Updated: Nov 15, 2019
Spiders. They’ve never really bothered me personally. Sure, no-one’s keen on those big bastards that dash across your carpet in the wee small hours, sprinting from one dark hiding place to another but overall, I don’t have hang-ups with spiders. Maybe if I lived somewhere like Australia where the spiders (and seemingly most other animals) can really ruin your day thanks to whatever weirdness their venom can do to the human nervous system, but here in the UK, that’s not something to worry about. Good job too because spiders are everywhere. Hundreds and thousands of them in your garden and in your house. Even if you can’t see them, they’re there. In the dusty corners, in the spaces behind furniture, in the wall cavities, they are there. Hundreds of them.
In your house right now.
Probably even watching you as you read this.
Hopefully, that’s set the mood for any arachnophobes out there as we take a look at Itsy Bitsy.
Itsy Bitsy comes to us from Throughline Films and Scream Factory/Shout Studios and is directed by Micah Gallo. This is Micah’s first time directing a feature-length movie after directing the short film Wick in 2010 and Massacre Lake in 2014. He’s worked in various other roles such as executive producer on titles such as Hatchet 1, 2 & 3 and on the Roger Corman documentary Corman’s World.
Before I get into what I thought of the film though, let’s go through the story a little bit.
Kara (Elizabeth Roberts – Days of our Lives, Word Party) is a nurse who has packed up her bags and along with her two children Jessie (Arman Darbo – And Then I Go) and Cambria (Chloe Perrin – Single Parents) to start her new job looking after a man named Walter (Bruce Davison – Willard, Creepshow) who is suffering from a debilitating disease.
Walter is an archaeologist but thanks to his unnamed disease, he doesn’t get out much these days. He does, however, receive a gift from a former acquaintance in the form of a large, black, ornate egg. The artefact was a treasure that belonged to a spider worshipping tribe and inevitably gets smashed, releasing the creature that dwells within.
After that, there’s a spider to contend with. Not just any old spider either as this thing is pretty damn big with a body roughly the size of a cat’s. As I said, spiders don’t bother me, but if they were cat-sized I’d be a little freaked out to find one lurking in my bathtub.
Oddly enough, one of the first places this ancient spider god visits is the bathtub. Why do spiders do that? Perhaps they’re just trying to offer their services as with eight legs, they could give a pretty good back scrub. Either that or spiders or perverts and just like seeing everyone naked.
When she’s not hiding in the bath this spider is lurking under beds and playing with stray animals, until it decides that the time is right for it to pounce out and sink its venomous fangs deep into your foot and then suck your eyeballs out.
If having a giant spider scuttling about the place wasn’t bad enough, Kara also has a pill-popping problem as she is suffering from depression due to an incident that happened recently and isn’t the greatest of parents when it comes to spending time with her children, who mostly have to fend for themselves whilst she’s working.
So, children on their own, giant spider scuttling about – not a good combination.
I’d rather deal with the spider than leave my kids unattended in the house, not necessarily out of good parenting, just because of the huge mess they would inevitably make by doing something like playing the floor is lava and somehow actually covering the floor with real lava.
Kids are weird like that.
Now, there is something that I want to moan about that doesn’t just occur in Itsy Bitsy but also in other films too, and that is the old single-parent family moving to a new town, running from a tragic event from the past. This whole scenario is getting tiresome. Can we at least just have a regular family with regular family hang-ups and no tragic backstory?
It happens in Itsy Bitsy and there’s no real need for this steady drip-feeding of tragic backstory through distorted flashbacks. We’ve all pretty much figured out what happened as soon as it was first mentioned anyway and as it generally doesn’t have any real impact upon the story, it’s pointless. Sure character traits are affected by the event, but even so, you could get it out of the way in one conversation instead of intermittently dropping hints into the story.
Surely it’s not that hard to have someone simply say, “We moved house as there were just too many bad memories from the recent death of my spouse/child/parent/pet hamster.” Or whatever?
What makes it worse here though is that the main reason that Walter receives the Black Egg is due to some past event that isn’t clearly explained. Now that’s fine, it adds mystery and not everything needs to be explained, but to leave that mainly unexplored and to spend a while slowly going through Kara’s tragic backstory instead, was far less interesting.
Ok, now I’ve got that out of my system let’s get back on track.
Overall Itsy Bitsy is a pretty good film. There are some great shots in there that show that Micah Gallo really knows his stuff. The effects on the spider are really good, especially in the first reveal when we see the legs bursting through the web in which it was sleeping. In fact, the effects are top-notch throughout. Sure, occasionally the walking motion isn’t quite right, but who cares, the spider looks great.
There are a few moments at the start with a slightly distorted spider pov thing going on that didn’t quite work for me, mainly due to the fact that the spider seemed to be all over the place, up a tree, peering at Kara through a window (see I said that spiders are probably perverts) and then back in the house.
This thing really gets around without anyone noticing.
That is until the script calls for it to make a noise of course.
Remember those big house spiders that scuttle out in the middle of the night? Well, they make a noise when they run. Listen closely and you can hear them. This thing should be clattering about all over the place as its chitinous exoskeleton and bristly hairs scrape and scratch as it moves, but unless it’s necessary for the plot, this is some kind of ninja spider.
Something not spider related that I want to mention too, are the characters. Take Sheriff Dunne (Denis Crosby – Star Trek TNG, Pet Semetary) for example. I get it, she cares, but she’s a sheriff, not a guidance counsellor and her character came across too pushy in the scene where she’s first talking to Kara. Then, later on, she realises that something might be wrong back where the family are and tells her deputy to get all units out to the house, along with an ambulance too. And that was great, I can’t think of any time I’ve seen law enforcement make that call for another emergency service in a movie. I know that’s a very minor thing but it was realistic and showed a level head on the part of the character.
But then you get Kara, who is a qualified nurse and one of her children falls, hits their head and goes unconscious. Does she call an ambulance or take them to a hospital? No, she puts them to bed and tells the other child to keep an eye on them and not let them fall asleep. As a qualified nurse, she should know better than that.
Despite my gripes though, this is a good movie. It’s well directed, the characters are mainly likeable and well-rounded and those spider effects are top-notch. In fact, the effects and direction provide some really creepy atmosphere throughout. As I said ages ago at the start, spiders don’t bother me. But here, it did. The creepy tension-filled atmosphere was great and kept me on edge on more than one occasion as the family crept about whilst the spider lurked nearby.
It’s a good movie that won’t quite hit the mark for everyone, but one that’s worth checking out despite its flaws and one that will hopefully lead to us seeing more from Micah Gallo in the future.