Over 60% of people in the western world have some sort of Arachnophobia. This can be from just lifting their feet as a spider crosses the carpet to running screaming from the house when Spiderman is on telly. It’s not difficult to see why; they are some of the creepiest of crawlies and very common, in the scary venomous kind to the harmless, wispy, house-spider kind.
They have a ridiculous amount of legs, a crazy amount of eyes and spin their victims into a cocoon, having caught them in a web, before chowing down. There are species that “fish,” others that create trapdoors and some that have a poisonous sting. They are the badass of the “bug” world and really under-used in cinema.
Some of the coolest moments in movies have been spider related. One of my favourite parts of Harry Potter is in the Chamber of Secrets when he has to go see the spiders. When they attack him and Ron in the car, its scary and thrilling. The way they jump, crawl and get all over everything. The fact they are the size they are is enough to make your skin crawl.
The same can be said for both Lord of the Rings and the brief spider appearance in the Hobbit. The whole sequence involving Shelob in The Two Towers is some of the best parts of that movie. She is huge, relentless and very scary looking. You want to embody evil, a spider beats a giant flaming eye everytime and I’m looking forward to seeing the giant spider sequence realised in the Hobbit movies.
They are mainly bit part players though. Only a couple of films have really done spiders true justice. Eight Legged Freaks gave it a good attempt and was a very entertaining film. It had enough variation with the spiders and they were scary enough and silly enough to keep me engaged. It was never truly scary or skin crawling like the best ever spider movie is though.
Arachnophobia, the movie starring Jeff Daniels and John Goodman, is one of my favourite “horror movies.” It markets itself as more of a dark comedy but there are plenty of genuinely freaky and scary moments that had me jumping and trembling much more than any straight horror movie has. The moment when the spider emerges from the popcorn eating couples nose, the dangling from the lampshade or hiding in the slipper and the attack on the house at the end of the movie, are all moments that have always stuck with me. Moments that still make me itch and react to the slightest tingle, while I’m watching the movie, even now.
The funny thing is, I’m not even scared of spiders but they are such a great, menacing creature that they could be utilised in a very scary movie if used properly. Since Arachnophobia, the best we get is b-movie, straight-to-tv, cheap special effects and poor attempts at bringing spiders to the big screen properly. They are a creature people are genuinely afraid of and come in contact with almost every day, or a least on a weekly basis, and made to be terrifying, could very well make for a proper scary movie.
It doesn’t even have to be huge, giant spiders, terrorising Earth. Arachnophobia is good because the spiders are “normal” sized. You could make it a “under-siege” movie, trapping a group of people in a house, laboratory, boat or even a plane, with a host of different spiders, each attacking with their own unique angle. This could be the film that Samuel L. Jackson should have made. Denzel Washington in Spiders on a Plane!
Even if they did do the “huge spiders” movie, they don’t have to be skyscraper sized creatures that turn the film into a silly b-movie. Something human sized, terrorising people in a small town, using their different species and different “hunting” techniques, could very well be as scary as the Alien stalking around a spaceship or the masked killer hunting kids through a shack next to a swamp. Done properly, spiders could be used to terrify.
Overall, I think there is a proper market for scary spiders in mainstream movies. Not just b-movie, super spiders or a menacing creature for central characters to come across during their “main adventure” but a proper villain/monster in a true horror film. Either something resembling Arachnophobia but taking itself more seriously or even the huge spiders terrorising a small town; give it a proper budget, a proper script and a proper chance and it could be one of the scariest movies yet.