Arachnophobia is a 1990 American horror and comedy film directed by Frank Marshall and starring John Goodman and Jeff Daniels. It is about deadly spiders infesting an American small town, with the title referring to the fear of spiders.
Arachnophobia film poster dvd cover
A deadly spider from the Venezuelan Amazon is brought into the United States through the inside of the coffin of one of its victims, dead nature photographer Jerry Manley. It then breeds with local spiders, creating a new type of spider that invades the small town of Canaima, California. The film focuses on physician Ross Jennings (Daniels), who is new to the town and faces a lack of patients due to elderly rival Sam Metcalf. Jennings' reputation is severely damaged as his few patients begin to die, but this is the work of the spiders rather than his neglect. After Metcalf is himself killed by one of the spiders, it is realized that the town is infested with deadly arachnids, and with the help of exterminator Delbert McClintock (Goodman) and experts Dr. James Atherton and Chris Collins, an effort is made to wipe out the species. Eventually the "queen" is traced back to Jennings' own basement, where he manages to kill the creature.
Filmmaker Steven Spielberg was involved with Arachnophobia, with one of his earlier producers Frank Marshall directing for the first time. 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 Arachnaphobia 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, lack of actual venom, and unusually social lifestyle. They were guided around the set by the use of heat and cold, but the large "queen" was an articulated model.
To create the sound effects of spiders being stepped on or squashed, people stepped on mustard packs or crunched potato chips.
Arachnophobia was the first film released by Hollywood Pictures, which belongs to the Walt Disney Company. Amblin Entertainment also helped produce it. Advertisers were uncertain as to whether they should market the film as a comedy or horror.
The film was a financial "success", grossing $53,208,180 domestically and going on to gross an additional $30,000,000 in video rentals. This allowed Spielberg to be the fourth wealthiest entertainer of the year, having previously been the second wealthiest.
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. 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.
The film drew protests from some people interested in spiders, as they believed the film tarnished the public image of spiders.
A soundtrack album for the film, also called Arachnophobia, was released in 1990. It included instrumental music from the film as well as songs like "Blue Eyes Are Sensitive To The Light" by Sara Hickman and "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" by Tony Bennett.
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