Saturday, August 31, 2019

Itsy Bitsy: Actually, These Spiders are Pretty Big

There is a long but inconsistent tradition of killer spider movies. The diverse ranks of mutant arachnid fighters include William Shatner in Kingdom of Spiders, Barbara “Perry Mason” Hale and Alan “Skipper” Hale Jr. in The Giant Spider Invasion, Scarlett Johansson in Eight Legged Freaks, and Godzilla in Son of Godzilla. This is the latest one. There is also a bit of antiquity plundering and some House M.D.-style Vicodin-popping in Micah Gallo’s Itsy Bitsy, which is now playing in Los Angeles.

Ever since the death of her middle child, Kara Spencer has been on a downward spiral. She self-medicates and has trouble holding nursing gigs. She has just uprooted her surviving children, 13-year-old Jesse and 8-year-old Cambria, so she can serve as the live-in caregiver for Walter Clark, a wealthy collector of dubiously acquired antiquities.

Frankly, Clark did not even ask for the latest addition to his holdings. That big black egg was given to him by Ahkeeba, his former expedition leader, who insists Clark offer it a “sacrifice.” Clark does not believe in mumbo jumbo, so Ahkeeba tries to steal it back, but he breaks the relic in the process, releasing a strain of highly potent mutant spider larvae. Soon, the eight-legged monsters are crawling all over the place.

There are some amusingly goey spider effects, which makes sense, considering Gallo cut his teeth doing post work on films like the Hatchet franchise. However, it feels like there is considerably more family melodrama that most genre fans could really do without. Frankly, the spiders could do their worst to virtually all the human characters and we wouldn’t care.

Still, it is worth watching Oscar-nominated (for Longtime Companion) Bruce Davison bring another intriguing screen persona to life as crusty old Clark. He has his moments, but he is not the focus of the film (and it is debatable whether the spiders are either). Denise Crosby adds further genre interest playing Sheriff Jane Dunne, but she is stuck with some strangely corny dialogue.

Believe it not, the best killer spider movie of the decade might just be Jaime Dezcallar’s Spanish short film, The Bird Spider. Arguably, Itsy Bitsy is only a bit of an improvement over low budget knock-offs like the pedestrianly named Spiders. Not recommended, Itsy Bitsy is now screening in Greater LA County at the Laemmle Glendale.