Arachnophobia (film): Wikis


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Theatrical release poster.
Directed by Frank Marshall
Produced by Don Jakoby
Richard Vane
Steven Spielberg (executive producer)
Written by Story:
  Don Jakoby
  Al Williams
  Don Jakoby
  Wesley Strick
Starring Jeff Daniels
John Goodman
Harley Jane Kozak
Julian Sands
Brian McNamara
Music by Trevor Jones
Cinematography Mikael Salomon
Editing by Michael Kahn
Studio Amblin Entertainment
Distributed by Hollywood Pictures
Release date(s) July 18, 1990
Running time 105 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $31,000,000 USD
Gross revenue $53,208,180 USD

Arachnophobia is a 1990 American comedy horror film[1] directed by Frank Marshall and starring Jeff Daniels and John Goodman. It is about deadly spiders infesting a small California town, with the title referring to the fear of spiders. It was the very first film released by Hollywood Pictures.



A group of scientists, led by entomologist Dr. James Atherton (Julian Sands), head to the Amazon with the hope of discovering new species of insects. The scientists identify a new species of spider, which is pretending to be dead and carries a type of venom that causes near-instantaneous death to its victims. The spider is captured and chloroformed for research. They learn that the spider is a soldier. A nature photographer Jerry Manley (Mark L. Taylor) takes a rest under the tree where the spider was found, and the 'general' (leader) spider jumps into his backpack, later sneaking into his sleeping bag and killing him with a bite to his hand. The remainder of the scientists take his body back to the US, in a wooden box, with the original spider from Venezuela inside, blaming Jerry's death on fever.

Jerry's body arrives at the morgue in his home town, Canaima, and the mortician (Roy Brocksmith) does not notice the general spider inside the coffin when he opens it. He is disgusted to find Jerry's body completely drained of bodily fluids. As the mortician is speaking on the phone with Jerry's family about funeral arrangements , the general heads outside. It, comically, eventually makes its way to the barn of the Jennings family. Ross Jennings (Jeff Daniels) is a family physician, who had moved to the small town from San Francisco, and faces a lack of patients due to elderly rival Sam Metcalf (Henry Jones), who was supposed to retire and shift his patients to Ross.

The general spider mates with a domestic house spider and makes a nest in Jennings's barn, producing a queen, then mates with the queen and makes a second nest in the family's basement. Hundreds of soldier spiders are born in the barn. Ross, along with his son (Garette Patrick Ratliff), has arachnophobia (fear of spiders), making them targets of ridicule among their family (Harley Jane Kozak and Marlene Katz). His first patient, Margaret Hollins (Mary Carver), dies after being bitten, which the town's residents believe was a heart attack. After a football player (Nathaniel Spitzley) is also killed by a spider, Ross is known to the town as Dr. Death, because each of his patients dies after having seen him. Soon, when Metcalf himself is bitten on the toe and killed by a spider, giving Ross the idea that the town could be infested by deadly arachnids. After Ross perform an autopsy with the town's coroner Milton Briggs (James Handy (who tells the Sheriff, Lloyd, to shut up a lot) on the victims and confirms his suspicion, he, along with Dr. Atherton, his assistant Chris Collins (Brian McNamara), Briggs, Sheriff Lloyd Parsons (Stuart Pankin), and exterminator Delbert Mclintock (John Goodman) investigate and eventually discover that the killer spiders are descendants of the new species Atherton discovered earlier. Dr. Atherton is bitten on the neck and killed by the general after he discovers the primary nests' location and disturbs its web.

After Ross, Chris, and Delbert trace the nests to Jennings' own property, Ross sends Delbert to destroy the first nest at the barn while he and Chris try to help the family escape from their own house, now infested with deadly spider offspring, coming in through all different places in the house. Ross's wife, his children, and Chris make it out through the window, but Ross finds himself trapped until he falls through the basement into the spiders' second nest. After electrocuting the queen, Ross battles the male, attempting to destroy the second egg sac along with burning the spider to death with fire spray. When the spider is about to deliver the killing strike, Ross flings the spider into the fire with a board on his chest.

When the egg sac hatches, the male, on fire, jumps out of the fire still pursuing him. Ross shoots it with a nail gun and the projectile sends the burning spider to the nest's egg sac, effectively destroying the nest with fire and ending the plague. Delbert is able to reach Ross and get him to safety. Having enough of the country along with the near-death experience, the Jennings family immediately move back to San Francisco, appreciating city life once more.


Filmmaker Steven Spielberg was involved with Arachnophobia, with one of his earlier producers Frank Marshall directing for the first time. Spielberg and Marshall are both the executive producers of the film.[2] Marshall meant for the film to be like Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds, and added, "People like to be scared but laughing, like a roller coaster. No one wants to be terrified."[3]

Jamie Hyneman, of MythBusters fame, stated in Popular Mechanics[4] that Arachnophobia was one of the first movies he worked on and that he often relied on simple magnets for several of the effects.

The film made use of 374 Avondale spiders, which were picked for their large size, unusually social lifestyle, and because they are essentially harmless to humans. They were guided around the set by the use of heat and cold, but the large "queen" was an articulated model.

The movie was actually filmed in Cambria, California. All the school scenes were filmed at Coast Union High School. Students and staff were used in the football scenes and group events. The locker room and players were the actual students and players from CUHS.

