Film Review: The Hot Spot (dir by Dennis Hopper)


As befits the title, the 1990 film, The Hot Spot, is all about heat.

There’s the figurative heat that comes from a cast of characters who are obsessed with sex, lies, and murder.  There’s the literal heat that comes from a fire that the film’s “hero” sets in order to distract everyone long enough so that he can get away with robbing a bank.  And, of course, there’s the fact that the film is set in a small Texas town that appears to be the hottest place on Earth.  Every scene in the film appears to be drenched by the sun and, if the characters often seem to take their time from getting from one point to another, that’s because everyone knows better than to rush around when it’s over a hundred degrees in the shade.  As someone who has spent most of her life in Texas, I can tell you that, if nothing else, The Hot Spot captures the feel of what summer is usually like down here.   I’ve often felt that stepping outside during a Texas summer is like stepping into a wall of pure heat.  The Hot Spot takes place on the other side of that wall.

The Hot Spot is a heavily stylized film noir, one in which the the traditional fog and shadows have been replaced by clouds of dust and blinding sunlight.  Harry (Don Johnson) is a drifter who has just rolled into a small Texas town.  Harry’s not too bright but he’s handsome and cocky and who needs to be smart when you’ve got charm?  Harry gets a job selling used cars, though he actually aspires to be a bank robber.  Harry finds himself falling in love with Gloria (Jennifer Connelly), a seemingly innocent accountant who is being blackmailed by the brutish Frank Sutton (William Sadler).  Meanwhile, Harry is also being pursued by his boss’s wife, Dolly (Virginia Madsen), an over-the-top femme fatale who is just as amoral as Harry but who might be a little bit smarter.  Complicating matters is that, while Harry’s trying to rob a bank, he also ends up saving a man’s life.  Only Dolly knows that Harry isn’t the hero that the rest of the town thinks he is.  She tells him that she’ll keep his secret if he does her just one little favor….

The Hot Spot was directed by Dennis Hopper (yes, that Dennis Hopper) and, from the start, it quickly becomes apparent that he’s not really that interested in the film’s story.  Instead, he’s more interested in exploring the increasingly surreal world in which Harry has found himself.  The Hot Spot plays out at a languid pace, which allows Hopper to focus on his cast of small-town eccentrics.  (My particular favorite was Jack Nance as the alcoholic bank president who also doubles as the town’s volunteer fire marshal.)  The film is so hyper stylized that it’s hard not to suspect that every character — with the possible exception of Harry — understands that they’re only characters in a film noir.  For instance, is Dolly really the over-the-top femme fatale that she presents herself as being or is she just a frustrated housewife playing a role?  Is Gloria really an innocent caught up in a blackmail scheme or is she just smart enough to realize that the rules of noir requires her to appear to be Dolly’s opposite?  And is Harry being manipulated or is he allowing himself to be manipulated because, deep down, he understands that’s his destiny as a handsome but dumb drifter in a small town?  Do any of the characters really have any control over their choices and their actions or has everyone’s fate been predetermined by virtue of them being characters in a film noir?  In the end, The Hot Spot is more than just a traditional noir.  It’s also a study of why the genre has endured.

It’s a long and, at times, slow movie, one that plays out at its own peculiar pace.  As a result, some people will be bored out of their mind.  But if you can tap into the film surreal worldview and adjust to the languid style, The Hot Spot is a frequently entertaining and, at times, rather sardonic slice of Texas noir.

Playing Catch-Up: Autumn in New York, Griffin & Phoenix, Harry & Son, The Life of David Gale


So, this year I am making a sincere effort to review every film that I see.  I know I say that every year but this time, I really mean it.

So, in an effort to catch up, here are four quick reviews of some of the movies that I watched over the past few weeks!

  • Autumn in New York
  • Released: 2000
  • Directed by Joan Chen
  • Starring Richard Gere, Winona Ryder, Anthony LaPaglia, Elaine Stritch, Vera Farmiga, Sherry Stringfield, Jill Hennessy, J.K. Simmons, Sam Trammell, Mary Beth Hurt

Richard Gere is Will, a fabulously wealthy New Yorker, who has had many girlfriends but who has never been able to find the one.  He owns a restaurant and appears on the cover of New York Magazine.  He loves food because, according to him, “Food is the only beautiful thing that truly nourishes.”

