Easter Eggs: Wait until a spider stops moving across the screen. Move the spider selector icon from the bottom choices upward, using the UP button on the remote. A Target will appear over the paused spider. Pressing Enter on the remote will reveal a spider graphic and factoids on the following menu pages: Main Menu - Black Widow, Features - Trapdoor Spider, Languages - Tarantula
After making a successful short film about a woman who discovers several giant spiders in her new home, New Zealand filmmaker Ellory Elkayem was brought to the attention of "Godzilla" co-producer Dean Devlin, and was signed on to direct a feature-length giant bug movie.
Like his short film, "Larger Than Life," Elkayem's use of models and CGI work is fairly fluid, and the Warner Bros DVD presents "Eight Legged Freaks" in a sharp transfer, along with the director's original black and white short. With a larger budget and more characters to entomb in customized, silky sleep-sacks for mealtime (or just a light snack), the spiders are much bigger, and quickly carpet the town, surrounding the remaining inhabitants and waiting for the humans' next move. The effects are the real stars of the film, and several standout sequences - a chase through the desert, ending with scrambling bugs on a jack-knifed trailer - are gorgeous on this DVD. Elkayem goes for rich orange-brown for the desert, and cool blue for the night and subterranean sequences, and the transfer is near flawless.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 contains a decent mix with organic sound effects, but the real star is John Ottman's witty score, making good use of the surround mix, and wryly incorporating "The Itsy Bitsy Spider" song whenever a Herculean arachnid is on the offensive.
The extras include Elkayem's short film, which stars Rebecca Hobbs, best known for her work in Scott Reynolds' excellent thriller, "The Ugly," also from 1997. A clever tribute to the giant bug movies of the 50s, "Larger Than Life" has a basic Dolby mix, and the black & white cinematography shows little artifacting. Elkayem offers a brief text intro to his film, and the prickly spiders in the short will genuinely make you cringe - at least once. (Note: take a bath BEFORE watching the film.)
The commentary is fairly standard, offering general anecdotes of the production, and Arquette's comments reveal a facile nature that serves him well in his comedic roles. The group never gets into the giant bug genre, and some insight from Elkayem or Devlin regarding the genre and some of the classics that influenced the film would have given the commentary more substance.
Though the box says there's 8 deleted scenes, there's actually 11, which include an early version of the opening title sequence (with blurred temp credits), several scene extensions, and the original, less dramatic ending. Though none of the scenes are chapter indexed or contain placement headings, each scene, taken from a rough AVID dub, is separated by black leader.
As with the label's other horror and sci-fi entries on DVD, there's a nice essay on the giant spider sub-genre, citing many films worth hunting down, and there's a "High-Voltage Spider-Killing Challenge" video game in the disc's DVD-ROM section.
© 2002 Mark R. Hasan