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Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Review: Itsy Bitsy

Director: Micah Gallo
Screenplay: Jason Alvino, Bryan Dick, and Micah Gallo
Year: 2019

Synopsis: A nurse with her two sons move to the home of an old sick man to take care of him. One of the relics that the old man collects has an ancient spider inside, which is released by mistake. Once free, it starts to leave a track of victims while it feeds, grows and reproduces. 

Spiders are for many a fearsome animal. Its stealthy movement and the potent poison that some carry is for many the stuff of nightmares. Using well the name of this phobia “Arachnophobia” is one of the movies that has used this common fear, with the permission of “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” and its humongous spiders lead by Aragog. In an intermediate place between the spiders in “Arachnophobia” and “Harry Potter”, we found those in “Itsy Bitsy”.

In “Itsy Bitsy” a nurse moves to a rural town with their two children where she finds a job taking care of an old man. The old man Walter, interpreted by Bruce Davison (“Insidious: The Last Key”) is a relic collector and one of them contains a huge dormant spider. After this relic breaks, the spider is set free and takes refuge in the house, where it finds the perfect place to reproduce and cause panic. The size of the spider grows quickly, as the number of victims it leaves in its path.

“Itsy Bitsy” deals with various stories at the same time. In the main one, we have Kara, interpreted by Elizabeth Roberts (“Criminal Minds”), who fights with opioid medication abuse and with its maternity after having lost a child and finding herself alone raising two other kids. Her sons Jesse (Arman Darbo; “And Then I Go”) and Cambria (Chloe Perrin; “Single Parents”) are at the other side of the coin, witnessing how their lives continue to go downhill and not being able to do much to improve their situation. This tangled web only makes Jesse, the oldest of the sibling, to take on a rebel attitude. 

Another aspect it works is in the association of the spider with a deity and its affinity for children. The movie starts with Akheeba (Treva Etienne; “Black Hawk Down”), a relic hunter, as he robs a relic from an indigenous tribe. This tribe presumably poisoned Maggie, Walter’s dead wife, who was like a mother to Akheeba, and he wanted revenge. Akheeba gifts Walter the relic, but in a rage fit he breaks it, setting free the dangerous spider without knowing it. 

With wanting to explore the relationship of Kara with her sons, her medication abuse, the relationship between Walter and Akheeba, the legend of the origin of the spider, and the havoc it causes if where “Itsy Bitsy” fails. Working with so many topics at the same time makes them all end up fairly underdeveloped and leaves the viewer somewhat confused trying to figure out where it is going and some of these stories have little relevance with the main plot. This also limits the amount of time that can be allocated to each thing, which at the same time affects the exposition time for the spider. 

This amalgam of topics is not its only problem, as the screenplay from Jason Alvino, Bryan Dick (“911 Nightmare’), and Micah Gallo also have some pacing issues and bad dialogues. In some parts it seems like that wanted to speed up some events and ended up with awkward scenes, bringing up dialogues and discussions with little or no build-up to it. Luckily the cast does a great job in their interpretations to give plenty of charisma to the characters and this helps the viewer to overlook some of these flaws. 

The truth is that it doesn’t matter how many topics this movie can develop, it's main attractive are the spiders. Although they ended up being a bit underused, when they appear, they look very good. Micah Gallo brings his vast knowledge in special effects developed in other horror movies such as “Frozen, “The Innkeepers”, and “Hatchet”, just to name a few from his long list, and makes the most out of it in his first full feature as a director. Even in the few scenes in which CGI is used, this looks well. 

“Itsy Bitsy” extends its eight long legs to as many topics as it can, with ends up tangling tits web and hindering its potential. It spends too much time in the family drama when it’s in the horror where it shines. Not abusing from the spider’s appearance and always maintaining a serious tone (something not that common in this kind of creature feature) helps to maintain the effectiveness of them and if you can overcome the script’s structural problems, “Itsy Bitsy” will make you check every corner of your house after finishing it.

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