Winona Ryder is Charlotte, a hat designer who is always happy and cheerful and full of life.  She’s the type who dresses up like Emily Dickinson for Christmas and recites poetry to children, though you get the feeling that, if they ever somehow met in real life, Emily would probably get annoyed with Charlotte fairly quickly.  Actually, Charlotte might soon get to meet  Emily because she has one of those rare diseases that kills you in a year while still allowing you to look healthy and beautiful.

One night, Will and Charlotte meet and, together, they solve crimes!

No, actually, they fall in love.  This is one of those films where a young woman teaches an old man how to live again but then promptly dies so it’s not like he actually has to make a huge commitment or anything.  The film does, at least, acknowledge that Will is a lot older than Charlotte but it still doesn’t make it any less weird that Charlotte would want to spend her last year on Earth dealing with a self-centered, emotionally remote man who is old enough to be her father.  (To be honest, when it was revealed that Charlotte was the daughter of a woman who Will had previously dated, I was briefly worried that Autumn in New York was going to take an even stranger turn….)

On the positive side, the films features some pretty shots of New York and there is actually a pretty nice subplot, in which Will tries to connect with the daughter (Vera Farmiga) that he never knew he had.  Maybe if Farmiga and Ryder had switched roles, Autumn in New York would have worked out better.

  • Griffin & Phoenix
  • Released: 2006
  • Directed by Ed Stone
  • Starring Dermot Mulroney, Amanda Peet, Blair Brown, and Sarah Paulson

His name is Henry Griffin (Dermot Mulroney).

Her name is Sarah Phoenix (Amanda Peet).

Because they both have highly symbolic last names, we know that they’re meant to be together.

They both have cancer.  They’ve both been given a year to live.  Of course, they don’t realize that when they first meet and fall in love.  In fact, when Phoenix comes across several books that Griffin has purchased about dealing with being terminally ill, she assumes that Griffin bought them to try to fool her into falling in love with him.  Once they realize that they only have a year to be together, Griffin and Phoenix set out to make every moment count…

It’s a sweet-natured and unabashedly sentimental movie but, unfortunately, Dermot Mulroney and Amanda Peet have little romantic chemistry and the film is never quite as successful at inspiring tears as it should be.  When Mulroney finally allows himself to get mad and deals with his anger by vandalizing a bunch of cars, it’s not a cathartic moment.  Instead, you just find yourself wondering how Mulroney could so easily get away with destroying a stranger’s windshield in broad daylight.

  • Harry & Son
  • Released: 1986
  • Directed by Paul Newman
  • Starring Paul Newman, Robby Benson, Ellen Barkin, Wilford Brimley, Judith Ivey, Ossie Davis, Morgan Freeman, Katherine Borowitz, Maury Chaykin, Joanne Woodward

Morgan Freeman makes an early film appearance in Harry & Son, though his role is a tiny one.  He plays a factory foreman named Siemanowski who, in quick order, gets angry with and then fires a new employee named Howard Keach (Robby Benson).  Howard is the son in Harry & Son and he’s such an annoying character that you’re happy when Freeman shows up and starts yelling at the little twit.  As I said, Freeman’s role is a small one.  Freeman’s only on screen for a few minutes.  But, in that time, he calls Howard an idiot and it’s hard not to feel that he has a point.

Of course, the problem is that we’re not supposed to view Howard as being an idiot.  Instead, we’re supposed to be on Howard’s side.  Howard has ambitions to be the next Ernest Hemingway.  However, his blue-collar father, Harry (Paul Newman, who also directed), demands that Howard get a job.  Maybe, like us, he realizes how silly Howard looks whenever he gets hunched over his typewriter.  (Robby Benson tries to pull off these “deep thought” facial expressions that simply have to be seen to be believed.)  There’s actually two problems with Howard.  First off, we never believe that he could possibly come up with anything worth reading.  Secondly, it’s impossible to believe that Paul Newman could ever be the father of such an annoying little creep.

Harry, of course, has problems of his own.  He’s just lost his construction job.  He’s having to deal with the fact that he’s getting older.  Fortunately, his son introduces him to a nymphomaniac (Judith Ivey).  Eventually, it all ends with moments of triumph and tragedy, as these things often do.

As always, Newman is believable as a blue-collar guy who believes in hard work and cold beer.  The film actually gets off to a good start, with Newman using a wrecking ball to take down an old building.  But then Robby Benson shows up, hunched over that typewriter, and the film just becomes unbearable.  At least Morgan Freeman’s around to yell at the annoying little jerk.

