Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie's plot.
I first saw this movie years ago when it was released, and I had essentially forgotten about it. Perhaps I blocked it out; spiders have never been my favorite creatures! Yes, I know it is not logical for me to be afraid of spiders, considering that humans are much bigger than the nasty little crawlies. Still, I have always had a deathly fear of spiders.
So why did I watch this movie again last night? Masochism? Actually, it was because my daughter wanted to watch it and she did not want to watch it alone. I weighed out the pros and cons before I reluctantly agreed to watch it; would it be worth the lack of sleep that would surely follow? But my daughter has been sick, and needed some Mom time. She did not want to watch a friendlier movie; she wanted to watch this one. So off to the couch we went.
First, the Basics
Spiders. Lots of spiders. Lots of aggressive spiders, that do nasty things to the people they bite. But as far as horror movies go (and I consider this a horror movie), Arachnophobia goes deeper than that. It is not a typical horror movie, in that it has a well-defined plot and follows through to a fairly logical conclusion.
The story starts out in South America, where a group of scientists led by Julian Sands (who plays Dr. James Atherton) are studying insects. They come across some very aggressive, hardy spiders who don't die the way they should. One of the party gets bitten by a spider and dies of convulsions (but of course the others don't know what killed him). His body is shipped home to a small town, accompanied by one of the spiders who dines on the body all the way and utterly dessicates it.
Traveling spider then hits the road in the small town and starts on its wave of destruction, mating with a normal spider and creating a breed of highly toxic little creepy crawlies.
The main idea behind the plot, though, is the deathly fear of spiders of one of the main characters, Ross Jennings (played by Jeff Daniels). Jennings had a bad experience with a spider when he was two years old in his crib, and that fear has stuck with him through his adult life.
As townspeople start dying, Jennings starts requesting autopsies. He had moved his family to this small town to take over the practice of the town doctor, Sam Metcalf, (played by Henry Jones) who suddenly decided to refuse to retire. Jennings and Metcalf are at opposite sides of the spectrum when it comes to treating patients and medical practice, and there is a great deal of well-done conflict during this part of the movie.
I won't give all the details of the rest of the movie, but suffice it to say that the spiders continue to be problematic for the people in the town. The ending is the worst part of the movie in my opinion, in that it comes across as a bit unrealistic. I think it could have been done better, but I will leave that for you to formulate your own opinion. I will say that the arachnophobia (fear of spiders) concept was nicely resolved.
What I liked
Is it possible for a spider-fearer to like anything about a movie with so many spiders in it? Surprisingly, yes.
The suspense. This movie does a wonderful job of creating and maintaining suspense. I was on the edge of my seat throughout the entire thing. Even though I had seen it ten years ago, I couldn't remember how the events unfolded. Arachnophobia gets an A plus in the suspense factor.
The plot. Again, nicely done. The storyline is logical and follows through to a logical conclusion (special effects aside). Dialogue is well done and realistic. All in all, a very well-written screenplay.
The acting. Fantastic jobs done by the actors in this movie, especially Jeff Daniels and John Goodman. I felt the character representations and interpretations were very well done. In many movies, pretty much as soon as the first actor opens his or her mouth it is apparent that the movie is not going to be very well-acted. Acting gets an A plus in this movie in my opinion.
Special effects during the movie. Some of these were absolutely incredible! The spiders look at and track their prey; I found this incredibly creepy.
What I Didn't Like
Well, the spiders, obviously. But the movie couldn't have existed without the spiders, as they are an integral part of the storyline so I guess I will have to live with them.
Special effects at the end of the movie. I really had a problem with the final spider scenes and the special effects, as it did not come across realistically at all. Granted, these were incredibly intelligent spiders, but still!
Whether you do or do not like spiders, this movie is well worth the viewing. If you don't like spiders, however, expect some nervous moments after watching it. My oldest daughter won't even come in the room when this movie is playing now!
Arachnophobia is rated PG-13. I would not recommend it for very small children who are easily frightened, unless you want to spend many nights searching their bedrooms for spiders before they will go to bed. This would be a good one to show at an adult get-together; a very creepy movie that will keep everyone's attention.
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Viewing Format: VHS
Video Occasion: Fit for Friday Evening
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 13 and Older