Arachnophobia is a 1990 American comedy horror film directed by Frank Marshall, starring Jeff Daniels and John Goodman. It is about deadly spiders infesting a small California town, with the title referring to the "fear of spiders". It was the very first film released by Hollywood Pictures.
A group of scientists, led by entomologist Dr. James Atherton (Julian Sands), head to the Amazon with the hope of discovering new species of insects. The scientists identify a new species of spider, which is pretending to be dead and carries a type of venom, that causes near-instantaneous death to its victims. The spider is captured and chloroformed for research. A nature photographer Jerry Manley (Mark L. Taylor) takes a rest under the tree, where the spider was found, and the 'general' (leader) spider jumps into his backpack, later sneaking into his sleeping bag and killing him with a bite to his hand. The remainder of the scientists take his body back to the US, in a wooden box, with the original spider from Venezuela inside, blaming Jerry's death on fever.
Jerry's body arrives at the morgue in his home town, Canaima, and the mortician (Roy Brocksmith) does not notice the general spider inside the coffin, when he opens it. He is disgusted to find Jerry's body mummified, and completely drained of bodily fluids. As the mortician is speaking on the phone with Jerry's family about funeral arrangements, the general heads outside. It, comically, eventually makes its way to the barn of the Jennings family. Ross Jennings (Jeff Daniels) is a family physician, who had moved to the small town from San Francisco, and faces a lack of patients due to elderly rival Sam Metcalf (Henry Jones), who was supposed to retire and shift his patients to Ross.
The general spider mates with a domestic house spider and makes a nest in Jennings's barn, producing a queen, then mates with the queen and makes a second nest in the family's basement. Hundreds of soldier spiders are born in the barn. Ross, along with his son (Garette Ratliff Henson), has arachnophobia (fear of spiders), making them targets of ridicule among their family (Harley Jane Kozak and Marlene Katz). His first patient, Margaret Hollins (Mary Carver), dies after being bitten, which the town's residents believe was a heart attack. After a football player (Nathaniel Spitzley) is also killed by a spider, Ross is known to the town as Dr. Death, because each of his patients dies after having seen him. Soon, when Metcalf himself is bitten on the toe and killed by a spider, giving Ross the idea, that the town could be infested by deadly arachnids. After Ross performs an autopsy with the town's coroner Milton Briggs (James Handy (who tells the Sheriff, Lloyd, to shut up a lot)) on the victims and confirms his suspicion, he, along with Dr. Atherton, his assistant Chris Collins (Brian McNamara), Briggs, Sheriff Lloyd Parsons (Stuart Pankin), and exterminator Delbert Mclintock (John Goodman) investigate and eventually discover, that the killer spiders are descendants of the new species Atherton discovered earlier. Dr. Atherton is bitten on the neck and killed by the general after he discovers the primary nests' location and disturbs its web.
After Ross, Chris, and Delbert trace the nests to Jennings' own property, Ross sends Delbert to destroy the first nest at the barn, while he and Chris try to help the family escape from their own house. For some reason, as soon as Ross enters the now infested house, the spiders, that were once hiding, start coming in through all different places in the house. Ross's wife, his children, and Chris make it out through the window, but Ross finds himself trapped until he falls through the basement into the spiders' second nest. After electrocuting the queen, Ross battles the male, attempting to destroy the second egg sac along with burning the spider to death with fire spray. When the spider is about to deliver the killing strike, Ross flings the spider into the fire with a board on his chest.
When the egg sac hatches, the male, on fire, jumps out of the fire still pursuing him. Ross shoots it with his nail gun and the projectile sends the burning spider to the nest's egg sac, effectively destroying the nest with fire and ending the plague. Delbert is able to reach Ross and get him to safety. Having enough of the country along with the near-death experience, the Jennings family immediately move back to San Francisco, appreciating city life once more, only to have an earthquake hit, as soon as they get back.