To create the sound effects of spiders being stepped on or squished, people stepped on mustard packs or squashed potato chips.[5]


Arachnophobia was the first film released by Hollywood Pictures[6]. Amblin Entertainment also helped produce it.[6] Advertisers were uncertain as to whether they should market the film as a thriller or a comedy. Therefore, television spots promoting the film billed it as a "thrill-omedy."[7]


The film was a financial success,[8] grossing $53,208,180 domestically[9] and going on to gross an additional $30,000,000 in video rentals.

In his book, critic Leonard Maltin calls the film a "slick comic thriller" and approves of the acting, warning, "Not recommended for anyone who's ever covered their eyes during a movie."[2] Newsweek associated the film with B movies "about the small town threatened by alien invaders," and said it was well made but "oddly unresonant."[10] Roger Ebert said it made audiences "squirm out of enjoyment, not terror," and listed details in the film that he felt were typical of such films, including "the bright young doctor, whose warnings are ignored" and "the loyal wife and kids," as well as "the usual cats and dogs, necessary for the obligatory scene in which they can sense something even when the humans can't." He gave the film three stars.[11] The film won a Saturn Award from The American Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror films for Best Horror Film and Best Actor (Daniels). Young actress Marlene Katz was nominated for a best actress award from the Young Artist Awards.

The film drew protests from some people interested in spiders, as they believed the film tarnished the public image of spiders.[1]


A soundtrack album for the film, also called Arachnophobia, was released in 1990. It included instrumental music from the film as well as songs such as "Blue Eyes Are Sensitive To The Light" by Sara Hickman, "Caught in Your Web (Swear to Your Heart)" by Russell Hitchcock, and "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" by Tony Bennett.


Film score
Released July 18, 1990 (Original Release)
March 19, 1996 (Re-Release)
Label Hollywood Records
  1. Blue Eyes Are Sensitive to the Light - Sara Hickman
  2. Atherton's Terrarium (Score)
  3. Arachnophobia - Brent Hutchins
  4. Miller's Demise (Score)
  5. Spiders and Snakes (Score)
  6. Off Spring (Score)
  7. Boris the Spider (Score)
  8. Delbert Squishes the Spider (Score)
  9. Spider and the Fly (Score)
  10. Web Photo (Score)
  11. Caught in Your Web (Swear to Your Heart) - Russell Hitchcock
  12. Main Title (Score)
  13. Don't Bug Me - Jimmy Buffett
  14. Casket Arrives (Score)
  15. Delbert's Theme - Tony Bennett
  16. Canaima Nightmare - Poorboys
  17. Along Came a Spider (Score)
  18. Cellar Theme - The Party
  19. End Title (Score)
  20. I Left My Heart in San Francisco - Tony Bennett

Songs that aren't included within the soundtrack are:

A video game version of Arachnophobia was also released in 1991, for Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64 and DOS.[12]


Actor Role
Jeff Daniels Dr. Ross Jennings
John Goodman Delbert McClintock
Harley Jane Kozak Molly Jennings
Julian Sands Dr. James Atherton
Brian McNamara Chris Collins
James Handy Milton Briggs
Peter Jason Henry Beechwood
Henry Jones Dr. Sam Metcalf
Kathy Kinney Blaire Kendall
Roy Brocksmith Irv Kendall
Cori Wellins Becky Beechwood
Stuart Pankin Sheriff Lloyd Parsons
Frances Bay Evelyn Metcalf
Garette Patrick Ratliff Tommy Jennings
Marlene Katz Shelley Jennings
Jane Marla Robbins Edna Beechwood
Theo Schwartz Bunny Beechwood
Chance Boyer Bobby Beechwood
Mary Carver Margaret Hollins
Nathaniel Spitzley Todd Miller
Mark L. Taylor Jerry Manley

See also


  1. ^ a b Jennie Punter, "HOPE 'THRILL-OMEDIES' DISAPPEAR AS FAST AS THIS FILM," The Whig-Standard, July 27, 1990, pg. 1.
  2. ^ a b Leonard Maltin, ed., Leonard Maltin's 2002 Movie & Video Guide. A Signet Book, 2001, p. 58.
  3. ^ Kenneth Turan and New York Times, "The spiders are No. 1 on this set; Working with a herd of erratic arachnids poses special problems for human actors," Edmonton Journal, April 15, 1990, pg. D.5
  4. ^ Page 44, Nov 2006 issue
  5. ^ Rick Gamble, "A stinging commentary," Expositor, Brantford, Ontario: April 22, 2006, pg. D.7.
  6. ^ a b Michael Walsh, "Less-than-terrific tension in this failed spider's web," The Province, Vancouver, British Columbia: July 22, 1990, pg. 85.
  7. ^ Bill Provick, "Arachnophobia fun- for those who can stand it," The Ottawa Citizen, March 16, 1991, pg. G.7.
  8. ^ "Here are the top 40 money-making entertainers; Bill Cosby No. 1 at $60M a year," The Ottawa Citizen, September 18, 1990, pg. D.7.
  9. ^ "1990 Domestic Grosses," Box Office Mojo. URL accessed 19 May 2006.
  10. ^ D. Ansen, "A choice of chuckles," Newsweek, 23 July 1990, vol. 116, issue 4, p. 64.
  11. ^ Roger Ebert, "Arachnophobia," Chicago Sun-Times, July 18, 1990.
  12. ^ "Arachnophobia," MobyGames, URL accessed 6 April 2007.

External links

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