“When radiation left behind by atomic weapons testing creates a gigantic killer mutant arachnid, it’s up to a trio of scientists, an Army general, and a newspaper reporter and his fiancée to figure out how to stop the hungry beast from devouring the entire county in writer/director Christopher R. Mihm’s ode to the giant bug films of yesteryear!” (courtesy IMDB)
I have a confession to make: I hate spiders. They have more legs, eyes, and poison spewing from their mouths than I do. They sneak around, they stalk me and, when I want them to back off, the bastards try to bite me! You might call me an Arachno-Racist. Don’t give me any of that ‘more afraid of you’ malarky either, they’re malevolent little bastards – size doesn’t matter. But, if size does matter to you, I’m sure you’re going to enjoy this week’s presentation. An enormous killer arachnid is created by everybody’s favourite mutagen, atomic radiation, so it’s up to a trio of scientists, a general, a journalist and his squeeze to figure out how to stop the crawling terror before it devours them all! On the menu is Mike Cook, Billie Jo Konze, James Norgard, Mark Haider, Daniel R. Sjerven, Shannon McDonough and Sid Korpi, so grab the largest can of Raid you have and watch as these enigmas of the silver screen fight for their lives in writer-director Christopher R. Mihm‘s ode to the mutated bugs of yesteryear, The Giant Spider (2013)!
By the way, The Giant Spider is now available on both DVD and Blu-ray. By now a large proportion of our readers owns at least one Blu-ray player. Those who don’t and never will fall into two distinct groups: The blind or deaf; and the sturdy iconoclasts who hang on to their gummy Sony Betamax video cassette players or Tandy three-way stereos they’ve had since they went to university in the seventies. One attribute of this new technology these people are missing out on is the piercing highs and destructive lows a Blu-ray can put out. Movies that can hurt. Yes, the Blu-ray is a weapon and should never be pointed at anyone unless you intend to use it. Speaking of movies that can hurt, let’s get back to The Giant Spider.
An over-sized octopod is creeping around the town of Phantom Lake eating everyone it meets. At this point I’d normally give you a rundown of past and future credits of the cast and crew but, since I’ve already talked about them enough in the previous seven Christopher Mihm movie reviews, it would probably be a better idea to give you a brief rundown of similar super-sized spider cinema (try saying that six times quickly). The Giant Monster genre was kick-started in the thirties by King Kong (1933) and it gave us Mighty Joe Young (1946) in the forties, but it really got big – and started devouring people – in the fifties with the release of The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (1953), one of the top money-grossers of the year. Warner Brothers, who had released The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, followed it up with Them! (1954), the first of the giant insect films. Despite being a box-office hit, word came down from Jack Warner that he never wanted to see another movie like it ever again.
Not wanting to be left out, Jack Arnold, director of It Came From Outer Space (1953) said, “Hey, we’re all afraid of spiders, right? Let’s make a really big one!” Tarantula (1955) didn’t exactly work out though, because the poor dumb monstrosity couldn’t skitter down the streets like you’d expect a real spider to. Not terribly scary, but it’s still worth watching, if only to see a giant arachnid munch on people then get blown up by Clint Eastwood. Tarantula opened the fly-screen door and let the creepy-crawlies in. In The Black Scorpion (1957) you not only get great scorpion battles, you also get the giant spider pit that was cut from the original King Kong. In The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957), little Grant Williams fends off a life-size tarantula with a sewing needle and, in Earth Versus The Spider (1958), a giant arachnid attacks a town and two teenagers help a scientist to ward it off. Come the seventies we had films like The Giant Spider Invasion (1975), in which a meteor crash-lands and hatches tons of tiny tarantulas that grow into giant arachnids.
