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Arachnophobia Review

For Families provided by Common Sense Media

Iffy for 12+

Creepy/clever creature feature with touches of humor.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this horror-comedy features spider-bite-seizure deaths of likeable characters, including grandparent-ish types and imperiled house pets, and there is one particularly hideous corpse. Dialogue includes swearing (at the PG-level), and there is some naked female anatomy strategically revealed in a shower sequence. Needless to say, young (and old) viewers with a morbid fear of spiders may find some of the visuals uncomfortable or nightmare-inducing. There is the use of a nail gun as a weapon that may encourage unwise copycat behavior among kids.

  • Families can talk about spiders in real life, including the bird-eating spiders of the tropics (that obviously inspired the fictional species here). Why are spiders so creepy? Ask children if they fear spiders or can tolerate them.
  • For responsible opposing viewpoints, study up on the beneficial aspects of spiders, or read pro-spider storybooks such as Charlotte's Web.
  • Discuss how this movie doesn't go the giant-mutant-bug route of sci-fi thrillers like Tarantula and Eight Legged Freaks; spiders here are realistically sized. Talk about the "inverse square law," a scientific truth oft violated by Hollywood, in which the larger an animal is, the heavier its supporting anatomy has to be. Therefore invertebrates like the ones in giant-insect flicks would be squashed by their own massive exoskeletons.

The good stuff
  • message true1

    Messages: Though the superficial message is Dr. Jennings facing his worst phobia and triumphing, some might detect a sub-theme: a sardonic portrayal of "peaceful" small-town USA as more treacherous, small-minded, and mean-spirited than the major metropolitan communities.

  • rolemodels true2

    Role models: Dr. Jennings has a supportive wife and family and manages to pull himself together and fight the spider menace despite paralyzing fear. There are less flattering portrayals of the provincial California townsfolk; they seem suspicious and small-minded.

What to watch for
  • violence false3

    Violence: Spider bites, a few in closeup, resulting in seizures and death. A sight of hideously withered human and animal corpses. Spiders are squashed and burned; human victims include a nice old lady and a high school athlete. Climactic incendiaries and explosions, and even a projectile weapon.

  • sex false1

    Sex: No full toplessness, but female flesh as a spider in a shower crawls between a girl's exposed cleavage. Science discussion of the sex organs possessed by the species of spider involved. Suggestion that (married) humans and (unmarried) spiders are about to have sex.

  • language false2

    Language: "Damn," "hell," the s-word, "SOB," "God-damned."

  • consumerism false0

    Consumerism: Not an issue

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false1

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: Some social drinking. A luxury wine collection in a cellar ends up being key to the climax.