Arachnophobia (1990) Review: John Goodman Pest Control
“Eight legs, two fangs and an attitude.”
Synopsis: A species of South American killer spider hitches a lift to the U.S. in a coffin and starts to breed and kill.
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Arachnophobia is both surprisingly serious and surprisingly good, for a creature feature. While not ranking in the annals of best films ever, it definitely rises above the usually low-brow (and delightful) generic creature feature milieu.
Also surprising is that Arachnophobia involves an actual phobia – the title is not just a catchy name for a movie about spiders. The main character, Dr. Jennings (Jeff Daniels) actually has a debilitating fear of spiders from a creepy childhood incident, and the fear actively affects his life. (A favorite early moment involves his daughter innocently asking her mother why she isn’t afraid of bugs like Dad is.) Considering that horror movies rarely treat actual mental disorders fairly and also often forego character development, it’s a nice change of pace to see a phobia treated with some respect.
Though the intro is fairly rocky, the rest of the movie has decent acting. Molly (Harley Jane Kozak) is a calm and loving counterpoint to her neurotic husband, but also plays well to the bit of character depth she got. Julian Sands actually gets to play a helpful character here instead of a villain (though he does play with insects, which to some will probably come across as villain-y.) And John Goodman‘s pest control character is possibly the best part of the movie – totally ridiculous while somehow not ruining the overall tone of the film.
The reasonably tight plot and decent acting is further helped by the filmmaker’s use of real spiders where possible. Though the arachnids don’t generally seem ominous, their sheer number can be daunting even to those who aren’t afraid of them. Up close images of the monstrous creatures are handled fairly well through careful animatronics.
All in all, Arachnophobia is surprisingly well put together, and will probably appeal to even folks who aren’t wholly into creature features – as long as they aren’t afraid of spiders.
Calamity Brains’ Rating: B
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