|Arachnophobia is a 1990 American comedy horror film directed by Frank Marshall and starring Jeff Daniels and John Goodman. It was the first film released by Hollywood Pictures.
The story centers on a newly discovered Venezuelan spider being transported to a small American town that produces a new race of deadly spiders, which begin killing the town’s residents one by one.
Shooting took place in Venezuela and California and the film was released in the United States on July 18, 1990. It was a commercial success, gaining $53.21 million at the box office. It received generally positive reviews from critics.
A group of scientists, led by entomologist Dr. James Atherton, head to the Amazon with the hope of discovering new species of insects and arachnids. After descending into an enormous sinkhole, they approach a tree, and set up collectors on the ground. The team then blows smoke up into the canopy of the tree, and await for the results. Slowly, creatures start falling from the sky, including a variety of insects. One of which is a very aggressive new species of spider which (unknown at the time) carries a type of venom that causes near-instantaneous death to its victims. The spider is captured and chloroformed for research; and is later revealed to be lacking sex organs, thus making it a drone, or soldier. A nature photographer, Jerry Manley, takes a rest under the tree where the spider was found, and a fertile male “General” spider jumps into his backpack, later sneaking into his sleeping bag and biting him on the hand. Jerry promptly has a massive tetanic seizure from the venom and dies. 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 a pre-existing fever.
Jerry’s body arrives at the funeral home in his home town, Canaima, and the mortician Irv Kendall does not notice the spider inside the coffin when he opens it. He is disgusted to find Jerry’s body dessicated, completely drained of bodily fluids. As Irv is speaking on the phone with the Manley family about funeral arrangements, the spider heads outside, only to be picked by a bird. But before the bird gets back to its nest, the spider manages to bite it, and it falls to the ground, right in front of the barn of the Jennings family. Ross Jennings 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, who was supposed to retire and shift his patients to Ross, but decided to maintain his practice.
The spider mates with a domestic house spider and makes a nest in Jennings’s barn, producing hundreds of infertile, but still deadly, offspring. Ross, along with his son Tommy, has arachnophobia (fear of spiders), making them targets of ridicule among Molly and Shelly. His first patient and new neighbor, Margaret Hollins, dies after being bitten. The town’s residents believe that she died from a heart attack despite Ross’ suspicions that something else was at work since she seemed to have had seizures before her death. After a football player is also killed by a spider, a death which is attributed to a football injury, Ross is known to the town as “Dr. Death”, because each of his patients coincidentally dies after having seen him. Soon, Dr. Metcalf himself is bitten on the toe, has a seizure and dies. As with Margaret, the initial suspicion is a heart attack, but Ross now has the idea that the town could be infested by deadly arachnids.
After Ross and the county’s coroner Milton Briggs perform an autopsy on the victims and confirm Ross’ suspicion that the deaths were caused by spider bites, he, along with Dr. Atherton, his assistant Chris Collins, Briggs, Sheriff Lloyd Parsons, and exterminator Delbert McClintock investigate and eventually discover that the killer spiders are descendants of the new species James discovered earlier and, due to being born a mixed breed, have a short-life expectancy. Atherton tells them that the spiders are soldiers, eliminating potential threats for the general spider. He also informs that the general spider also produced a queen, which it likely mated with to produce a second nest, guarded by the queen, which could produce fertile offspring. Atherton elaborates that, due to the constraints of the spider’s original habitat, it was left unable to expand its territory; however, now that such constraints have been eliminated, the spiders can progressively expand their territory, possibly culminating in their worldwide dispersal. With these revelations now at hand, the group sets out to destroy the second nest and kill the queen and general. Atherton is bitten on the arm and killed by the general after he discovers the first nest’s location and disturbs its web while trying to capture it.
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. Spiders begin to appear all over the house as Ross enters. Molly, the children, and Chris make it out through the window, but Ross finds himself trapped until he falls through the floor into his wine cellar, which turns out to be the spiders’ second nest. Outside, a fully equipped Delbert makes his way to the house and begins to exterminate the baby spiders. Back inside, after electrocuting the queen, Ross battles the general, attempting to destroy the second egg sac along with burning the spider to death with an aerosol can and a lighter. However he becomes trapped underneath fallen debris and when the spider is about to deliver the killing strike Ross flings the spider into the fire with a board that has fallen on his chest.
When the egg sac hatches, the general, now entirely engulfed in flames, jumps out of the fire, refusing to let Ross leave the basement alive. Ross shoots it with his nail gun and the projectile sends the burning spider into 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, despite minor tremors disrupting them.