The title should be a hint, but if spiders give you the willies, Arachnophobia will be your own personal horror show. The icky factor is dialed to a 10, providing some effective moments of skin-crawling. In other words, Arachnophobia is a deliciously fun ride, with genuine thrills and legitimate laughs.
The amusingly self-aware plot is that by unfortunate chance, a deadly Venezuelan spider was transported to a small town where the spiders quickly multiplied and begin killing various town residents. The nest is, rather coincidentally, located in the farm of arachno-phobic, Ross Jennings.
It is so rare to see a film get this mix of comedy, chills, and thrills down so perfect. Never does one element seem to outweigh the other. The tongue-in-cheek delivery of the story is highly enjoyable, and there are some genuinely creepy-crawly scenes. All of this leads up to a thrilling (and chilling) climax that is fantastic fun.
There is a lot of mastery in the build-up in this film. Spiders are often dancing around potential victims, tantalizing the audience with another gruesome death. Will it bite her? Will she notice it? We watch with morbid curiosity and a grin as we writhe with anticipation and (perhaps slightly twisted) delight.
The spiders are nearly as creepy as they could possibly be. They're silent and quick. They can jump (which adds a whole new layer of terror). And some are quite large. We see them hide in food, and exit out of victim's nostrils. Arachnophobia creates a sense of paranoia that will stay with you long after the film has ended.
And yet, the creepiness is kept from getting too nerve-wracking thanks to its self-aware attitude and campy spirit, which insures a fun time, even when you're chewing your nails away and intermittently brushing off your shoulder.
Jeff Daniels as Ross Jennings isn't given as much to work with as some of the other cast members, but he makes for a likable lead. The real stand-out, however, is John Goodman as Delbert McClintock, who provides the biggest laughs of the film, and steals all of his scenes. He's woefully underused, however, as he appears in just a handful of short scenes. The supporting cast also has their share of funny bits, including Stuart Pankin, Roy Brocksmith, and Kathy Kinney.
Trevor Jones' score is surprisingly fun. The cheesy and dated music (an unintended result that has come with age) adds to the fun, and the pleasant town melodies make the comic build-up to the spiders' reign even more chuckle-worthy.
Arachnophobia is a surprisingly clever and smartly made movie. It provides a satisfying blend of comedy and suspense, coupled with solid performances and a hot heaping of camp. It's fun, it's reasonably creepy, and just a really good time. Watch it with friends and have a blast.