining) giant bug movies ever, this is not only a nearly flawless tip-o-the-hat to the classic 50's genre, but a wild ride on its own. Toxic waste is once again the catalyst in the small town of Prosperity. Fed radioactive crickets by their owner, a large number of spiders grow to ridiculous proportions and begin to lay waste to any small animal. At the same time, Chris McCormick (David Arquette) returns to the small town after a 10-year absence. Reunited with the sheriff who is also a lost love (played by Kari Wuhrer) and her spider-loving son (Scott Terra), they begin to pick off the creatures while trying to save the inhabitants of the town. Though not exactly a major studio hit, Eight Legged Freaks did manage to cause a small buzz in 2002. This is a wonderful, tongue-firmly-in-cheek monster movie that never lets up. Rarely will you find giant bugs and major laughs in the same film, but director Ellory Elkayem knew exactly how to handle this type of film and it shows through here. Most directors who tackle this genre in a comedic way just toss in some terrible effects and acting, believing that this is what the genre is all about. It's not. Freaks has some really nice effects, especially considering the overwhelming use of CGI. The acting is par and occasionally cheap, but never overblown. The comedy mostly comes from the spiders themselves, who can almost "talk," Gremlins style. This is an absolute blast to watch and if you go in with the right mind set, you're guaranteed to have a great time. (**** out of *****) Two version of the film are available. First is a 2.35:1 widescreen (reviewed here as always) and a pan & scan version for those who have yet to move into the true DVD generation. The transfer used here is hit or miss, usually due to some annoying film grain. It's most likely the extensive use of CGI that causes this, but the darker sequences are just overflowing with it. Otherwise, this is a clean print with solid color and deep black levels. Some minor color bleeding occurs with the deeper reds and some flicker is evident as well, but these are minor issues compared to the grain. (***) Making up for a lackluster video presentation is a wonderful Dolby 5.1 mix. The title creatures make their way through all of the speakers at some point, and the large fight in the mall is a spectacular audio experience. Your subwoofer will take a beating here as well. The larger spiders pound their way across the screen, each footstep shaking the room like it should. A DTS edition of this movie would likely be one of the best sounding discs on the market. (****) The extras here are few, but they make up for it in quality. A commentary track from Arquette, Elkayem, Devlin, and Rick Overton (who plays the hilarious deputy in the film), is fun even though Arquette sounds like he is either drunk or high on something. Thirteen minutes of deleted/alternate scenes have been included in widescreen, but their video quality is not great. The commentary mentions numerous alternate takes with Overton's character but none have been included here sadly. "Larger than Life" is easily the best extra on the disc. This 13-minute short was Elkayem's precursor to the feature. This black and white film follows a women fending off enlarged spiders in her home, mostly in the same vein as Freaks. She calls an exterminator who is, to say the least, very unsuccessful and takes on the largest critter herself. Also included on the disc is a short essay on the giant bug genre and the films trailer presented in 1.85:1, which is not the proper ratio oddly enough. Final credit must be given for the cool menus, which mimic movie posters of old. (****) Not everyone will "get" Eight Legged Freaks. If you have never seen any of the 50's classics (such as "Them!" which actually gets a cameo in this movie) then you may not understand the idea and thought behind it. Those who grew up loving and those who still do love these true classics will have a blast here. This is a must-see film, but only if you are included in the above group.

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