Arachnophobia Blu-ray Review
Everybody fears something. In HIGH ANXIETY Dr. Richard Thorndike hated heights. In RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK Indiana Jones hated snakes. And in the movie of my life it will be spiders. Hate ‘em. Always have. Always will. It’s a long story but if you ask me I’ll tell you. I preface this before I tell you that ARACHNOPHOBIA remains to this date the ONLY movie I’ve watched in the theater with my feet up on the seat with me.
In the South American jungle we meet Dr. James Atherton (Sands) and his party. The group is looking for new species of insects hidden deep in the trees. After setting up collection jars he sets off a plume of gas that filters up into the tree tops. Soon bugs of every shape and size are falling to the earth. And some of them aren’t too happy. When one of the crew is found dead in his tent his body is shipped back to the states in a wooden coffin that contains not only the deceased worker but a stowaway. One of those nasty spiders I mentioned above. Yuck!
Preying on, I’m pretty sure, everybody’s fear of creepy crawly things (hell, Jim Stafford wrote a hit song about them) ARACHNOPHOBIA is a well made movie that delivers on the scares. Director Marshall, a long time producing partner of Steven Spielberg, obviously studied Spielberg’s working style on sets. This was Marshall’s first feature film and he shows a fine talent for setting up the chills. He is helped in that department by a smart cast of actors who could have easily played their parts wildly over the top but instead play them straight. Daniels is Doctor Ross Jennings, a big city doctor newly moved to a small town and eager to start a new practice. However he quickly earns the nickname “Doctor Death” after his first few patients die mysteriously. Seems the spider in the coffin has also moved to the small town and made a friend. Having mated with a household spider their offspring are now crawling all over the town. Jennings has extreme arachnophobia (which, if you haven’t figured it out, is a fear of spiders) and suspects the deaths are spider-caused. Once the coroner confirms his diagnosis the rest of the film is devoted to finding and destroying the creepy eight legged freaks. The suspense is cut with some humor when exterminator Delbert McClintock (Goodman) shows up in a get up more reminiscent of a Ghostbuster then a bug man. The search for the spiders grows more and more intense as every dark and unlit corner of every house and barn in town are possible homes for not only the original spider but the queen he and his local hook-up have created.
As for the effects, you can’t go wrong on a spider movie when you use real spiders. The film incorporates hundreds of Australian Huntsman spiders which can get pretty big. For other spiders, including the Queen, animatronic arachnids were used to great effect. The mood is set well by cinematographer Mikael Salomon and composer Trevor Jones helps keep you on the edge of your seat with his score.
Video: I thought the film had a rather dark transfer. The opening jungle scenes seem to have been shot under a sunless sky. If you’re going to have trees and waterfalls you might as well make them look good. The film is presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect.
Audio: The sound is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and is fine. For foreign language channels (French and English) the sound is in Dolby 2.0.
Production Featurette (2:48): A short behind the scenes look and a study as to why we hate spiders.
Frank Marshall Featurette (3:10): Frank Marshall discusses making the film.
Venezuela Sequence (1:29): A behind the scenes look at filming in Venezuela.