Director: Frank Marshall
Writer: Don Jakoby and Wesley Strick
Starring: Jeff Daniels, Julian Sands and John Goodman
This film begins in South America with a man on a boat; he is played by Mark L. Taylor. We learn that he has a fever and is not feeling well. He is a photographer and he is on a mission with a doctor, who is played by Julian Sands. They are going to a remote location where due to isolation, certain insects and spiders have evolved without interference.
Their journey is tough, but they get to where they need to. They set-up catchers on the ground and Sands use some kind of smoke that kills all of these insects. They find some new butterflies, but they also find some new spiders. They are not dead though, just knocked out momentarily. Sands collects four of them, two are killed and two are kept alive to study. While they are leaving, another one jumps into their baggage.
It turns out that the spiders they collected are like bees, in that they have no reproductive organs, so they are drones. This is something that has never been discovered in spiders. Taylor is still not feeling well and goes to bed. He is bit by the ‘general’ spider, who is the large male. Taylor is killed instantly. His body is sent back to America, but they do not realize that this male spider went with him.
In America, Roy Brocksmith is the mortician for the town that Taylor is from. It was decided ahead of time that he would not have an open casket, because his body is all dried out. There is no way that he can be presented like this and Brocksmith goes about changing the families’ mind. While he is talking, he doesn’t notice the spider escapes. Outside a bird picks it up and flies away. The spider kills the bird and they fall to the ground.
The property they land is recently been purchased by Jeff Daniels. His wife is played by Harley Jane Kozak. They have two children, a boy played by Garette Ratliff Henson and Marlene Katz. This family is from San Francisco. They have moved to get away from the city. Daniels is a doctor and will be taking over the practice for a retiring doctor in town. He will be the only income though. Daniels is also a wine collector and will be making the basement into his wine cellar.
While they are moving in, Henson finds a spider in one of his boxes. We learn that Daniels has arachnophobia, which means he is deathly afraid of spiders. Kozak has to come in to get rid of it. They decide not to kill it and release it into the barn. They do not realize that the South American male has found its way into the barn as well. That night, these spiders begin to mate.
The next day does not go Daniels’ way. The doctor of this town is played by Henry Jones and he has changed his mind about retiring. He is afraid if he does, he will die soon after. Daniels’ plan is already falling apart. He is also getting a parking ticket by the local, bumbling sheriff as he is leaving, the sheriff played by Stuart Pankin. He is stopped by another citizen though, played by Mary Carver. Carver talks with Daniels and wants him to take over as the town doctor. She will be his first patient. She is also going throw him a party to help him win over more of the town.
Daniels sees Carver and he tells her to stop taking the high blood pressure medication that Jones has prescribed, telling her that she does not need it.
At the party, we meet more of the town. There is the local football coach who is kind of a loud mouth, played by Peter Jason. He is married to Jane Marla Robbins who doesn’t understand sarcasm. They have a daughter that is pretty, played by Theo Schwartz, another who becomes friends with Katz and is a loud mouth; she is played by Cori Wellins. Their other child is the quarterback for the football team, played by Chance Boyer.
Brocksmith and his wife, played by Kathy Kinney, are at the party. Jones and his wife, Frances Bay, are also there. Taylor’s parents are also in attendance, played by Warren Rice and Lois De Banzie. Banzie is not taking the death of her son well and also because she did not get to properly say good-bye. She has turned to drinking to cope.
That night, Carver is bit by a spider and dies. Daniels finds her the next morning when Kozak cannot reach her on the phone. Jones states that he thinks it is a heart attack and is angry that Daniels took her off her medication. He is convinced it is Daniels’ fault and will not let him do an autopsy. Pankin agrees with him. A football player also dies of a spider bite after Daniels gave him a physical. He is beginning to be called Doctor Death.
Jones is the next victim. He tells his wife something bit him. She saw the spider run away. Daniels begins to look into this, trying to enlist the aid of Sands. He is much too busy though and sends an assistant, played by Brian McNamara instead. We also meet the local exterminator as well, played by John Goodman.
Will they figure out what is causing these deaths before it is too late? These spiders are hybrids, will they be stopped or will they continue to grow and expand? Will Sands realize what this spider is before too many have been killed?
I have to say that I used to watch this film all the time as a child, but never realized that I always started it halfway through with the taped copy I had. I think the spiders that are used look real and that is scary. I’m not overly scared of spiders, but they can freak me out. I like the concept of having spiders that have cross-bred with common ones to create what we have here. Now the breed from South America is fictional, it is something that could be real in an isolated area. I really like the acting across the board. Goodman is hilarious in his role, which shouldn’t be surprising. The film runs 108 minutes, but it doesn’t feel like it. The pacing is great and it helps to build tension until the climax.
Now I do have to say that the climax is a little cheesy. It is hard when you have all of these spiders that one bite can kill. They get all over Daniels and he manages to avoid being bit. This doesn’t ruin it for me, but as an adult I can see that it is a tad farfetched.
With that said, I would recommend giving this film a viewing. This film is rated PG-13, but I would say that this is pretty family friendly. The acting is good, the story is as well and the concept is interesting. If you are terrified of spiders you might want to avoid this, as it might give you a heart attack to think there could be a spider out there like this. I would say that this is a fun horror film that makes you think twice about something we see everyday.
My Rating: 7 out of 10