Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Frank Marshall|
|Produced by||Don Jakoby
|Screenplay by||Don Jakoby
|Story by||Don Jakoby
Harley Jane Kozak
|Music by||Trevor Jones|
|Editing by||Michael Kahn|
|Distributed by||Buena Vista Pictures|
|Release dates||July 18, 1990|
|Running time||110 minutes|
Arachnophobia is a 1990 American horror comedy film directed by Frank Marshall and starring Jeff Daniels and John Goodman. It was the first film released by Hollywood Pictures, as well as being the directorial debut of Frank Marshall.
Shooting took place in Venezuela and California and the film was released in the United States on July 18, 1990. It was a modest commercial success, gaining $53.21 million at the box office. It received generally positive reviews from critics.
||This article's plot summary may be too long or excessively detailed. (August 2013)|
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 and arachnids. After descending into an enormous sinkhole, they approach a tree, and set up collectors on the ground. The team then blows smoke up into the canopy of the tree, and await the results. Slowly, creatures start falling from the sky, including a variety of bugs. One of which is a very aggressive new species of spider. The spider is captured and chloroformed for research; and is later revealed to be lacking sex organs, thus making it a drone, or soldier. A nature photographer, Jerry Manley (Mark L. Taylor), who has been suffering a fever since traveling to the area, takes a rest under the tree where the spider was found, and a fertile male spider of the same species jumps into his backpack, later sneaking into his sleeping bag and biting him on the arm. Manley promptly has a massive tetanic seizure from the venom and dies. The remainder of the scientists take his body back to the United States, in a wooden box, blaming Manley's death on the preexisting fever. Unbeknownst to anyone, the fertile male spider crawls into the box and is sealed in with the corpse.
Manley's body arrives at the funeral home in his home town of Canaima, California and the mortician Irv Kendall (Roy Brocksmith) does not notice the spider inside the coffin when he opens it. He is disgusted to find the photographer's body desiccated, completely drained of bodily fluids. As Irv is speaking on the phone with the Manley family about funeral arrangements, the spider heads outside, only to be picked by a crow. But before the crow gets back to its nest, the spider bites it, and it falls to the ground dead, right in front of 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, but decided to maintain his practice.
The fertile male spider mates with a female domestic house spider and makes a nest in Jennings's barn, producing hundreds of infertile offspring, all of which have their father's lethal bite. Ross, along with his son Tommy (Garette Patrick Ratliff), has arachnophobia, making them targets of ridicule among Molly (Harley Jane Kozak) and Shelly (Marlene Katz). His first patient and new neighbor, Margaret Hollins (Mary Carver), dies after being bitten. The town's residents believe that she died from a heart attack, despite Ross' suspicions that something else was at work since she seemed to have had seizures before her death. After a football player is also killed by a spider, a death which is attributed to a football injury, Ross is known to the town as "Dr. Death", having all his patients coincidentally dying after having seen him. Soon, Sam Metcalf himself is bitten on the toe, has a seizure and dies. As with Margaret, the initial suspicion is a heart attack, but Ross now has the idea that the town could be infested by deadly arachnids.
After Ross and the county's coroner Milton Briggs (James Handy) perform an autopsy on the victims and confirm Ross' suspicion that the deaths were caused by spider bites, he, along with James Atherton, his assistant Chris Collins (Brian McNamara), Briggs, Sheriff Lloyd Parsons (Stuart Pankin) and exterminator Delbert McClintock (John Goodman) investigate and eventually discover that the killer spiders are descendants of the new species the entomologist discovered earlier and, due to being a mixed breed, have a short life expectancy. Atherton tells them that the spiders are soldiers, eliminating potential threats for the general spider. He also learns that the general spider produced a queen, which it likely mated with to produce a second nest, guarded by the queen, which could produce fertile offspring. Atherton elaborates that, due to the constraints of the spider's original habitat, it was left unable to expand its territory; now that such constraints have been eliminated, the spiders can progressively expand their territory, possibly culminating in their worldwide dispersal. The group sets out to destroy the second nest and kill the queen and general. Atherton is bitten on the neck and killed by the general after he discovers the first nest's location and disturbs its web while trying to capture it.
After Ross, Delbert and Chris trace the nests to Jennings' own property, Ross sends Delbert to destroy the first nest at the barn, where the exterminator unknowingly passes by the general and finds Atherton. Ross and Chris try to help the family escape from their own house but spiders begin to appear all over the house as soon as they enter. Molly, the children, and Chris make it out through the window, but Ross finds himself trapped until he falls through the floor into his wine cellar, which turns out to be the spiders' second nest. Outside, a fully equipped Delbert makes his way to the house and begins to exterminate the baby spiders. Back inside, after electrocuting the queen, Ross battles the general, attempting to destroy the second egg sac along with burning the spider to death with an aerosol can and a lighter. However, he becomes trapped underneath fallen debris. When the spider is about to deliver the killing strike, Ross flings the spider into the fire with a board that has fallen on his torso.
When the egg sac hatches, the general, now entirely engulfed in flames, jumps out of the fire. Ross shoots it with his nail gun and the projectile sends the burning spider into 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, despite minor tremors disrupting them.
