At least here the title of this movie can be as HandsomeStan wishes it. If you haven't read his excellent behind-the-scenes account of this movie, here are chapters one, two, and three.
Somewhere I got the idea that I was saving the best Kari Wuhrer movie for last. As it turned out, this was neither the best nor last film in my Kari fest, but it was the one in which she looked the best. I suppose it's a bit of a bummer that my horrorthon sub-festival hardly featured any naked Kari when according to her Wikipedia page she's been in over a dozen sexploitation movies, but at least in this one she's looking pretty hot as the MILF sheriff of a small Arizona town.
Here she is getting clumsily hit on by David Arquette. (He's about to try and subsequently fail to open his heart to her, and the twist on the resolution of that problem (much later) is a nice spike in the quality of the writing.)
When this starts it's got a decent shot at being a damn good monster movie. The premise is neatly spun (oops, sorry), as a dealer in exotic spiders starts feeding his stock on the toxic crickets from a nearby pond. As the critters grow they travel around the mining tunnels that honeycomb the town, so when they pounce they're kind of everywhere. There's a real sense of infestation: for example, shortly before the barber sees his buddy get eaten in his armchair (see below), a couple of the nasties scurry by the front window. He doesn't see them and they don't see him, it's just a good build on the emerging disaster.
Check it out! It's HandsomeStan's legs!
Except for copious amounts of green slime, there's no real gore going on in this PG-thirteener. However the body count is fairly impressive. As the populace flee, a good percentage of the folks onscreen are pounced upon or pulled underground, and it's too crazy a scene for anyone to stop and try to help anyone else.
In general the action is pretty worthwhile. During the "jumping spiders attacking dirtbikers" scene, which I recalled from my first viewing as being somewhat gimmicky, I found myself really digging it. All in all this seemed like it had the makings of a decent cheap monster thrill: good action, legitimately scary monsters (spiders! eew!), a comedy/horror sensibility that wasn't too heavy on the comedy...
I think I only started noticing it during the siege of the mall; for some reason the doofuses (doofi?) in charge decided the spiders needed to be emitting little laughy gremlin noises as they scurried around. During the stampede you could count on whichever bug zipped nearer the camera to emit this "heeheeheehoohoo" sound, which needless to say completely screwed up the vibe. By making the spiders funny, they actually made them not even as scary as the gremlins from Gremlins. A very bad choice. The movie's street cred wasn't all that solid, and this touch -- which, once it starts, happens over and over -- tipped things in the wrong direction. It's weird how one little detail can do that, but looking back I don't feel like giving this movie a three-star break, and I might've. Maybe the powers that be will send Kari Wuhrer over here to change my mind.