American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
Spiders are among the most elegant of God's creatures, with their delicate, spindly legs and infinite patience. Contained in their tiny memories is the geometry for a million webs, and when you see a web wet with dew in the morning sunlight, you know there is order in the universe, because the spider has found it and didn't even know what it was looking for.
Cockroaches, now, are another matter. They are fearsome, ugly, little amphibious vehicles that lurk under the sink and eat anything, even Brillo pads. A horror movie based on roaches would be almost unbearable, and indeed I remember with revulsion an episode from George Romero's "Creepshow" in which a man was covered with a swarm of roaches and eaten alive.
Compared with such loathsome horrors, "Arachnophobia" is a relatively benign thriller, in which spiders kill a few people and scare a lot more, but never get really disgusting the way cockroaches would.
The movie begins in the mysterious rain forests of South America, where a new species of spider is discovered. It's a formidable beast, about the size of a baseball mitt, and it has a deadly bite. It kills one of the expedition members and then hitches a ride back to California inside his coffin. Once it arrives in a bucolic rural town, it crossbreeds with a domestic spider and starts lurking in the shoes and toilet bowls of the locals.