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PLEASE NOTE: Michael D's is currently in READ ONLY MODE. Anything submitted will simply not be written to the database.
Lots of stuff is still broken, but at least reviews can now be looked up and read.
Eight Legged Freaks (2002)

Eight Legged Freaks (2002)

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Released 21-Jan-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Main Menu Audio & Animation
Dolby Digital Trailer-Canyon
Audio Commentary
Theatrical Trailer
Notes-Creepy Crawling Giants
Filmographies-Cast & Crew
Featurette-Larger Than Life: The Short That Inspired The Film
DVD-ROM Extras
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 95:16 (Case: 99)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (39:40) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Ellory Elkayem

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring David Arquette
Kari Wuhrer
Scott Terra
Doug E. Doug
Scarlett Johansson
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $39.95 Music John Ottman

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    I don't know if there is a record for how quickly a movie has come to DVD from a cinematic release, but Eight Legged Freaks would certainly be a contender. I am sitting down to write this review less than three months after visiting the local multiplex to see the film. Normally when a film races from cinemas to video (or DVD) that fast, it means that it's a complete bomb — a mess of a film that no-one wanted to see. This is not quite the case for Eight Legged Freaks, as while it was by no means a box-office success (it made back only about two thirds of its US $30 million production budget at the US box-office), it is by no means a flop. Most films in these days of home video and home theatre usually make more than twice their box-office take from video and DVD sales, meaning that Eight Legged Freaks will end up as a mild success, and certainly nowhere near as large a problem as a movie such as The Adventures of Pluto Nash.

    So then, why the fast home release? A lot of the reason is to do with the type of film that Eight Legged Freaks is — it is a purposefully B-grade horror/comedy take on the 50s monster movies, tailored to a very specific niche market. That market is largely comprised of "geek fanboys" who will be quite keen to own the film on DVD (although I am reviewing this movie, I refuse to acknowledge myself as a "geek fanboy", although I do own the Region 1...), and will be prepared to buy it. At least that is my theory.

    The next obvious question is does Eight Legged Freaks meet its intentions of being a cheesy, even campy, B-grade horror? Well the answer to that is a definite "yes". The most resounding thing about the movie is its very dry sense of humour. While there are some characters playing it directly for laughs, the majority of the time the readings are completely straight, simply set against the backdrop of patently ridiculous events, using the situations rather than the dialogue to generate the humour. The plot is simple — a toxic waste spill causes some spiders to grow really big, really fast, and they start attacking the residents of the nearby town. That really is about it (okay, there are a couple of romantic sub-plots, but they really have little to do with the point of the movie). As is typically the case in this sort of movie, the town residents have to band together to battle the monsters and save both their lives and their homes.

    Another thing that aids the appeal of Eight Legged Freaks is the casting that goes completely against stereotype (or is that clichι?). Instead of the muscle bound, strong-jawed, sheriff we have Samantha Parker (Kari Wuhrer) as the action hero, while the male "hero" Chris is portrayed by geeky David Arquette, who certainly does not have the physical presence typically expected of the lead in a horror. Adding to the playful casting is the role of the local alien-invasion-theorist going to African-American Doug E. Doug, very much playing against type, and finally the casing of the gorgeous Scarlett Johansson as Sam's daughter Ashley, will not raise any complaints from the largely male target audience.

    The only real down-side to Eight Legged Freaks is the fact that there is absolutely no purpose for this movie in today's climate. The original monster movies of the 50s were created to play on, or help combat, the populace fear of the emerging nuclear technology, but these days that is no longer at the forefront of the public conscious. The result is that this movie is very much an entertainment experience alone — and while it is fun, it does seem to be a little empty at times. Despite this, Eight Legged Freaks is very much worth enjoying for any who fit the target audience (I'm sure we all know who we are), while any who do not like "B-movies", or are easily annoyed by movies that are entirely tongue-in-cheek, should stay as far away as they can get.

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Transfer Quality


    This transfer is really a product of the nature of the movie itself — it is good, but the fast release and limited appeal of the movie has resulted in a transfer that feels just a little bit rushed.

    The transfer is presented at the original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and is 16x9 enhanced.

    The sharpness is the first area where this transfer is a little down. While it is sharp overall, it is just a little hazy, and is definitely not very sharp. On its own, the transfer is quite good, but it has the look of many of the earlier DVD transfers, lacking the complete clarity of more recent efforts. Shadow detail suffers no such problems, and is excellent, a big plus as there are a large number of night (and underground) scenes in this movie. There is no low level noise, and grain is never really a problem.

    The colours are slightly washed out, although the desert setting may have something to do with this. The overall look of the film is very desert-like, and appropriate to the settings, so it does work quite well.

    There are no compression artefacts during the film, and only one really noticeable film artefact, at 63:02. There is, however, quite a bit of aliasing. It is never really severe, although there are a few occasions, such as on the car at 21:18 when it is easily noticeable, and creates an obvious shimmer.

