Film (1990). Hollywood Pictures/Amblin/Tangled Web. Executive producers Steven Spielberg, Frank Marshall. Directed by Marshall. Written by Don Jakoby, Wesley Strick, from a story by Jakoby and Al Williams. Cast includes Jeff Daniels, John Goodman, Henry Jones, Harley Jane Kozak and Julian Sands. 109 minutes. Colour.
Frank Marshall, a longtime colleague of Spielberg as a producer, here made his directorial debut with an almost perfectly choreographed Monster Movie. The sf element in this social comedy is a large, male, hitherto-unknown variety of lethal Venezuelan spider which, accidentally carried in the coffin of its first victim to a small Californian town, mates with a local female to produce hordes of smaller but still lethal offspring, fortunately incapable of reproduction. Aimed at adults rather than teenagers, the film is as much about the horrors of small-town life – seen from the perspective of the new (arachnophobic) doctor in town – as it is about the horrors of killer spiders. The science is mystifying; nobody who sees the film understands the explanation of how a sterile male fathers a large family. Goodman's role as the local exterminator is a tour de force of bizarre comedy. Sophisticated, tartly observed and more than adequately scary, Arachnophobia is certainly the best spider-Invasion film ever made. [PN]
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