If you’re going to name your movie “Arachnophobia,” your movie should embrace its title wholesale, and surely enough Frank Marshall‘s film does a hundred times over. “Arachnophobia” garners a creepy story, interesting characters, a very scary dilemma, but mostly it’s an endurance test on how much you can stand to watch poisonous spiders creep in and out of every nook and cranny without keeling over in fright. “Arachnophobia,” in any other decade, would be a B monster movie focusing on the frights of the lurking arachnids that are dominating this small town, and director Frank Marshall plays them up well, closing in on the predators as they steam roll through innocent individuals.
During a trip through the Amazon rain forest, a group of entomologists, including photographer Jerry Manley, who is battling a terrible flu, capture various bugs in an effort to examine them. This includes the accidental capture of a new breed of venomous spider that’s aggressive and prone to attacking its prey. One of the spider jumps in to the back pack of the Jerry’s, biting him in his tent, and he later dies a horrible death. Pointing his death to the flu and oblivious to the spider, Jerry’s body is shipped back to his home town in California, with the spider stowing away in his coffin. With the spider now loose in the California town, it begins breeding and wreaking havoc on town residents, leaving a trail of dead bodies in its path.
Now it’s up to physician Ross Jennings, as played by Jeff Daniels, to investigate the murders and track the spiders, despite the fact he suffers from a crippling case of arachnophobia. Little does he know the nest of spiders originate from his own barn. I spent most of my childhood watching this movie with my eyes closed, because director Marshall milks the spider phobia for all it’s worth. There are scenes of spiders crawling through drain pipes, in to food, in to mouths, out of animals, and it’s a never ending ick fest as they begin to take over a small town. Truthfully, “Arachnophobia” is a slasher film with spiders doing the work for the masked serial killer, and director Marshall twists that formula around for a diverse audience.
It’s gross and scary, while also an interesting adventure that attempts to channel the likes of “Jaws.” The spiders are an absolute threat to civilization soon enough as their venom producers horrific effects on its victims, and their domination ensures a natural disaster. Daniels plays the role of the inadvertent hero well, being forced to battle his own phobia in an attempt to save others. John Goodman is excellent as exterminator Delbert McClintock, who is introduced in the film as an exterminator with a vast knowledge of bugs, who joins in the fight to stop the growing species, and end the cycle of the spiders with their gigantic queen lurking in the darkness. “Arachnophobia” despite its occasional gross out moments, is still an entertaining and creepy monster film with humans battling spiders of the venomous and gigantic kind.