Arachnophobia is a 1990 American black comedy horror film directed by Frank Marshall and starring Jeff Daniels and John Goodman. The first film released by the Walt Disney Studios' Hollywood Pictures, it was Marshall's directorial debut. Its plot centers on a newly-discovered, prehistoric spider from Venezuela which is transported to a small California town. The spider produces an invasive species of deadly spiders which begin killing the town's residents.
Theatrical release poster by John Alvin
|Directed by||Frank Marshall|
|Music by||Trevor Jones|
|Edited by||Michael Kahn|
|Distributed by||Buena Vista Pictures|
|Box office||$53.2 million|
|Film score by|
|Released||July 18, 1990 (original release)|
March 19, 1996 (re-release)
|Studio||Evergreen Recording Studios|
Shot in Venezuela and California, the film was released in the United States on July 18, 1990. It was a modest commercial success, earning $53.21 million at the box office, and received generally-positive reviews from critics.
In a Venezuelan tepui, entomologist James Atherton captures two members of an aggressive new species of spider of prehistoric origin. The spiders lack sex organs, indicating that they are drones or soldiers, therby existing as a hive (atypical of spiders). A fertile male of the same species bites bedridden American nature photographer Jerry Manley, who has a severe seizure from the venom and dies. The scientist sends Manley's body back to his hometown of Canaima, California, unaware that the spider has crawled into the coffin.
Manley's desiccated body arrives at the funeral home of mortician Irv Kendall. The spider escapes from the coffin, is picked up by a crow and bites the bird. The crow falls dead outside the barn of Ross Jennings, a family physician who has moved from San Francisco to take over the practice of the retiring town doctor. Like his son, Ross has arachnophobia.
He is short of patients after Sam Metcalf, the elderly town doctor, changes his mind about retiring. The Venezuelan spider mates with a house spider in the Jennings' barn. The domestic spider produces hundreds of infertile, drone offspring with their father's lethal bite, and they leave the nest after consuming her.
Ross' first patient, Margaret Hollins, dies after being bitten by one of the new spiders, and he doubts Metcalf's diagnosis of a heart attack. Metcalf accuses Ross of malpractice, since Ross had taken Margaret off blood pressure medication prescribed by Metcalf. A spider kills high school football player Todd Miller just after Ross conducted a routine team checkup, earning him the nickname of "Dr. Death". The next victim is Metcalf, who is bitten and dies in front of his wife.
With Metcalf dead, Ross becomes Canaima's town doctor. Knowing that Metcalf was bitten by a spider and a minute amount of an unknown toxin was detected in his body, he suspects that the town may be infested by deadly arachnids.
Ross calls Atherton and asks him to help his investigation. The skeptical Atherton sends Chris Collins, his assistant. Ross and county coroner Milt Briggs order that Hollins and Miller be exhumed. They perform autopsies, and Chris confirms Ross' suspicion after he identifies bite marks. Ross and Chris catch one of the spiders in Metcalf's house the following day. When Chris mentions the new species discovered by Atherton, Ross realizes that the town's killer spiders and Atherton's discovery are related since he had learned about Manley's death from the mortician Irv months earlier.
Atherton joins Ross, Chris, Milt, Sheriff Lloyd Parsons, and exterminator Delbert McClintock in Canaima, and they discover that the spiders have a short lifespan due to their crossbreeding. Atherton tells them that the spiders are soldiers sent to eliminate potential threats for the head male spider, whom he calls "the general". He learns that the general produced a queen and inbred with her to produce a second nest (guarded by the queen) which could produce fertile offspring, culminating in worldwide dispersal. Although the group wants to destroy both nests and kill the queen and the general, Atherton hopes to capture the general alive.
After finding Irv and his wife Blaire dead, Ross, Chris, and Delbert discover that one nest is in Ross's barn. When he destroys the nest, Delbert finds Atherton dead – bitten by the general before it escaped. Chris gets the Jennings family out of their infested house, but Ross falls through the floor into his wine cellar: the spiders' second nest, guarded by the queen and the general.
After he electrocutes the queen, Ross battles the general while he tries to burn the second egg sac (overcoming his fear of spiders by focusing on his need to stop them). Trapped by fallen debris as the general prepares to bite him, Ross flings the spider into the fire; as the egg sac hatches, the general jumps out of the fire. Ross shoots it with a nail gun, sending the flaming spider into the egg sac and destroying the nest. Delbert rescues Ross; with the general, the queen and the nests destroyed and the soldiers dying, the spiders' threat is over. Deciding that they missed their old life, the Jennings family returns to San Francisco.
