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Arachnophobia (1990)

DVD Cover (Walt Disney Studios)
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6.6
 / 10
24 votes
Genres / Traits:
Comedy, Horror, Horror Comedy, Natural Horror, Creatures: Insects
Director:
Frank Marshall Frank Marshall
Starring:
Jeff Daniels Jeff Daniels
Harley Jane Kozak Harley Jane Kozak
John Goodman John Goodman
Julian Sands Julian Sands
Stuart Pankin Stuart Pankin
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Review by Chad
Added: May 04, 2005
A single event down in South America will eventually wreak havoc on a small California town in this 1990 horror comedy (putting much more emphasis on the comedy side of the genre). Well, that may be a bit dramatic for this film, but the end result really isn't very nice for the fine folks of this town. It all begins when Dr. James Atherton (Julian Sands), an entomologist studying new species of spiders down in the Venezuelan rain forest, discovers a new species of spider. Wouldn't have guessed that to happen, eh? However, what sets this spider apart from the rest is the fact that it's huge, highly aggressive, and as the photographer for this little science group finds out, extremely venomous. The spider is so venomous, in fact, that the photographer dies just seconds after being bitten. Compare that to the infamous black widow spider, a spider which can bite a full-grown adult thirteen times and still not kill them (as we later find out in this film), and it becomes pretty clear that this is one nasty arachnid. So then, the photographer dies as a result of the spider bite, but nobody actually suspects that the spider is what caused the death... no one saw the spider around the man, and he was also suffering from an extremely high fever. It's assumed that he died from said fever, so they pack him up in a box and ship him back to his hometown in California... with the spider in tow. Whoops.

Meanwhile, in the very same town that this corpse is being sent to, young Dr. Ross Jennings (Jeff Daniels) and his family consisting of wife Molly (Harley Jane Kozak), daughter Shelley (Marlene Katz), and son Tommy (Garette Ratliff Henson) have just purchased a new house in this small country town in order to escape the high-speed way of life back in San Francisco. Ross has talked to Dr. Sam Metcalf (Henry Jones) prior to moving here, and everything is in place for Sam to step down as town doctor and let Ross take over upon his arrival. So, with a new house, a secure job that he starts in a few days, and a happy family, things couldn't be better... right? Not quite so fast there. For starters, Sam decides that he's not quite ready to retire just yet, leaving Ross with no job, no prospects, no income, a newly purchased house, and a family to feed. Then, after managing to secure an entire one patient and taking her off of the wrongly-prescribed medicine that Sam had given her, the patient dies. Down on his luck and cursed by a string of horrendous events, one of his friends decides to throw some work his way. This friend is the coach for the local football team, so he asks Ross to do the annual hernia check-up. After grasping each player's testicles, one of them dies on the field. With two deaths in the town in a matter of days, with both of the deceased having last been checked up on by Ross, the town starts to label him as Dr. Death, and the chances of him getting work now are pretty much out the window... but when he finds out that a swarm of deadly spiders are responsible for the deaths, that's about the point which things get really bad.

When this movie was released back in 1990, I was nine years old and loved it. Even though it looked certain that this was a case of "loved it as a kid, hated it as an adult", what with Jeff Daniels in a lead role, John Goodman in a supporting role, and a seemingly lackluster storyline, I decided to go ahead and rent it some fifteen years later and induct it into the MvMMDI line of reviews. I'm glad to say that this film has stood the test of time, and it was just as entertaining two hours ago as it was fifteen years ago. While the movie is certainly aimed more towards the younger audience, it definitely can appeal to the adult audience thanks to a very well-executed storyline and plenty of great laughs and even greater creep-out scenes. Personally, I'm not scared of spiders in the least... I've lived out in the country all my life, and have seen more than my share of insects and such. However, anyone with even the smallest case of arachnophobia will definitely receive the willies courtesy of more than one scene in this film. Back on the storyline front, we find a tale that is toned down enough so as to be perfectly acceptable in terms of content for the children in the audience and paced out well enough so that they won't become bored by the on screen events... however, there's also a good deal of plot and jokes that are sure to fly over the kiddies' heads and appeal to the adults in the crowd. A very nice mixture there, and one that rarely works out so well.

On the acting side of things, I was once again pleasantly surprised. Jeff Daniels pulls out a shockingly solid performance in the leading role as Ross, having both a serious character and a comedic character depending on the given scene. I knew the man was great in comedy (this is the man that stole the show from Jim Carrey himself in "Dumb And Dumber"), but seeing him in a halfway serious role and excelling with it was quite a shock. The other star of the show (well, half of it anyway) would be Henry Jones (Sam Metcalf). I'd never heard of this fellow prior to popping this DVD in, but he does one hell of a job with the asshole-old-man character. After a few scenes with him belittling Ross and acting like a complete jackass, one simply can not wait to see him get his just rewards courtesy of a well-placed spider. Finally, we have one more show-stealer in this film. As hard as this is to write, John Goodman (exterminator Delbert McClintock) is beyond great in his role. After watching him in so many lackluster TV series and seeing so many of his horrid movies, I almost did a double-take when he showed up on my television screen in this movie and dropped line after line of pure comedic gold. Of course, that could easily be attributed to the script instead of the man reading the lines, but Goodman manages to make the character his own and add his own touch to things. Scripts can make a character funny, but it takes a good actor to make them hilarious.

Overall, this one is definitely worth a viewing if you're a fan of comedies with a touch of horror thrown in. It's not a perfect film, but it's a very entertaining one nonetheless. 8/10.
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bluemeanie #1: bluemeanie - added 11/04/2005, 10:42 PM
Love, love, loved just about all Frank Marshall flicks and this is no exception. I am deathly afraid of spiders, but I love this film. The slow build-up and suspense are top notch, with wonderful performances from Jeff Daniels, Julian Sands, and the hilarious John Goodman as Delbert. One of my all time favorites. 8.5/10.
George Snow #2: George Snow - added 04/20/2014, 03:30 PM
I'm not afraid of spiders that are at a distance. But, I don't like them. If they show up close to me, they will make me step back. I can't stand walking into webs, that freaks me out. So, needless to say I LOVE this movie. I just watched it on blu ray and it took me back to 90 when it first came out. Funny and disgusting. Just a great, great, great movie. All the more so, if spiders aren't your friends.
Crispy #3: Crispy - added 09/27/2016, 11:16 PM
Wait, you don't like John Goodman? He's had his duds, but by and large I love good stuff.
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