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By Joe Brown
Washington Post Staff Writer
July 20, 1990


Frank Marshall
Jeff Daniels;
John Goodman;
Harley Jane Kozak;
Henry Jones
Children under 13 should be accompanied by a parent

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All the ickiest things come crawling out in the summer: Ants, grasshoppers, mosquitoes, centipedes, ugly bugs you've never even seen before. And spiders. Rightly or wrongly, of all the insects, the spider ranks highest on the shudder-meter.

Tapping into our primal revulsion for these mini-monsters is the summer scare-flick "Arachnophobia," which means, of course, fear of spiders. Are you arachnophobic? You'll know for sure within 10 minutes of the opening credits. And even if you're that rare type who can pick up a spider without involuntary convulsions, this movie is so loaded with bug-a-boos, you'll be squirming and twitching and thinking twice about setting your popcorn under your seat.

What's that on your shoulder?

Just kidding.

Dr. Ross Jennings and his family move from San Francisco into a charming farm in Northern California, where he'll take over the town doctor's monopoly practice. But things aren't as blissfully bucolic as intended. The locals are smug, suspicious and downright unfriendly, and the old doctor has decided not to retire after all. The wood is rotting under their floorboards, scotching Jenning's dream of a wine cellar. And no one has heard a cricket for a few weeks -- which is not necessarily a bad thing. But it's summer!

Soon townfolks of all ages start to die. Suddenly. Instantly. And Jennings starts to suspect it's the work of some kind of rare, lethal spiders. (You'll have to see the movie to find out how they got there.)

The ads are using the clumsy coinage "thrill-omedy" to describe this thriller-comedy. It gives you some of the paranoia and toss-your-popcorn shocks of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" and "Alien," plus John Goodman, who provides most of the "-omedy" when he shows up about an hour into the action as the town's boorish bugbuster. It's a one-joke movie, a funhouse ride, the cinematic equivalent of having a rubber spider thrown in your lap. But it doesn't matter if you reject the wispy script or the plot, which has as much substance as a spider's web; you'll jump every time.

"Arachnophobia" is a joint presentation of Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment and Hollywood Pictures, Walt Disney Studio's newest production arm, so you're assured of beautiful locations, graceful camerawork and ace squish-and-crunch stereo sound effects.

So spray yourself down with Off!, put on your tightest jeans and a long-sleeve shirt, hang a No-Pest strip around your neck and enjoy. (Gloves wouldn't be a bad idea, either.)

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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