- Jeff Daniels as Dr. Ross Jennings
- Harley Jane Kozak as Molly Jennings
- John Goodman as Delbert McClintock
- Julian Sands as Dr. James Atherton
- Brian McNamara as Chris Collins
- James Handy as Milt Briggs
- Peter Jason as Henry Beechwood
- Henry Jones as Dr. Sam Metcalf
- Frances Bay as Evelyn Metcalf
- Mark L. Taylor as Jerry Manley
- Roy Brocksmith as Irv Kendall
- Kathy Kinney as Blaire Kendall
- Stuart Pankin as Sheriff Lloyd Parsons
- Mary Carver as Margaret Hollins
- Marlene Katz as Shelly Jennings
Steven Spielberg was involved with Arachnophobia, with Frank Marshall (one of his earlier producers) directing for the first time. Spielberg and Marshall were the film's executive producers, and Amblin Entertainment received a production credit.
Marshall intended that the film would be reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds: "People like to be scared but laughing, like a roller coaster. No one wants to be terrified." Arachnophobia also bears similarities to the 1977 film, Kingdom of the Spiders.
Jamie Hyneman of MythBusters said in Popular Mechanics that Arachnophobia was one of the first films on which he worked, and he often relied on simple magnets for effects. The film used over 300 Avondale spiders from New Zealand, chosen for their large size, unusually-social lifestyle, and harmlessness to humans; they were guided around the set by heat and cold. The large general and queen spiders were articulated models. Arachnophobia was primarily filmed in Cambria, California; the introductory and jungle scenes were filmed in southern Venezuela. The school scenes were filmed at Coast Union High School, with students and staff used in the football scenes and group events; players in the locker room were CUHS student athletes. For the sound effect of spiders being crushed, Foley artists stepped on mustard packages or potato chips.
Release and receptionEdit
Arachnophobia was the first film released by Hollywood Pictures. Advertisers were uncertain if they should market it as a thriller or a comedy, and television commercials for the film called it a "thrill-omedy".
Arachnophobia debuted at number three (behind Ghost and Die Hard 2, earning $8 million over its first weekend. The film was a financial success, grossing $53,208,180 domestically and an additional $30 million in video rentals. This made Spielberg 1990's fourth-wealthiest entertainer; he had previously been the second-wealthiest.
In Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide, film critic Leonard Maltin calls Arachnophobia a "slick comic thriller", praising the acting with a caveat: "Not recommended for anyone who's ever covered their eyes during a movie." Writing for Newsweek, David Ansen compared the film to B movies "about the small town threatened by alien invaders", calling it well-made but "oddly unresonant." Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times said that the film made audiences "squirm out of enjoyment, not terror", and gave it three out of four stars.
Arachnophobia has a 92-percent rating (based on 37 reviews) at Rotten Tomatoes, with an average rating of 6.8 out of 10. According to the website's critical consensus, "Arachnophobia may not deliver genuine chills, but it's an affectionate, solidly built tribute to Hollywood's classic creature features." Some people interested in spiders protested against the film, believing that it tarnished the public's view of spiders.
|Saturn Awards||Best Horror Film||Won|
|Best Director||Frank Marshall||Nominated|
|Best Writing||Don Jakoby||Nominated|
|Best Actor||Jeff Daniels||Won|
|Best Supporting Actor||John Goodman||Nominated|
|12th Young Artist Awards||Most Entertaining Family Youth Motion Picture - Comedy/Horror||Nominated|
|Best Young Supporting Actress||Marlene Katz||Nominated|
The video-game version of Arachnophobia was released in 1991 for Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64 and DOS. Nicholas Edwards wrote a novelization of the film. Hollywood Comics (an imprint of Disney Comics) released a comic-book adaptation of the film, written by William Rotsler with art by Dan Spiegle. The characters in the comic adaptation bear little resemblance to those in the film.
An Arachnophobia soundtrack album was released in 1990. It included Trevor Jones's instrumental music from the film, 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.
- "AFI-Catalog". catalog.afi.com. Retrieved 15 June 2018.
- 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. D5
- Kingdom of the Spiders/Fun Facts. The Deuce: Grindhouse Cinema Database, January 29, 2009; retrieved January 27, 2012.
- Page 44, November 2006 issue
- 18 Creepy Facts about Arachnophobia. Mental Floss.
- Rick Gamble, "A stinging commentary", Expositor, Brantford, Ontario: April 22, 2006, pg. D7.
- Bill Provick, "Arachnophobia fun- for those who can stand it", The Ottawa Citizen, March 16, 1991, pg. G7.
- "Here are the top 40 money-making entertainers; Bill Cosby No. 1 at $60M a year", The Ottawa Citizen, September 18, 1990, pg. D7.
- "1990 "Domestic Grosses", Box Office Mojo; accessed May 19, 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 (1990)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Archived from the original on April 30, 2010. Retrieved April 8, 2020.
- Jennie Punter, "Hope 'Thrill-Omedies' Disappear as Fast as This Film", The Whig-Standard, July 27, 1990, pg. 1.
- "Past Saturn Awards". saturnawards.org. Archived from the original on 1 June 2007. Retrieved 8 June 2007.
- "Twelfth Annual Youth in Film Awards". Young Artist Awards. Archived from the original on 23 April 2016.
- ""Arachnophobia". MobyGames. Accessed 6 April 2007.
- Arachnophobia, OpenLibrary.org; accessed February 11, 2012.
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Arachnophobia (film)|