  • The Life of David Gale
  • Released: 2003
  • Directed by Alan Parker
  • Starring Kevin Spacey, Kate Winslet, Laura Linney, Gabriel Mann, Rhona Mitra, Leon Rippy, Matt Craven, Jim Beaver, Melissa McCarthy

For the record, while I won’t shed any tears whenever Dzhokahr Tsarnaev is finally executed, I’m against the death penalty.  I think that once we accept the idea that the state has the right to execute people, it becomes a lot easier to accept the idea that the state has the right to do a lot of other things.  Plus, there’s always the danger of innocent people being sent to die.  The Life of David Gale also claims to be against the death penalty but it’s so obnoxious and self-righteous that I doubt it changed anyone’s mind.

David Gale (Kevin Spacey) used to the head of the philosophy department at the University of Texas.  He used to be a nationally renowned activist against the death penalty.  But then he was arrested for and convicted of the murder of another activist, Constance Harraway (Laura Linney) and now David Gale is sitting on death row himself.  With his execution approaching, journalist Bitsey Bloom (Kate Winslet) is convinced that Gale was framed and she finds herself racing against time to prevent Texas from executing an innocent man…

There’s a lot of things wrong with The Life of David Gale.  First off, it was made during the Bush administration, so the whole film is basically just a hate letter to the state of Texas.  Never have I heard so many inauthentic accents in one film.  Secondly, only in a truly bad movie, can someone have a name like Bitsey Bloom.  Third, the whole film ends with this big twist that makes absolutely no sense and which nearly inspired me to throw a shoe at the TV.

Of course, the main problem with the film is that we’re asked to sympathize with a character played by Kevin Spacey.  Even before Kevin Spacey was revealed to be a sleazy perv, he was never a particularly sympathetic or really even that versatile of an actor.  (Both American Beauty and House of Cards tried to disguise this fact by surrounding him with cartoonish caricatures.)  Spacey’s so snarky and condescending as Gale that, even if he is innocent of murder, it’s hard not to feel that maybe David Gale should be executed for crimes against likability.

A Movie A Day #94: Eye of the Storm (1991, directed by Yuri Zeltser)


A motel sits off of a highway in the Nevada desert.  One night, two criminals (Ally Walker and German boxer Wilhelm von Homburg) brutally murder the husband and wife who own the motel.  Their youngest son, Steven, flees the criminals by jumping through a window and is left for dead.

Ten years later, the motel is still sitting off the highway, operated by the blind Steven (Bradley Gregg) and his older brother, Ray (Craig Sheffer).  Ray is very protective of his brother and, when a car pulls up to the motel, he does not even want to turn on the vacancy sign.

The motel’s newest guests are a very unlikely couple.  Marvin Gladstone (Dennis Hopper) is an alcoholic gambler who regularly berates at his much younger trophy wife, Sandra (Lara Flynn Boyle).  Marvin and Sandra were heading to Las Vegas to renew their vows but the drunk Marvin accidentally drove their car off the road.  Now, Marvin and Sandra are stranded at the motel while a dust storm approaches and one of the brothers turns out to be psychotic.

Eye of the Storm is another low-budget and predictable thriller from the 1990s but, taken on its own terms, it’s not bad.  Along with some striking shots of the desert, Eye of the Storm features a quartet of strong performances.  For fans of David Lynch, the main interest here will be seeing Blue Velvet‘s Dennis Hopper and Twin Peaks‘s Lara Flynn Boyle as a couple in trouble.  Hopper especially seems to be enjoying himself and when his character leaves the movie, Eye of the Storm becomes much less interesting.  Lara Flynn Boyle is sexy throughout, enough to make you reconsider everything you thought you knew about Donna Hayward.

See this one on a double bill with Red Rock West.

Lisa Cleans Out Her DVR: The Arrival (dir by David Twohy)


I recorded The Arrival off of Cinemax on March 3rd.  Having just watched it, I am 95% sure that it is not the same movie as the Arrival that I saw in theaters last fall.

It’s true that both films deal with the arrival of aliens and feature scenes that take place in space ships.  And it’s also true that both films involve scientists trying to figure out what the aliens want.  However, The Arrival that I recorded featured far more of Charlie Sheen than I remembered being in the Arrival that I saw in theaters.  Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner were nowhere to be seen but Charlie Sheen was all over the freaking place.

