Kill it with fire: The most skin-crawling spider movies ever made

Eight Legged Freaks
Image via Warner Bros.

Spiders. The creepy crawlies are the stuff of nightmares for many; too many legs, too many eyes, and just seeing one dart across the bedroom floor is enough to make anyone want to burn their house down. Last week, a school in Wisconsin found itself shut after an army of spiders wreaked havoc, resulting in one student having an allergic reaction and a teacher being bitten. 

In reality, spiders, for the most part, are not dangerous. Whilst some are known to have rather nasty bites, they’re nothing like how they are depicted by Hollywood. So, next time you spot one of those eight-legged-freaks dangling from your bedroom ceiling, count yourself lucky it’s nothing like the monsters from any of these movies.

Spiders 3D

Spiders 3D
Image via Millenium Media

Spiders 3D doesn’t win any awards for having an imaginative name, but if you’re looking for a CGI-heavy Hollywood movie about giant spiders destroying a city, then this will definitely scratch that itch. Released in 2013, Spiders 3D wasn’t very successful. It is also the third sequel in the Spiders franchise, and no, the other two weren’t very good either. But the third movie is definitely the best of a bad bunch. 

The film benefits from a higher budget compared to its predecessors, but it’s still a relatively low amount of money for such a big scale movie — and it shows. Overall, it’s a fun ride if you can switch your brain off and just enjoy 90 minutes of people getting eaten by giant spiders. It also features Euphoria’s Sydney Sweeney in one of her first movie roles.

The Spider

Spiders
Image via American International Pictures

Going back to the golden age of giant bug movies, we have Earth vs the Spider, the name of which was changed due to the success of another bug themed sci-fi classic: The Fly.

This film is pure ’50s cheese and it’s just a delight to watch, although the plot is as thin as a spider’s web and the effects definitely aren’t great, even by ’50s standards. The giant spider is a real tarantula; camera trickery and movie magic is deployed to make it look like it’s towering over the actors. It doesn’t look great, but it does have the charm of an old sci-fi B movie.

Kingdom of the Spiders

Kingdom of the Spiders
Image via Dimension Films

One of William Shatner’s lesser known roles, Kingdom of the Spiders centers on a town besieged by tarantulas that have begun working together to take down larger prey. Thousands of real tarantulas were used for the making of the film and the concept is more of a possibility than your average giant spider movie, which makes this film all the more creepy.

Aside from that, it’s not a very memorable movie. The acting is good and the execution is sub-par, it’s just been outshone by other better spider movies since it was initially released.

Eight Legged Freaks

Eight Legged Freaks
Image via Warner Bros.

Eight Legged Freaks is another super-sized spider movie that became an instant classic when it was released in 2002. It perfectly blends the horrific premise with physical comedy, most of which comes from the spiders themselves. Interestingly, the spiders are almost cartoonish at times in the way they move and the way they vocalise, but it gives the film personality and a bit of levity without detracting from the scariness.

The CGI isn’t too bad for an early 2000s movie either, but it’s far from perfect and it just doesn’t hold up today. Some physical props are used, particularly when the spiders are grabbing their victims, but when seen in broad daylight, they look a bit plastic. Unlike most spider movies though, this film features a huge variety to the spiders, jumping spiders, tarantulas, orb weavers and black widows, which keeps things interesting, especially when we get to see the different ways each species attacks. Seeing all of these different spiders run amok is great to watch.

Tarantula!

Tarantula!
Image via Universal International

Tarantula! is the OG giant spider movie. Similar to The Spider, a real tarantula was used and superimposed into the scene, but arguably to greater effect. The spider just looks creepier, mainly because it appears in shadow for a lot of its screen time. The make-up in the film is also a lot better, probably due to it having a bigger budget. The plot is very fleshed-out and keeps you hooked. Clearly, the writer and effects team were more experienced and it really shows. Tarantula! is a classic B-movie but it’s one of the best and it gets credit for being one of the earliest giant bug movies.

The Mist

The Mist
Image via Metro Goldwyn-Mayer

Whilst technically not solely about spiders, (there are all kinds of bugs in this Stephen King adaptation), there are still a few memorable scenes involving spiders. Including a bunch of baby spiders bursting out of the body of a still-alive victim caught in their webbing. The spiders in The Mist are fast and can produce a corrosive webbing that can burn through clothes. They’re also the creepiest looking spiders out of everything on this list with skull-like faces that would terrify even the most hardy horror fan. 

Aside from the spiders, this film is an absolutely horrifying watch in the best way possible with a gut punch of an ending. The rest of the monsters are horrifying as well, but as to be expected with Stephen King, the most horrifying of all are the human characters.

Arachnophobia

Arachnophobia
Image via Hollywood Pictures

Well-made, sometimes comedic but always horrifying, this is the go-to for skin-crawling arachnid movies. After a newly discovered, aggressive species of spider mates with a house spider, an army of homicidal critters reign terror over the humans and leave a trail of death wherever they go with their ability to kill with a single bite. The spiders in this movie are vicious, particularly the “General spider”, also known as “Big Bob”, who is bigger and smarter than the others. A real Goliath bird-eater tarantula was used for some of the shots of the antagonist as well as a convincing spider puppet. Big Bob’s final showdown with the protagonist is as nail-biting as it is terrifying.

Can we look forward to any new arachnid-themed movies?

Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be much of a market for spider movies anymore with less and less of the sort being released, despite the fact that 75% of people are either mildly or severely scared of spiders. Arachnids seem like the perfect topic for a new horror franchise, if done right. Perhaps a production company like Blumhouse or A24 could greenlight something in the near future, after all, both of these companies have shown that they are willing to invest in fledgling directors with specific horror niches. But there doesn’t seem to be a lot of interest from the rest of Hollywood at the moment. For now, we’ll just have to settle for real spiders, which most people would say are scary enough.