May 29, 2006

Eight Legs Up

We love movies. Who doesn't? We have seen every single Pixar production and Harry Potter film multiple times. Even if the film isn't my cup of tea, but remotely suitable for children, we go. I have taken many expensive naps in darkened theaters. Though I was eager to see The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, I closed my eyes when Lucy met Mr. Tumnus, the fawn, and when I opened them, Lucy was at her coronation. Unless the movie sounds completely repellent (The Cat in the Hat, Space Chimps), we go.

Jeff's all-time favorite movie is none of these films that I've carefully vetted. This film is known, familiarly, in our house, as "The Spider Movie." We discovered it on cable one weekend when I was trying to do some housework and Jeff had run out of toy car-related activities. "Wait," he shrieked, "Turn back!" Hmmmm, I thought, that looks like Scarlett Johansson. (

The movie stars a very young Scarlett Johansson.)

I have not seen the film all the way through, but generally it is campy horror send-up about a small Arizona town menaced by gigantic arachnids. I checked in on Jeff in the TV room to see half dozen huge spiders jumping down an abandoned stretch of highway. "What happened to them?" I asked. "Somebody potioned them."

I was concerned about possible onscreen violent encounters with enormous spiders. There is no blood. The spiders attack by quickly spinning the human victims into webs and sticking them onto walls and ceilings to great comic effect. Bullets glance off larger spiders, but the smaller ones explode with a gooosh of green goo, which Jeff finds hilarious. On my second tour through, a huge tarantula was crushing a camping van. "That's the biggest one, Mom. He's the king."

Now that Jeff knows the film, he summons me for the good parts, so he can tell me what happens next. "Uh-oh, the spiders are going to get the dog and the grandma," he warns me.

I am under strict orders to let Jeff know whenever Eight-Legged Freaks is on. Frankly, I am happy to see him engrossed in anything for a sustained period of time. For a long time, I did not know if Jeff understood the whole movie idea, namely, that it is one story. I wasn't sure if he just perceived it as a long series of unrelated images. So it is with some strange delight that I can occupy myself for 90 minutes only to hear Jeff periodically laughing, explaining the plot to no one in particular, and indulging that age-old horror film tradition of yelling admonishments at the characters. "Get to the mall! Now! Take the guns with you!"

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