What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this horror-comedy features spider-bite-seizure deaths of likeable characters, including grandparent-ish types and imperiled house pets, and there is one particularly hideous corpse. Dialogue includes swearing (at the PG-level), and there is some naked female anatomy strategically revealed in a shower sequence. Needless to say, young (and old) viewers with a morbid fear of spiders may find some of the visuals uncomfortable or nightmare-inducing. There is the use of a nail gun as a weapon that may encourage unwise copycat behavior among kids.
What's the story?
On a scientific expedition in the jungles of Venezuela, a luckless young photographer is fatally bitten by a nasty, fist-sized spider, unknown to modern science, dwelling in the rainforest canopy. When the dead man's body is shipped back to his small Californian hometown, the spider goes with it, mates with a common North American spider, and ends up siring a whole colony of killer arachnids, centered in the barn of a newly arrived family in town headed by young Dr. Ross Jennings (Jeff Daniels). Soon townsfolk around Dr. Jennings start mysteriously dropping dead -- felled by the venom of the growing army of spiders. As Dr. Jennings searches frantically for a cause, a major complication is that he happens to have longstanding arachnophobia, a crippling fear of spiders.
Is it any good?
Hailing from Steven Spielberg's production company, with a touch of the Gremlins vibe of little monsters doing big damage, ARACHNOPHOBIA is an undeniably fun ride. It actually plays on a number of fears, spiders being only the most obvious and marketable to the thrill-hungry audience. For grownups there's the additional angst of the phobic hero (a very nice everyman role for Jeff Daniels), a transplant from the big city who finds his new job opportunity evaporating, his new house purchase a wreck, and his new neighbors turning against him. That's a very Hitchcockian touch, and a lot of critics did compare Arachnophobia to The Birds, though this movie is much more comical in its characterizations and mayhem.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about spiders in real life, including the bird-eating spiders of the tropics (that obviously inspired the fictional species here). Why are spiders so creepy? Ask children if they fear spiders or can tolerate them.
For responsible opposing viewpoints, study up on the beneficial aspects of spiders, or read pro-spider storybooks such as Charlotte's Web.
Discuss how this movie doesn't go the giant-mutant-bug route of sci-fi thrillers like Tarantula and Eight Legged Freaks; spiders here are realistically sized. Talk about the "inverse square law," a scientific truth oft violated by Hollywood, in which the larger an animal is, the heavier its supporting anatomy has to be. Therefore invertebrates like the ones in giant-insect flicks would be squashed by their own massive exoskeletons.