    The subtitles are generally accurate, are well paced, and easy to read, although they are not rendered in a particularly attractive font.

    This is an RSDL formatted disc with the layer change taking place at 39:40 during chapter 12. It is an extremely well placed layer change, managing to stay largely hidden despite occurring right in the middle of a scene, on a moving camera shot.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    Whatever this disc lacks in the video department, it more than makes up for in the audio. This is a very good audio transfer that will more than satisfy.

    There are two audio tracks present on this disc: the original English dialogue in Dolby Digital 5.1 (at 384 kbps), and an English audio commentary track in Dolby Digital 2.0 surround (at 192 kbps).

    Dialogue is always clear and easy to understand. The spider effects noises are likewise clear, to the point it is possible to determine the type of spider that is attacking based solely on sound. Audio sync is spot on throughout, and never causes any problems.

    The music is credited to John Ottman, and is well deserving of the praise heaped on it during the commentary track. The score manages to find a very good balance between comedy and seriousness that helps immensely with both the atmosphere of the film, and in how well it works.

    This soundtrack is a very good example of surround use. The surrounds not only help carry the score and some ambient noise, but they are often and aggressively used for discrete surround effects. There are many occasions where the sound of spiders or other activities will come from one or other of the rear channels, and there are many panning effects, including pans both around the soundstage and across it. This is one of the best surround sound efforts available, and the best part of it all, is that it is very subtle, providing a truly immersive experience.

    The subwoofer is very well used, providing more than enough backing when required — explosions, crashes, the pounding of enormous spider feet — and staying silent when not.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    The list of extras is actually shorter than it looks, but what is available here is of a very good quality.


    The menu is 16x9 enhanced, animated, themed around the movie, and features Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio.

Audio Commentary - Ellory Elkayem (Director), Dean Devlin (Producer), David Arquette and Rick Overton (Actors)

    This is a somewhat interesting commentary. All four participants are recorded together, and are apparently in very different moods. Actors Arquette and Overton seem to think it's all one big joke (to the point of saying things like "and now this is me" when they appear on screen), producer Devlin provides quite a bit of information, but is willing to go along with the jokes, while only director Elkayem seems to take it seriously. Things do calm down after a while however, and the second half of the commentary contains quite a bit of interesting information.

Theatrical Trailer (1:05)

    Presented at 1.85:1, 16x9 enhanced, and featuring Dolby Digital 2.0 surround audio, this trailer gives a good overview of both what the film is about, and its tone.

Additional Scenes (13:10)

    This is a collection of eleven deleted and extended scenes, including an extended opening, and an alternate ending. There are a few here that it would have been nice to see in the movie, as they explain other happenings. They are all presented at 2.35:1, are not 16x9 enhanced, and feature Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio. They all suffer from terrible shadow detail, considerable interlacing artefacts, and very noticeable aliasing.

Creepy Crawly Giants (7 pages)

    This "essay" is a simple 7-page overview of monster movies over the years. Interesting, if a little dry.

Cast and Crew

    A listing of the cast and crew, with "selected" filmographies. For the cast that means David Arquette only.

Larger Than Life (13:37)

    This is the short film by which director Ellory Elkayem met Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin — the men who got him the job directing Eight Legged Freaks. It is quite good, and very much worth a look. Presented at 1.85:1, not 16x9 enhanced, and featuring Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio.

DVD-ROM Content

    This includes an Eight Legged Freaks first person shooter, web links, and the original movie web site.

Easter Egg

    To access this easter egg, on the main menu, wait until a spider crawls out from the right of the screen and stops, then once another spider appears from the bottom of the screen, press up and a target should highlight the stationary spider. Select with the remote to access a few facts about the spiders featured in the movie.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The only difference between the Region 4 and Region 1 versions of this disc is in how the easter egg is accessed — and it's easier to get to on ours. This is very much a tie, so grab the format of your choice.


    Eight Legged Freaks is a good, fun, B-movie that has a very dry sense of humour (right down to a new take on Itsy Bitsy Spider over the closing credits). Very much targeted at an audience, any who fall in that category owe it to themselves to check it out.

    The video quality is good, but feels just a little under-done, not really coming up to the standards of other recent releases.

    The audio quality is excellent, making up for any failing in the video, demonstrating very good use of the surround channels.

    The extras are not quite as plentiful as the list may suggest, but they are none the less interesting.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Nick Jardine (My bio, it's short - read it anyway)
Tuesday, December 24, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-535, using Component output
DisplayLoewe Xelos 5381ZW. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS787, THX Select
SpeakersAll matching Vifa Drivers: centre 2x6.5" + 1" tweeter (d'appolito); fronts and rears 6.5" + 1" tweeter; centre rear 5" + 1" tweeter; sub 10" (150WRMS)

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