Noteworthy Heroines of Horror is a recurring segment on Wicked Horror where we shine the spotlight on a female character from the annals of horror history that has made a significant contribution to the genre. The characters we select may not be the obvious final girls that regularly grace top ten lists, but their contributions to the genre are meaningful and worthy of note.
As horror fans, we’ve probably all imagined once or twice about how we think we would react in a horror film. Would we really fight back against the killer stalking us in the woods or just cry in the corner like a baby? I’m usually pretty confident that I would have good horror survival skills. However, all bets are off if I was dropped into Ellory Elkayem’s 2002 film Eight Legged Freaks. Similar pictures like Arachnophobia and Kingdom of the Spiders where the arachnid bastards are normal-sized-are bad enough, but in Eight Legged Freaks, hundreds of different breeds of spiders grow to epic proportions after ingesting toxic waste. One fierce female who handles this situation better than I think I ever could is our next Noteworthy Heroine of Horror–Samantha Parker, played by Kari Wuhrer.
Sam is the sheriff of a small, almost broke town in Arizona with the ironic name of Prosperity. She’s a single mother to a teenage daughter named Ashley (played by Scarlett Johansson) and a boy of about 10 named Mike. Early scenes in the film show Sam to be a little uptight, with the way she carries herself in her sheriff’s uniform and her hair up in a tight bun. It’s clear that she has no problem carrying the role of an authority figure. She exudes confidence and leadership in every situation she is in, always seeming to know just how to take control and handle things. This will obviously become important later, as the whole town comes to rely on these traits when the giant spiders show up.
She proves to be both a no-nonsense officer of the law and also a no-nonsense parent, as her first scene in the film is her grounding young Mike for disobeying her. In the next scene, she writes a ticket to her daughter’s boyfriend for recklessly riding his motorbike. Some expository lines let the audience know that Sam has maybe not had it so easy in life–she was a teen mom, who later had a husband that cheated on her and left her alone to raise the kids. This, coupled with her day job, is probably the reason for her being so strict and overprotective. Still, she has a good relationship with her children, where they seem to really respect her in spite of the way they sometimes defy her. Out of uniform, Sam is more natural and approachable. She is still able to capture the heart of David Arquette’s character Chris, who has been carrying a torch for her for ten years.
Though Eight Legged Freaks is more comedy than horror, and the idea of giant spiders is fantastical and ridiculous, the movie still had some arachnophobes squirming in their seats. But you will never once see Sam shrieking and jumping on top of a table, asking a man to kill the nasty bugs for her. When her daughter is being cocooned by one of the spiders, Sam immediately goes for her trusty shotgun and never really lets it go for the rest of the movie. It’s Sam’s idea for the town to gather at the Prosperity Mall where she can hope to guarantee the survival of most of the population. While everyone else is running inside away from the spiders, Sam stays on the front line, shooting as many of them as she can.
Inside the mall, the men and women of the town automatically look to Sam as their leader and the one to give them answers. She gives orders to make sure that the kids and injured people are out of harm’s way, instructs everyone else to arm themselves with weapons for the coming fight. She is the first one to offer to go up on the mall’s roof to try to get a cell signal so they can call for help, though Chris eventually takes that task. Once the horde of spiders makes its way through the mall’s front gate, Sam is once again on the front line with her shotgun when the spiders get through the gate. Sam shows fear during this moment and others, but doesn’t let it stop her.
In Eight Legged Freaks, Sam Parker shines as a woman who easily handles herself in a very chaotic and unbelievable situation. Never once shrinking into the background or shying from the action, she stays at the forefront of the fight right until the end. Sam also never shies from her responsibilities as sheriff to the people of her town, and constantly comes up with plans that will save as many people as she can, though she does have her own children to worry about. She never once seems freaked out at being surrounded by giant spiders, which makes her very admirable to all of those who have a problem with the eight legged freaks, and also makes her a Noteworthy Heroine of Horror.