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EIGHT LEGGED FREAKS

Producers Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin, the guys who brought you Independence Day and the Godzilla remake, are back and trying to steal a page from Tremors, the 1990 flick that put a campy, witty twist on the "b"-movie horror genre. This time, instead of giant man-eating worms, itís robust arachnids ó or eight-legged freaks, as the title insists ó that wreak havoc on a small desert town.

A toxic spill in Prosperity (ooh, irony), Arizona, turns a collection of spiders into marauding mutants who terrorize and gobble up the townsfolk. A bland David Arquette checks in as the hero, Kari Wuhrer provides spark as the sheriff/single-mother-turned-love-interest, and Doug E. Doug is a welcome relief as the pirate-radio DJ ranting about conspiracy theories and the "alien anal probe." Thereís even a harebrained subplot about the avaricious mayorís get-rich-quick schemes ó and thatís all to the good, because most of the film fails to titillate. The characters are flat, the FX dated, and the points of suspense almost nonexistent. New Zealand director Ellory Elkayem borrows heavily from genre staples (Starship Troopers and Dawn of the Dead for starters) and gets none of it right. Tremors nailed the black-humor angle with aplomb. Here they forgot to make anything freaky but the title. (100 minutes)

BY TOM MEEK

Issue Date: July 18 - 25, 2002
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