- Jeff Daniels as Dr. Ross Jennings
- John Goodman as Delbert McClintock
- Harley Jane Kozak as Molly Jennings
- Julian Sands as Dr. James Atherton
- Brian McNamara as Chris Collins
- James Handy as Milton Briggs
- Peter Jason as Henry Beechwood
- Roy Brocksmith as Irv Kendall
- Kathey Kindell as Blaire Kendall
Filmmaker Steven Spielberg was involved with Arachnophobia, with one of his earlier producers Frank Marshall directing for the first time. Spielberg and Marshall are both the executive producers of the film. Marshall meant for the film to be like Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds, and added, "People like to be scared but laughing, like a roller coaster. No one wants to be terrified."
Jamie Hyneman, of MythBusters fame, stated in Popular Mechanics that Arachnophobia was one of the first movies he worked on and that he often relied on simple magnets for several of the effects.
The film made use of 374 Avondale spiders, which were picked for their large size, unusually social lifestyle, and because they are essentially harmless to humans. They were guided around the set by the use of heat and cold, but the large "queen" was an articulated model.
The movie was actually filmed in Cambria, California. All the school scenes were filmed at Coast Union High School. Students and staff were used in the football scenes and group events. The locker room and players were the actual students and players from CUHS.
To create the sound effects of spiders being stepped on or squished, people stepped on mustard packs or squashed potato chips.
Arachnophobia was the first film released by Hollywood Pictures. Amblin Entertainment also helped produce it. Advertisers were uncertain as to whether they should market the film as a thriller or a comedy. Therefore, television spots promoting the film billed it as a "thrill-omedy."
Box Office Edit
The film was a financial success, grossing $53,208,180 domestically and going on to gross an additional $30,000,000 in video rentals.
In his book, critic Leonard Maltin calls the film a "slick comic thriller" and approves of the acting, warning, "Not recommended for anyone who's ever covered their eyes during a movie." Newsweek associated the film with B movies "about the small town threatened by alien invaders," and said it was well made but "oddly unresonant." Roger Ebert said it made audiences "squirm out of enjoyment, not terror," and listed details in the film that he felt were typical of such films, including "the bright young doctor, whose warnings are ignored" and "the loyal wife and kids," as well as "the usual cats and dogs, necessary for the obligatory scene in which they can sense something even when the humans can't." He gave the film three stars. On the review website Rotten Tomatoes, 83% of critics gave the film positive reviews, based on 24 reviews, and an average rating of 6.5/10
The film won a Saturn Award from The American Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror films for Best Horror Film and Best Actor (Daniels). Young actress Marlene Katz was nominated for a best actress award from the Young Artist Awards.
A soundtrack album for the film, also called Arachnophobia, was released in 1990. It included instrumental music from the film as well as songs such as "Blue Eyes Are Sensitive To The Light" by Sara Hickman, "Caught in Your Web (Swear to Your Heart)" by Russell Hitchcock, and "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" by Tony Bennett.
- Blue Eyes Are Sensitive to the Light - Sara Hickman
- Atherton's Terrarium (Score)
- Arachnophobia - Brent Hutchins
- Miller's Demise (Score)
- Spiders and Snakes (Score)
- Off Spring (Score)
- Boris the Spider (Score)
- Delbert Squishes the Spider (Score)
- Spider and the Fly (Score)
- Web Photo (Score)
- Caught in Your Web (Swear to Your Heart) - Russell Hitchcock
- Main Title (Score)
- Don't Bug Me - Jimmy Buffett
- Casket Arrives (Score)
- Delbert's Theme - Tony Bennett
- Canaima Nightmare - Poorboys
- Along Came a Spider (Score)
- Cellar Theme - The Party
- End Title (Score)
- I Left My Heart in San Francisco - Tony Bennett
Songs that arent included with the soundtrack are:
- Summer Wind - Frank Sinatra
- Goin' Ahead - Pat Metheny
A video game version of Arachnophobia was also released in 1991, for Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64 and DOS. There is also a novelization of Arachnophobia written by author Nicholas Edwards.
- Arachnophobia at the Internet Movie Database
- Arachnophobia at AllMovie
- Arachnophobia at Rotten Tomatoes
- Arachnophobia (film) at Wikipedia
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