St John Karp

Ramblings of an Ornamental Hermit

Arachnophobia (1990)


Me: Are you ready for this movie?

Parker: Well I’m not here to fuck spiders.

Actually, this week we are. Tonight’s entertainment (or lack thereof) is Arachnophobia (1990), a comedy/horror film that was billed as a “thrill-omedy.” I’ll never understand why that term didn’t catch on. The ’90s were responsible for some grade-A crap, and I was really looking forward to this being another camp classic along the lines of Congo or Deep Rising.

Me: Have you seen the trailer for this?

Parker: No, I want to go in clean.

Me: I thought this was a horror movie, but the trailer made it look like Home Alone. They had zany music and everything.

The zany music didn’t stop there. It’s all the way through this film, even where you’d expect something moody and tense, you get bizarrely relaxing, happy music. Urgh, at this point I need to tell you what the movie’s about, and I’m dreading that because it’s not about anything. An entomological expedition to South America accidentally brings back a dirty great spider. Nothing happens for the next hour and a half, then there’s a big show-down with the spider at the end because they have to kill it before it farts out a cloud of baby spiders.

A Venezualan native

Me: This Venezuelan guy is a bit weedy. If this were made now, the native would have to be hugely buff. Like did you ever see The Fall? Everyone’s buff in that.

Parker: Yeah it’s okay.

Me: What do you mean, it’s okay? It’s Tarsem’s softcore porn, it’s great.

An off-putting guy with glasses

Me: Hmmm, that off-putting guy with the glasses is all right. I’ll take him, he looks accessible.

Parker: Accessible?

Me: Yeah, you know sometimes you’re not in the mood for a challenge, you just want someone who’s a sure bet.

Two boring white people

Parker: Here’s our signature boring white man.

Me: He’s got some good lines, though. I feel like they’d work better coming from someone a little darker, more mischievous.

Parker: Someone sexier.

Me: Isn’t that what I said?

Bunny presses her nose against the glass

Me: She is the spider in disguise.

Parker: Wouldn’t that be a fun development if her face just fell off and there was the spider behind it.

The boys' locker room
Well this took a homoerotic twist.

Actually this movie tends to get really inappropriate with teenagers. There’s this scene in the boys’ locker room where the main character (who says he’s a doctor) goes around feeling up everyone’s balls and asks them to cough. When I was in high-school I told people I was a doctor but no-one let me touch their junk, so I don’t know how this guy managed to swing it. Then later there’s a girl in the shower and there’s a very sneaky close-up of the spider crawling between her chesticles. So I guess the pervy gaze doesn’t have a gender bias in this film, I just wish it were with, y’know, ADULTS AND NOT CHILDREN.

The photographer gets turned into a mummy

I can’t really capture this with screenshots, so you’ll have to take my word that the close-ups of spiders are all accompanied by a sound effect of a snake hissing. Because snakes and spiders are totally interchangeable.

Parker: I bet the sound designer was really proud of all the snake sounds he used.

The main character inspects a spider bite

Me: I hate this. They saw the spider bite him, then he died, then they’re looking at the massive spider bite on his foot, and they still don’t think it was a spider that killed him.

Parker: You are feisty tonight.

Me: You know “feisty” means full of farts, right?

The Skinny

Close-up of the spider

“Eight legs and one pea brain.”

I don’t know why this was billed as a comedy/horror because it’s not really either. Even the show-down at the end manages to be largely pointless, with the exception of the very last moments where the guy sets the big bad spider on fire and the spider then chases him around the room like a zooming fireball of fangs. Really the only good moment in the whole picture. The only other bit that got a real reaction out of me was the music over the closing credits, a little song about spiders called “Don’t Bug Me” whose lyrics are not quite “MacArthur Park” bad, but are doggerel nonetheless:

Night crawlin'
Free fallin'
Just don’t get in my way
Don’t squish me
Or death wish me
That’s all I have to say