Arachnophobia ★★★

Arachnophobia takes the classic killer animal sub-genre and gives it a Spielbergian makeover. Setting the action in a small American town, recently infested with giant, poisonous Venezuelan spiders who share a hive mind. It falls to the town's new doctor, a spider expert and a battle-ready exterminator to save the day and keep the world from getting ensnared in a web of death.

The film feels like a campy hybrid of Aliens and Gremlins, with that patented Amblin hook of violence that somehow manages to be family-friendly. Director Frank Marshall succeeds in wringing some real tension from his film's miniscule antagonists, though things do get a little repetitive around the middle as we see the oblivious townsfolk getting lined up and picked off by the tiny assassins over and over. No matter what you do, watching a spider crawl towards someone, who then says “ow” and dies can only be entertaining for so long.

While the spiders, both real and fabricated, look great, the human characters are all pretty bland with one major exception. Delbert, the exterminator, played by a larger-then-life John Goodman steals the movie every chance he gets with his abrasive and self-satisfied demeanor, delusions of grandeur and spiffy collection of rare beer cans. He is exactly the hero we need to save us from itty-bitty threats.

Admittedly, I don't really have a problem with spiders, I actually find them to be pretty cute for the most part. However, I will say that Arachnophobia managed to make my skin crawl a fair amount. The film may not be a game changer, but it has an enjoyable blend of creepy-crawly horror and sly dark humor that can't help but get stuck in your hair as you explore a dusty basement or a steamy jungle.

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