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  Itsy Bitsy Eight-Legged Groo MachineBuy this film here.
Year: 2019
Director: Micah Gallo
Stars: Bruce Davison, Elizabeth Roberts, Denise Crosby, Arman Darbo, Chloe Perrin, Treva Etienne, Matty Cardarople, Eileen Deitz, Grace Shen, Alfred Adderly, Virgil Apostol, Richard Clarke Larsen, Arlyn Dela Pena, Justin Sandler, Spencer Watson
Genre: Horror
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Kara Spencer (Elizabeth Roberts) is a single mother of two, and she has just secured a new job as a nurse to a rich old millionaire, Walter Clark (Bruce Davison), whose mansion is filled with rare artefacts and treasures, taken from developing countries he has an interest in. However, one such object is a black, egg-shaped creation appropriated from abroad which has strange legends associated with it, and the process of getting it from there to here has involved some bloodshed and subterfuge, even murder. Making it more perilous still, one legend connected to it is one about a spider god which seeks to extend its influence from the remote tribesmen who worship it...

Now, the title up there is nothing to do with yellow polka dot bikinis, it was specifically referencing the traditional children's rhyme Itsy Bitsy Spider, you know, the one that climbed up the spout, down came the rain and washed said spider out, but he did not let that hold him back and climbed back up again. The filmmakers claimed their film was based on that poem, though aside from the same persistence in the title creature's behaviour, there was a distinct lack of spout climbing and water-derived mishaps. What it did have was a lot of soul searching for the Kara character who has a troubled past that includes a drug addiction to painkillers she has not managed to kick entirely.

The fact that, as a nurse, she has access to painkillers is not lost on her, and there were instances of Kara scrabbling around for the pills to make sure we knew how downbeat her situation was. Naturally, or supernaturally, she will have a lot more than that to contend with as the spider makes its presence felt, seeking victims to feed its belly and its power, though oddly it did not wrap them up in its web, preferring to take a nasty bite out of them which infects and, if untreated, kills. Precisely what I.B. was up to was rather murky, dressed up in portentous words but not too clear about anything other than some vague world domination enterprises; you have to start somewhere.

As it stood, this was a bumpy mix of low budget American horror, therefore we had past their prime actors showing they still had what it took to command a movie (Davison, Denise Crosby as the Sheriff, and latterly very busy Eileen Dietz whose cachet with The Exorcist rendered her something of a totem in this range) mixed with the all special effects they could afford. They were obviously very proud of their spider puppet, and rightly so, it was a very accomplished creation, so much so that it overshadowed more or less everything else in the film; when sitting through another dialogue scene, you tend to be wishing that the eight legged freak will make an appearance soon to shake things up. Rest assured, that is what it does, but Kara's personal problems were not as interesting as they thought.

Which was a pity, as they were given at least as much space as the shock sequences, and considering aside from the fantasy violence (as a censor might put it) there was no sex or swearing or brutality to justify this as worrying to anyone but arachnophobes, it did leave you uncertain as to where the script's interest lay. When they made a big deal of introducing all the spider rites like something out of a Dennis Wheatley novel, and not one of his latter day ones, either, it crafted a strangely old-fashioned tone, as if we were back in the days when a voodoo curse was enough to carry a B-movie - you're half expecting someone in a gorilla suit to appear at some point as well. This confusion indicated another run at the script to smooth the rough edges might have been in order, but on the other hand its awkwardness lent it a personality that many of its contemporaries lacked. Not a success, if you were being honest, but good on them for trying... whatever it was they were trying. Music by Garry Schyman and Frederik Wiedmann.

[ITSY BITSY will be available on Sky Store, iTunes and UK digital platforms from 14th October. Click here to buy from iTunes.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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