And I mean all of Charlie Sheen.  The Arrival was made back in 1996 and I guess that Charlie Sheen was still working out back then because, seriously, he is either naked or, at the very least, shirtless for the majority of the movie.  What’s funny is that, with a few minor exceptions, there’s rarely a reason for him to be naked.  I guess someone just said, “We might as well record Charlie Sheen looking fit and healthy while we still can…”

The Arrival is a relatively serious movie.  Oh, it has moments of humor but it’s all Hollywood blockbuster humor.  It’s not a comedy by any means.  It’s always strange seeing Charlie Sheen in a serious role because … well, he’s Charlie Sheen.  Plus, he was never a particularly good dramatic actor.  He walks through The Arrival with this grim look frozen on his face and that, combined with his muscular chest, makes him look like a killer robot from the future.  You keep waiting for Charlie to say, “I’ll be back.”

Of course, Charlie Sheen isn’t playing a killer robot.  He’s playing Zane Zaminsky, an astronomer who works for the government.  Or, at least, he did work for the government until he detected an alien signal coming from a nearby star.  He’s fired and blackballed by his boss, Phil (Ron Silver).  Unable to get work, Zane does what anyone would do.  He and Kiki (Tony T. Johnson), the streetwise neighbor kid, set up a DIY astronomy lab in his basement.

At least, that’s what I think he did.  I kind of had a hard time following The Arrival‘s plot.  It all seemed a little bit overcomplicated, especially when savvy viewers will have already guessed that 1) the aliens are real, 2) Phil is an alien, 3) there’s a big government conspiracy involved, 4) and Zane has stumbled across it.

What are the aliens doing on the planet?  To figure that out, Zane’s going to have to go to Mexico and meet with climatologist Illana Green (Lindsay Crouse).  However, we already know what the aliens are  doing.  They’re attempting to destroy the environment so that they can wipe out humanity.  We know this because that’s what aliens are always trying to do!  They’re always either trying to save the environment or destroy it.  My personal theory is that Bill Nye, The Science Guy is actually an alien.  It explains a lot.

Anyway, it may sound like I’m criticizing The Arrival but it was actually kind of a fun movie in its dumb way.  It’s a serious movie but it’s also kind of a silly movie.  Any film that features Charlie Sheen as anyone other than Charlie Sheen is going to be watchable just on a WTF sort of level.  Beyond that, Ron Silver makes for a rather convincing alien and director David Twohy keeps the action moving quickly.  Several of Twohy’s shots are memorably atmospheric, even if they often do feature a bearded and naked Charlie Sheen.

Is The Arrival as good as Arrival?  HELL NO!  Arrival is one of the greatest science fiction films ever made.  The Arrival is a rather minor sci-fi melodrama but it’s fun nonetheless.  Just don’t expect it to make any sense.  To quote the bard, John Lennon, “Turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream.”

Insomnia File #12: Beyond The Law (dir by Larry Ferguson)


What’s an Insomnia File? You know how some times you just can’t get any sleep and, at about three in the morning, you’ll find yourself watching whatever you can find on cable? This feature is all about those insomnia-inspired discoveries!

Beyond_the_Law_(1992_film)_poster

Last night, if you were awake at one in the morning, you could have turned on FLIX and watched the 1993 film Beyond The Law.

Now, you may look at the title and think to yourself, “That movie sounds way too generic for anyone to watch.”  And, to a certain extent, you’re right.  Based, so the narrated epilogue insists, on a true story, Beyond The Law is about a troubled cop who goes undercover and joins a biker gang.  After gaining the trust and friendship of the gang’s ruthless leader, the cop struggles to maintain a between order and chaos.  Sometimes, he succeeds.  Sometimes, he doesn’t.  Largely, his success is dependent on whatever the narrative requires at the moment.

It’s totally predictable but, at the same time, it’s hard not to watch.  When a film starts with an Indian shaman telling Charlie Sheen that his dark side is going to destroy him, how can you not keep watching?

That’s right … the undercover cop is played by Charlie Sheen.  Fortunately, since Beyond the Law was made in 1993, we’re talking about the sexy and dangerous Charlie Sheen who showed up at the end of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and not the sad and bloated Charlie Sheen who co-starred on Two And A Half Men.

Charlie’s a deputy in Arizona who, as a result of his traumatic childhood, has a violent temper.  After he gets into a fist fight with another deputy (played by Rip Torn), he is told that he can either quit the force or he can go undercover.  He chooses to go undercover.  Fortunately, he knows an informant (Leon Rippy) who can teach him how to pass for a biker.  The informant’s nickname is Dildo (no, really) but later, we find out that his given name is Virgil.  And he’s Charlie’s guide through the Hell of the Arizona underworld, just as another Virgil led Dante through another Hell…

Yes, it’s totally heavy-handed but somehow, it’s appropriate.  The title may be generic but, within the first 30 minutes of the film, Beyond the Law gives us Indian wisdom, strange flashbacks, references to Dante, a guy named Dildo, and Charlie Sheen.  But that’s not all!  Beyond the Law also has Michael Madsen!