Did you know the collective noun for a group of spiders is a cluster? I wonder what the collective noun for a group of giant spiders is? Anyway, thanks to the modern convenience of Computer Generated Imagery, there’s been a clusterf*ck of giant spiders just in the last decade or so, starting with Eight Legged Freaks (2002), the daddy long-legs of post-modern spider movies. The Mist (2007), based on a story by Stephen King, has alien spiders from a portal to another dimension and, in Arachnoquake (2012), an earthquake opens up a prehistoric nest releasing a swarm of giant spiders. The acting is bad, the writing is embarrassing but then, the spiders and the quake are the stars of the show, after all. Shelob was supposed to be in The Lord Of The Rings The Two Towers (2002), but the producers decided to hold off until The Lord Of The Rings The Return Of The King (2003) so they wouldn’t clash with the giant spiders in Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets (2002). It was worth the wait, because Weta Digital made a truly hellacious giant spider, the kind that moves fast, has giant fangs, plenty of eyes, hair and even a stinger – which spiders don’t normally have.
Shelob was actually an amalgam of various New Zealand species that scare the pants off Peter Jackson. Speaking of trouserless filmmakers, The Giant Spider is Christopher Mihm’s latest tribute to a time when Hollywood had left science far behind. As all right-thinking people know, insects never grow beyond a certain size because they’re limited by their breathing system – oxygen is circulated by air pressure via holes on each side of the thorax. Effective in small bodies, but insufficient to oxygenate an animal the size of a dog, let alone a spider the size of an elephant. So if you do happen to be attacked by a giant spider, simply convince it to take up a rigorous exercise program. But spiders don’t have to be upsized to be scary, oh no. Even James Bond is terrified of them, as evidenced when Doctor No (1962) drops a huge tarantula into Bond’s boudoir. Unfortunately, the spider meets a grizzly end under an expensive Italian loafer after learning a very important lesson – don’t mess with Sean Connery. The seventies threw up two excellent spidexploitation films: one was Spiders On A Plane…I mean, Tarantulas The Deadly Cargo (1977), in which a plane flying from South America has a few thousand tarantula stowaways which bring the plane down by swarming all over the pilots, then they go to town – literally. The other spidexploitation film that year was Kingdom Of The Spiders (1977), in which my old friend Bill ‘The Shat’ Shatner battles a swarm of tribbles with legs.
Then, in the nineties, Hollywood threw up Arachnophobia (1990), one of the few movies dedicated to an accurate depiction of what makes spiders scary. Not the giant ones. If they moved fast, that would be something, but Arachnophobia proved that all you need is one medium-sized spider…and all his friends. As recent as 2013, a full six months after the release of this week’s presentation, we had Big Ass Spider! (2013) in which a large alien arachnid breaks free from a laboratory and wreaks havoc upon Los Angeles, while several scientists and an exterminator are called in to finish it off. But you’re here to read about The Giant Spider, Mister Mihm’s latest and perhaps greatest neuvo-retro film. It’s got a fantastic monster, perfectly selected music, clever special effects, a few good laughs and a whole lot of fun. For all you fans of Classic Restos out there – yes, both of you – he’s even got something in there for you too, a whole bunch of great old vintage cars, including an awesomely gorgeous classic motorcycle complete with sidecar!
Admittedly, the acting is middling, the special effects are varied and the stock footage is obvious, but the spider scenes come off better than the films it sends up. As for the writing and directing, well, let’s just say that Mister Mihm has little risk of being nominated for an Oscar any time soon. It’s obviously a very low-budget independent movie, but it’s all done with a great deal of love for the fifties movies that it pays tribute to – if it was any slicker it just wouldn’t be as much fun as it is. Speaking of fun, you’ve just got to get the DVD. You can’t watch one of Mister Mihm’s movies without turning on the subtitles. There are so many little gags in the subtitles throughout the film, that it really adds to the enjoyment of it all, like subtitling sound effects or facial expressions. If you don’t watch his films with the subtitles on, you’re missing out on a big part of the fun and, just like his other DVDs, The Giant Spider comes with an Esperanto dialogue track and subtitles, just in case Bill Shatner pops in for a sleepover. And it’s with that dread prospect in mind that I’ll make my farewells and politely ask you to attend again to behold next week’s mind-bendingly horrifying installment of the nicest site around…Horror News! Toodles!