I just got back from a great writers’ retreat in Middleburg, VA, not too far from Washington, DC. I’ll write about it in my next post, as soon as I’ve had a chance to assimilate the weekend.
Meantime, this old horror novelist wants to talk about guilty pleasures. The term itself relates to something that a person enjoys despite feeling guilty for enjoying it. Where does the guilt come in? From worrying about what others might think about one’s tastes, maybe seeing you as a real lowbrow, or an eccentric. Maybe you still like listening to disco, or wearing your old Nehru jacket or platform shoes.
Or watching dumb movies.
Let me first say this about guilty pleasures: maybe it’s because I’ve gotten older, or (hopefully) a bit wiser, but ya know, I don’t give a rat’s patoot anymore about what people think. So with that in mind, let me share some thoughts about the first of what will be quite a few more of MY guilty pleasures in films—most all of them, naturally, in horror, fantasy, and science fiction.
Which brings us to Eight Legged Freaks. (You grammarians out there, don’t hit me on leaving the hyphen out. That’s what the movie studio called it.) The film, starring David Arquette and a pre-superstar, teenaged Scarlett Johansson, came out in 2002 and was originally titled, Arac Attack (get it? arachnid), but this was not long after 9/11, and Arac sounded too much like Iraq, so . . . well, you can figure that out. Its log line was, “Let the squashing begin!” That should tell you a lot right there.
But that said, I love the darn film, which is modeled after the campy “monster movies” of the 1950s. (Think The Blob, and Tarantula, and It Came From Outer Space.) This one, however, is presented tongue in cheek, and it is a laugh-a-minute and gross-out-per-minute funfest.
The plot is pretty basic: weird old guy raises a gazillion spiders in his house, spiders get exposed to toxic waste, grow huge, chow down on weird old guy, get loose and start killing people—mostly obnoxious teenagers at first. They next get ready to attack a small mining town that has been hit hard by the economy, and the eclectic townies make their stand in a shopping center, and later in the mining tunnels under the town. It’s up to Arquette’s character, mining engineer Chris McCormack, and the sheriff, Samantha Parker (a hot Kari Wuhrer), to stop the spiders, along with the help of (naturally) a kid, who knows more about spiders than all of them combined.
Arguably, my favorite character is Harlan (Doug E. Doug), a paranoid commentator on a pirate radio station who espouses one conspiracy theory after another, most of them involving alien abductions and anal probes. He provides occasional play-by-play analysis of what’s going on until finally joining in the battle against the pesky arachnids. If ultimately you’re not convinced that this film doesn’t take itself too seriously, the final credits roll to a creepy musical version of “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider.”
So let the squashing begin. Eight Legged Freaks is an absolute hoot! Check it out. A great guilty pleasure if there ever was one. Let me know some of yours. Really. Don’t be embarrassed . . .