"The Giant Spider!"
Originally posted at http://www.mediatsunaminetwork.com/jons-jubilant-jaunts/the-giant-spider-review
"The Giant Spider" is a Saint Euphoria Picture made by Christopher R. Mihm, who makes a series of movies as part of his "Mihmiverse." They are meant as a nostalgia trip back to the era of 50's B horror and sci-fi movies. I first discovered Mr. Mihm's movies at a booth at the Texas Frightmare Convention a few years ago. I thought the idea was clever and was sure I was going back to pick up at least one of them, but after some George A. Romero autographs and the purchase of some Godzilla t-shirts there was nothing left in the budget.
However, a year or two later I spotted one of his booths at a comic convention I frequent every year and was able to pick up three of the DVD's, or four movies since one was a double feature, and even got to meet Mr. Mihm and get his signature on them. At the time, I had just started the youtube channel and thought this would be a good subject for a movie review since they are probably ones that haven't been done to death already.
Afterall, I could be doing a "Halloween or "Friday the 13th" review for this Halloween, but you can get one of those pretty much anywhere else on the internet. I thought it would be much better to introduce you to something new or different. If you are a fan of classic B-movie cinema like I am, you won't be disappointed.
This first one I'm tackling, "The Giant Spider," was also the first one I watched. I remember Mr. Mihm recommending it to me. That told me it was probably the one he was the most proud of. It also turns out that the movie won awards at the Highway 61 Film Festival and the Famous Monsters of Filmland Film Festival.
"The Giant Spider" begins with some cleverly done shots that establish our location rather than the traditional wide angle establishing shot. While this is a well shot movie, nothing else really stands out as particularly interesting cinematography, which is fitting considering the 50's B movie motif.
In the opening scenes of the movie we are introduced to a young boy playing a space adventurer in the woods. The boy isn't relevant to the overall plot, but it is through him that we are first introduced to the titular menace. The boy notices the spider crossing his path in the woods.
This is our first look at the creature. For the majority of the shots in the movie it is an actual tarantula recorded on a green screen. These shot are used primarily when showing the creature throughout the movie and supplemented with a puppet for close up shots of the spider's face. The spider's face is somehow menacing and cheesy at the same time. There are also instances when large furry prosthetic spider limbs are used. It is the combination of these methods that convincingly achieves that classic feel of movies like "Them" and "Tarantula."
So the movie's monster works, but what about everything else? The music hits the sweet spot too. While I'm not the biggest fan of the opening theme, appropriately titled The Giant Spider Theme written and produced by The Night Hobs, I think it fits nicely with the overall tone of the film. The background music is spot on. I don't think it was produced specifically for the film, but it feels like music from the intended time period and has the sound quality to match.
The characters in the movie are great too. We are introduced to our protagonists in a diner setting where Howard is proposing to Zita. Howard is a news reporter willing to go wherever the story takes him. Zita is a Russian (I'm pretty sure it was a Russian accent) immigrant that has been dating Howard for a while. Shortly after Howard proposes he gets word of the approaching giant spider. Off he goes to get the scoop. This begins the main story line where the two of them get involved with the military and some scientists in an attempt to defeat the monster. Scattered throughout the main narrative are some particularly funny scenes of random civilians encountering the spider. One of these even has an appearance by writer, director and editor Christopher Mihm as the proprietor of a drive in cinema where the spider attacks. All of these scenes are very tongue-in-cheek. The acting is over the top and the scenarios are ridiculous. They are perfect for this extra campy take on the genre.
The dialogue audio has a strange quality to it. I think this is because it was dubbed over in post production. They did an excellent job of it, with the audio synced to the lip movement of the video perfectly. It may just be that the audio quality is too good. The over the top silly voices of the characters may also highlight this fact. I found myself wondering if the voices heard are the actual actor's voices of a few of the minor characters. This audio characteristic is something I noticed in Mihm's other film, "House of Ghosts."
The movie goes on to wrap up with a final encounter with the giant spider on a rampage. Howard is chosen to implement the scientists' plan after General Castle's attack on the beast, mostly comprised of stock footage of the army, doesn't get the job done.
The movie has a satisfying ending. It's one of those endings where everything isn't what it seems. I thought about spoiling it here (with warning of course), but I think you will just be better off giving it a watch for yourself.
"The Giant Spider" is an all-around fun film that is perfect for anyone that misses the cheese and charm of the light-hearted black and white B movie classics. Check out sainteuphoria.com for this and other movies in the same vein.