Michael Madsen plays Blood, the leader of the biker gang that Charlie has to infiltrate. And he gives a classic Michael Madsen performance, full of random squints, arched eyebrows, menacing pauses in the middle of dialogue, and that famous Michael Madsen half-smirk.  Predictable as its plot may be, Beyond The Law is your only chance to see Charlie Sheen and Michael Madsen compete to see who can chew the most scenery.  Charlie does his crazy eyes.  Madsen does his half-smirk.  In the end, I would say that Madsen wins.

Charlie also ends up having a relationship with an photojournalist (Linda Fiorentino).  Before going undercover, he gave her a speeding ticket and, when they later meet at a biker gathering, she immediately recognizes him but keeps his secret.  She doesn’t really get to do much in the film but I still liked the character because she was tough and she was the only person in the film who could outsmirk Michael Madsen.

Beyond The Law is nothing special but it’s worth watching just for the chance to see Michael Madsen and Charlie Sheen acting opposite each other.

Previous Insomnia Files:

  1. Story of Mankind
  2. Stag
  3. Love Is A Gun
  4. Nina Takes A Lover
  5. Black Ice
  6. Frogs For Snakes
  7. Fair Game
  8. From The Hip
  9. Born Killers
  10. Eye For An Eye
  11. Summer Catch

 

 

Icarus File No. 2: Maximum Overdrive (dir by Steven King)


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There is exactly one effective sequence to be found in Maximum Overdrive, a horror film from 1986 that attempts to show us what would happen if all of Earth’s machines decided to destroy humanity.

It takes place at the end of a little league game.  The coach, happy that his team has won, declares soda for everyone!  He walks over to the soft drink machine and puts in his coins and…nothing happens.  The coach stares at the machine perplexed.  His team gathers around him.

Suddenly, a can flies out of the machine and hits the coach in the groin.  Coach falls to his knees, just to get another can driven straight into his skull, leaving him with a big bloody hole in his head.  As the coach twitches, his teams starts to run away.  Suddenly, the machine is shooting cans out at them.  Some of the kids escape but quite a few don’t.

Suddenly, as the kids flee, a driverless steamroller crashes through a fence and drives across the field, graphically flattening one of the players…

It’s over-the-top, it’s kind of scary, it’s fun in a naughty sort of way, and it’s exciting to watch.  It’s totally absurd and yet it’s effective at the same time.  It’s a really brilliant scene, one that hints at what Maximum Overdrive could have been.  It hints that Maximum Overdrive‘s first-time director did have some potential and watching it, one is tempted to feel a pang of regret over the fact that he never directed another film after this one.

However, then you watch the rest of Maximum Overdrive and you realize that one effective scene was a total fluke.  To your horror, you realize that this film’s director (and screenwriter) has decided to set nearly the entire film in the ugliest and most disgusting truck stop in the world.  You realize that the director has no idea how to maintain suspense and that his idea of horror appears to be having a lot of trucks constantly circling the truck stop.  And then, worst of all, you realize that the unlikable caricatures inside the truck stop are meant to be our heroes!

And you find yourself wondering if things could possibly get any worse.  Well, believe me — they can.

First off, a guy named Camp Loman (Christopher Murney) shows up and reveals himself to be a total lech and then starts trying to sell bibles and really, what do you expect from someone named Camp Loman?  And, what’s annoying, is that the film’s director seems to think that he’s blowing our mind by presenting us with an hypocritical bible salesman.  I mean, seriously — the amount of time devoted to Camp Loman will make you nostalgic for scenes of a steamroller crushing a child.

And then Emilio Estevez shows up as our hero but he scowls through the entire movie and delivers all of his lines through gritted teeth, as if he’s pissed off about appearing in Maximum Overdrive and really, who can blame him?  That said, it doesn’t really make for an enjoyable performance.

But hey — Emilio’s not the only person in the truck stop.  There’s also Pat Hingle, playing the owner of the truck stop.  He’s overweight, wears a tie, smokes a cigar, and speaks with a vaguely Southern accent.  Hmmmmm, do you think he’s going to be a bad guy?

