If you remember the 1990 movie Arachnophobia, you might recall that it was (somewhat awkwardly) marketed as a “thrill-omedy,” trying to play up its effective combination of scares and laughs as it told the tale of a spider invasion of a small town.
Syfy’s original movie Arachnoquake could be similarly billed as such, as it features thrills but less outright horror than most Saturday night movie titles the network has aired, and a lot more fun and humor, even down to the peppy, bouncy, and almost comic musical score that propels the action.
The plot, of course, is ridiculous. A previously unknown species of subterranean spider is freed from its underground tomb by earthquakes (blamed at one point in the movie by the practice of oil drilling commonly known as “fracking”) and set loose on the New Orleans area. These arachnids are albino (just like the sharks in Jersey Shore Shark Attack!), of enormous size, blind (relying on sound vibrations to find prey), can run on water, and can even breathe fire, based on a specially developed gas sac within their bodies.
Aside from the fact that they just make for cool viewing, some of the BS “scientific” explanations for the spiders’ crazy developments are explained to us by star Tracey Gold (Growing Pains), who plays Katelynn, an 8th-grade biology teacher with a Master’s degree in zoology who finds herself, with her son and daughter, in New Orleans in the midst of the giant spider attack. Her husband, played by a rough-looking Edward Furlong (Terminator 2: Judgment Day) is a girls’ high-school softball coach taking the team on a trip. Katelynn and her kids end up with tour guide Paul (Bug Hall) in trying to save themselves and the city as the Big Easy ends up fully under siege by the queen spider and her minions.
Gorehounds won’t find much to look at here — there are some spider kills and the spiders do lay eggs in some people, but there is nothing too graphic. The film is wildly ambitious for a Syfy original, though, and I found myself laughing not only at the intended humor, but also at the scope of what all they tried to do here, culminating in a 1950s-style sci-fi ending, with the military trying to fight off the giant spiders. As silly as it ultimately is — the CGI spiders varying wildly in size within the same scene, very loose plot points, people slipping in and out of attempted Cajun French accents — the cast and crew all seem to have genuinely attempted to put some work into this while also understanding it is not Shakespeare.
As “thrill-omedies” go, Arachnoquake is basically a poor man’s Arachnophobia, but it still had me stuck in its web of little surprises for most of its runtime.
Arachnoquake premieres June 23 at 9pm ET/PT on Syfy.