(This was originally written by me in July of 2018 for free for another site. It was originally posted on that site last year but I’m slowly moving all my articles over to Horror Bound so they’re in one place)
In 2002 our screens were graced with an epic monster flick Eight Legged Freaks. If you’re unfamiliar, Eight Legged Freaks is a retro 50’s horror-comedy about radioactive jumping spiders, directed by Ellory Elkayem. It’s B-movie goodness with a soon to be A-list cast including David Arquette and Scarlett Johansson. It wasn’t ground breaking for the time and sadly, didn’t cause many waves.
Eight Legged Freaks was the only monster movie in 2002, and with a budget of 30 million it just broke even at the end of it all with a box office gross of 45 million. We weren’t ready for Eight Legged Freaks back in 2002, but we’re ready for it now.
Personally, I’ve watched this movie more times than I would care to admit, but what I am always most interested by is the bad ass female lead. And yet, when we talk about final girls, Sam Parker never shows up any list. You’ve heard of Sidney Prescott, Laurie Strode, and Ellen Ripley, but I’m willing to bet the name Sam Parker doesn’t even ring a bell. Well buckle your seat belts, load-up your shotgun and prepare to meet your new favorite final girl!
Sam Parker (played by Kari Wuhrer) really doesn’t get as much credit as she’s due. Not only is she a single mother to a teenage daughter and young son, she’s also constantly harassed for being a female sheriff in a small town. She’s your stereotypical woman-in-power, treated with a constant barrage of distrust and judgement.
We’re introduced to Sam as an uptight, hard-working authority figure. She loves her daughter Ashley (Scarlett Johansson) but is frustrated with her teenage rebellion. Her son Mike (Scott Terra) mostly stays out of the way but Sam still worries about his loner tendencies. She’s a very strict mom, learning from her own past mistakes, working hard to ensure her children don’t follow a similar, regret-filled path.
Not only is she responsible for these two, she’s also responsible for the small town of Prosperity and it’s increasingly unemployed, pissed off residents. Regardless of the struggles at home she exudes strength and wears her leadership on her chest. By the end of this ridiculous film, Sam is a completely confident and well-rounded woman who has wrestled with the worst circumstances and come out on top. She relaxes around her children, and allows herself to love again. Oh yeah, and she kills A LOT of giant spiders.
When Chris (David Arquette) returns home to Prosperity for the first time in 10 years, he’s still carrying a crush for Sam with him and quickly falls for the strong, powerful woman she’s become. When Chris is introduced, we’re obviously supposed to see him as the hero of the story and Sam as just a love interest with a heart of gold. But Sam very quickly outshines Chris and proves herself to be the strongest character by far.
Chris’s father owned a mine in Prosperity which gave the town a wealth of money and goods. But when the mine closes down, and a barrel of toxic waste gets dumped into a local pond, giant mutant spiders start to run amok. Yes, this concept is ridiculous but B-movie logic is a lot like magic. If you think about it too long your brain begins to hurt, but if you just accept what you’re seeing, you are bound to have a good time.
Spiders are running, and jumping, (and flying) and the entire town devolves into chaos. Instead of panicking, Sam immediately jumps into action. Not once do you find her screaming or acting like a victim. Sam is a hero. She goes straight for her shotgun and never lets go of it. As Prosperity is slowly overrun, it’s Sam’s idea to have the remaining residents take cover in the mall. She remains on the front line, taking down spider after spider because she is a total bad ass.
While the movie is still trying to push Chris as the main hero, the town looks to Sam as their leader. In this moment of crisis, she prioritizes the injured folks and the kids, while Chris is still trying to figure out how to kill giant spiders. Every plan to save this town involves Sam and she doesn’t once shy away from the task.
But what’s great about this heroine is that she’s not just some brain-dead action woman trying to act like a man to woo the audience into believing her capable. She doesn’t have super human strength, she does show her fear and her emotion, and she puts others before her (an inherently female trait). And best of all, Sam doesn’t run around in a see-through tank top & short-shorts. For once, we have a female dressed like a normal woman in abnormal circumstances.
Eight Legged Freaks has created a perfect heroine who shines so brightly and inspires full confidence, and we’ve passed her by! Sam Parker saves her entire family, she doesn’t put up with shit, and she only gives into Chris after he’s proven himself a worthy competitor to her “badassery”.
This is a Public Service Announcement: Samantha Parker is one of the best final girls we have. I highly recommend you re-watch Eight Legged Freaks right away. You’ll have one hell of fun time watching it, and you just may embrace Sheriff Parker as the TOTAL BAD ASS she is!
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