Oh!  And let’s not forget the waitress played by Ellen McElduff.  “WE MADE YOU!” she shouts at the machines and then she shouts it again and again and again and again and it’s almost as if the film is being directed by a guy so in love with his own dialogue that he doesn’t realize how annoying the same line gets when it’s screeched over and over again.

And I haven’t even gotten to the helium-voiced newlyweds yet…

When I recently watched Maximum Overdrive on Encore, there were a lot of things that annoyed me, such as the bad pacing, the bad acting, the bad dialogue, the bad special effects, the bad cinematography, and the bad everything else.  But what really got to me was just how inconsistent this movie was.  Some machines turned into killers but oddly, others did not.  At one point, a machine gun starts shooting at the people in the truck stop but the weapons that Pat Hingle keeps in the truck stop never turn on their human masters.  Seriously, if you’re going to make a terrible movie, at least be consistent.

So, you may be asking, why is this an Icarus File?  Well, it was directed by Stephen King, the writer who is routinely called the “master of horror.”  King may be a great writer but, judging from this movie, he was a really crappy director.  I imagine, when the film was in pre-production, the logic was that if King could write a scary book then he could definitely direct a scary movie.

Nope.

It turns out that, just as Icarus should never have gotten so close to the sun, Stephen King should never have directed a movie.

Previous Icarus Files:

  1. Cloud Atlas

Quickie Review: Eight Legged Freaks (dir. by Ellory Elkayem)


In 2002 there came a film in the tail end of that year’s summer blockbuster film season which took me by surprise. The film I’m talking about was Eight Legged Freaks. It was from Kiwi-born director Ellory Elkayem and he did a wonderful job of bringing back just a small peek at those fun 1950’s giant monster and insect movies like Them! and a host of others.

The film pretty much follows the same conventions as those old-time monster movies. It has the smart and bookish teenage boy whose love for all things spiders will come in handy as the film moves along. Then there’s the eccentric and creepy loner who collects spiders and learns that the water he has been giving them has now been tainted by toxic chemicals from a drum container that has fallen into a nearby river during transport. This river and the creek it feeds is right next to a down-and-out mining Arizona town, ironically named Prosperity. The film  wouldn’t be complete without the arrival of its prodigal son, Chris McCormick (played with quite a bit of understatement by the usual over-the-top David Arquette) whose father used to own the gold mines which the town relied on for its economy.

With a reluctant hero comes the woman he left behind and pined for years ago, but now much older and with kids of her own from a previous marriage. Kari Wuhrer — of MTV and B-movie fame — plays Samantha Parker. McCormick’s love interest who also happens to be Prosperity’s current town sheriff and single mother to the aforementioned teenage boy with the thing for spiders and nubile teen daughter Ashley (played by pre-superstardom Scarlett Johansson). Then there’s Wade, the town mayor whose failing ostrich farm and unused mega-mall is leading him to sell the town wholesale to some nameless giant corporation.

With the basic plot set and characters introduced all hell breaks loose as toxic-mutated spiders grow to giant proportions and begin to terrorize and devour the townspeople. At first, it’s isolated attacks until their numbers grown in size and they attack the town itself en masse. This may be a B-movie but it sure had great CGI-effects when it came to the giant arachnids and how they behaved on the screen. The many different types of giant spiders ended up having distinct personalities to distinguish themselves from each other. From the tank-like tarantula to the agile jumping spiders and the cunning trapdoor spiders. In fact, these spiders were also given some sort of voice which sounded like chipmunks on helium as they screeched, yipped and screamed their way around the screen.

Eight Legged Freaks was not something great to write mom home about, but it was a fun film to sit through, especially one full of teenagers who seem to scream and shout the loudest. This was a type of film that actually needs a rowdy audience to really entertain. There’s really no need to follow the dialogue since most of it is quite forgettable. The action on the screen from the giant spiders chasing motocross-riding teens and their attack on the townspeople at the mega-mall does well without the need of extraneous dialogue.

Ellory Elkayem did a great job in making Eight Legged Freaks not just a fun movie but also a throwback to the 50’s monster movies that we see now on syndication. This movie showed Elkayem had great potential as a genre filmmaker. It’s a shame he had to follow up Eight Legged Freaks with two very awful and forgettable sequels to the Return of the Living Dead franchise. I’m still hoping that he’ll rebound from that double-debacle and make more fun monster movies. Until that happens we’ll always have his little flick about giant, mutant spiders who sounded like chipmunks on helium.