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Creature-Corner's DVD Review : 8 Legged Freaks

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Starring: Kari Wuhrer (“Thinner”), David Arquette (“Scream”), Scott Terra, Rick Overton, and Scarlett Johanssen (“The Man Who Wasn’t There”)



Directed by: Ellory Elkayem (“They Nest”)





What we got here is some pretty zany stuff. Spiders of all varieties, infected by toxic waste-infected food (in this case, the food is crickets - why they don’t enlarge either is a head scratcher), grow to enormous proportions and attack a small Arizona town in this Dean Devlin (“Independence Day”) production. It’s got daffy characters, eye-rolling one-liners, and spiders that...almost talk. The FX are top-notch (the CG budget cost more than the cash spent on principal photography) featuring spastic arachnids full of attitude that hop, chomp, and attack gullible townsfolk, mounted mooseheads, and streetlamps. Drawing similarities between this film “Tremors” and “Gremlins” is an almost uninspired way to criticize this flick (your devoted Rotten one had shamefully done so when the film was released). Though the film strives to tackle the tone of those latter two classics, it fails on a number of levels, above all, capturing the strength of the “ensemble cast”. There’s not enough wit and hardly any realism to ELF’s characters.



The result is a live-action Saturday morning cartoon that screams for the attention of children everywhere (I’m really surprised an ELF animated series never went into production - one could claim dismal box office numbers, but that never stopped “Evolution” from poisoning children’s minds every Saturday morning). It makes little attempt at capturing the lovable seriousness of the giant monster flicks of the 1950s. Instead, writers Ellory Elkayem and Jesse Alexander (“Alias”) try to flip the genre on its head and spin it towards that wink-wink filmmaking found so annoying in theaters today.



On the other hand, ELF manages to entertain the guilty pleasure freak in all of us. There’s enough spider mayhem to please any monster lover as the little buggers take down background stunt extras left and right in the climatic last third of the film. Elkayem has a difficult time balancing the tone of the film (bouncing back and forth between Looney Toons and “Them”) and horror fans who love seeing people being feasted upon by arachnids benefit from this.





Where the concern usually lies in FX-heavy films like this is in its transition from the big screen to the small. CGI elements often call attention to their flaws. Here, it’s a mixed bag. While the 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer is sharp as black widow’s fangs, daylight shots scream “CGI!” on big action set-pieces like the jumping spider chase. On the opposite end of the spectrum, beautifully lit night shots do wonders for the spiders.





What can you say about a flick produced with some of the best sound equipment imaginable? Of course this sounds great! Crisp, effective, and it fully utilizes it’s 5.1 Dolby surround.





Warner Bros. wasted no time in releasing this flick to DVD (turnaround time was a little over three months!). In doing so you’d think this flick would come bare bones, but no, it’s a jam-packed presentation. Finally, we’re given a look at director Ellory Elkayem’s short film “Larger Than Life” - the film that got him the ELF job. A black and white, under 20-minute short flick, “Life” spins the tale of a woman who stands up against a couple of dog-sized spiders who’ve invaded her brand new home. It’s a lot of fun. It’s here that fledgling director Elkayem shows he’s got the chops to deliver a few creepy-crawly moments; unfortunately he’s only shown the genre-loving public that he can deliver the goods in the made-for-TV flick “They Nest” rather than ELF. The mini-flick boasts some pretty amazing CG effects that’ll make struggling film students drool (the New Zealand government fronted the cash).



A commentary with Elkayem, Arquette, Rick Overton, and Dean Devlin accompany the main feature. It tends to drop off into silence at times but Devlin talks up a storm leading this reviewer to believe that Elkayem might’ve been nudged out of the directing chair during production to make the tight shooting schedule. Arquette, as usual, comes across annoying (what else is new) and Elkayem is oddly silent...until Devlin steps away, then he finally opens up a little in the last twenty minutes. Another added feature is a large assortment of deleted/alternate scenes including a re-shot ending. There’s nothing to freak out about, everything cut was justifiably done so - seriously, do you really care about a subplot involving Arquette’s grief for his deceased father?



The disc carries a few mobile Easter Eggs (yes, mobile) that aren’t terribly exciting but nevertheless fun. What is sadly absent from the disc is some sort of featurette or “making-of” that gives a little insight into the CG and practical effects.





Great! They didn’t mess with the poster design - although they never should’ve tossed Arquette’s mug into the artwork.



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I've watched it and if you're into non-serious movies that doesn't pretend to be serious, you should give it a try. The movie unfolds exactly in the same manner of impression that the trailer gives, fun giant spider flick with a moderate amount of spider gore and non-frightening suspense(that wasn't criticism btw). It pretty much cuts to the chase of the origins of the spiders and before impatience sets it, viola, the giant spiders starts their rampage.


For a movie of this genre, I think David Arquette did a pretty good job for a directorial debut. Haven't listen to the commentary yet though.

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