- 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
- Henry Jones as Dr. Sam Metcalf
- Roy Brocksmith as Irv Kendall
- Kathy Kinney as Blaire Kendall
- Stuart Pankin as Sheriff Lloyd Parsons
- Frances Bay as Evelyn Metcalf
- Mary Carver as Margaret Hollins
- Garette Ratliff Henson billed as Garette Patrick Ratliff as Tommy Jennings
- Marlene Katz as Shelly Jennings
- Mark L. Taylor as Jerry Manley
- Brandy Norwood as Brandy Beechwood (uncredited)
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. Amblin Entertainment also helped produce it.
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." The film also has similarities with the 1977 film Kingdom of the Spiders.
The film made use of 374 Avondale spiders, from New Zealand, 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 "general" and "queen" were articulated models.
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.
Release and reception
Arachnophobia was the first film released by Hollywood Pictures. 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."
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 drew protests from some people interested in spiders, as they believed the film tarnished the public image of spiders.
The film won a Saturn Award from The American Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & 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 Trevor Jones's instrumental music from the film as well as dialogue excerpts and 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. The European version of the album has the same cover art, but more score tracks, fewer songs and no dialogue.
|Released||July 18, 1990 (Original Release)
March 19, 1996 (Re-Release)
- "Blue Eyes Are Sensitive to the Light" by Sara Hickman – 5:11
- "Atherton's Terrarium" – 0:21
- "Arachnophobia" by Brent Hutchins – 4:53
- "Miller's Demise" – 0:37
- "Spiders and Snakes" by The Party – 3:40
- "Offspring" – 0:51
- "Boris the Spider" by Pleasure Thieves – 2:59
- "Delbert Squishes the Spider" – 0:49
- "Spider and the Fly" by Poorboys – 2:52
- "Web Photo" – 0:26
- "Caught in Your Web (Swear to Your Heart)" by Russell Hitchcock – 4:28
- "Main Title" – 5:36
- "Don't Bug Me" by Jimmy Buffett – 3:27
- "The Casket Arrives" – 1:55
- "Delbert's Theme" – 2:04
- "Canaima Nightmare" – 6:21
- "Along Came a Spider" – 2:37
- "Cellar Theme" – 1:20
- "End Title" – 3:54
- "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" by Tony Bennett – 3:02
- "Main Title" – 5:38
- "Photus Manlii" – 2:24
- "Bob Hitches a Ride" – 4:18
- "The Casket Arrives" – 1:53
- "Blue Eyes Are Sensitive to the Light" by Sara Hickman – 5:05
- "Molly's Web" – 3:29
- "Arachnophobia" by Brent Hutchins – 4:48
- "Delbert's Theme" – 2:32
- "Spider Lamp Shade" – 1:55
- "Under the Bleachers" – 2:05
- "Along Came a Spider" – 2:25
- "Bugs 'B' Gone" – 3:04
- "Canaima Nightmare" – 3:45
- "Life in the Country" – 0:56
- "The Cellar" – 1:17
- "End Title" – 3:52
- "Don't Bug Me" by Jimmy Buffett – 3:27
Songs in the film that were not included on the soundtrack are:
- List of American films of 1990
- Cultural depictions of spiders
- Ice Spiders, a film that also involves spider attacks
- Eight Legged Freaks, another film about deadly spiders.
- Jennie Punter, "HOPE 'THRILL-OMEDIES' DISAPPEAR AS FAST AS THIS FILM," The Whig-Standard, July 27, 1990, pg. 1.
- Leonard Maltin, ed., Leonard Maltin's 2002 Movie & Video Guide. A Signet Book, 2001, p. 58.
- Michael Walsh, "Less-than-terrific tension in this failed spider's web," The Province, Vancouver, British Columbia: July 22, 1990, pg. 85.
- Kenneth Turan and New York Times, "The spiders are No. 1 on this set; Working with a herd of erratic arachnids poses special problems for human actors," Edmonton Journal, April 15, 1990, pg. D.5
- Kingdom of the Spiders/Fun Facts. The Deuce: Grindhouse Cinema Database. 29 Jan 2009. Retrieved 27 Jan 2012. Kantor hinted in his Fangoria interview that Arachnophobia, which Spielberg produced, bears several similarities to Kingdom of the Spiders. "I thought it was a copy", Kantor stated, "but you don't go and sue Spielberg!"
- Page 44, Nov 2006 issue
- Rick Gamble, "A stinging commentary," Expositor, Brantford, Ontario: April 22, 2006, pg. D.7.
- Bill Provick, "Arachnophobia fun- for those who can stand it," The Ottawa Citizen, March 16, 1991, pg. G.7.
- "Here are the top 40 money-making entertainers; Bill Cosby No. 1 at $60M a year," The Ottawa Citizen, September 18, 1990, pg. D.7.
- "1990 Domestic Grosses," Box Office Mojo. URL accessed 19 May 2006.
- D. Ansen, "A choice of chuckles," Newsweek, 23 July 1990, vol. 116, issue 4, p. 64.
- Roger Ebert, "Arachnophobia," Chicago Sun-Times, July 18, 1990.
- "Arachnophobia". Rotten Tomatoes. Archived from the original on 30 April 2010. Retrieved 2010-03-23.
- "Arachnophobia," MobyGames, URL accessed 6 April 2007.
- Arachnophobia. Open Library. Accessed 11 February 2012.
- Arachnophobia at the Internet Movie Database
- Arachnophobia at allmovie
- Arachnophobia at Box Office Mojo
- Arachnophobia at Rotten Tomatoes