The Giant Spider (2013)
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.
REVIEW: The Giant Spider is the 8th movie in the ever-growing filmography of Christopher R. Mihm's micro-budget films done in black and white and as a loving and beautiful fun-filled throwback to the classic 1950s Drive-In B-Movies of yesteryear. All of the films made by Mihm and his crew, films such as:
The Monster of Phantom Lake
It Came From Another World!
Cave Women on Mars
Terror From Beneath The Earth
Destination: Outer Space
Attack of the Moon Zombies
House of Ghosts
all take place in the same shared movie universe, but are also mostly stand-alone from one another other than some recurring characters and the occasional brief throwback to a previous movie here and there, so it's not important to watch them in order, however I find you get far more out of them if you do, not to mention you can see Mihm himself improve his movie-making skills as you go along watching each movie.
I mostly fell off the Mihmiverse bandwagon for a few years after binging the previous seven movies back-to-back, mainly due to time and money, but I'm almost glad I did because it gave me the opportunity to binge and review another handful of Mihm movies back-to-back instead of only getting one new one to watch a year, so I think that worked out perfectly alright!
The Giant Spider is specifically a love letter to those great classic fun cheesy giant killer animal movies, complete with a catchy opening theme song, and in that regard it met what it set out to do wonderfully! Wherein all the previous Mihmiverse movies he used man-in-suit creatures, here he actually used a real spider (his own pet, I believe I read somewhere once, though don't quote me on that) and superimposed it over the scene he had filmed, which made for the most realistic-looking movie of his yet, though I'm sure it must have been difficult for the actors to interact with an object that wasn't really there (which in turn speaks volumes about how well they pulled it off).
Sure, you'd think that where he used such a difficult technique for this movie, that maybe there wouldn't really be all that much action, but ohhh boy, you'd be wrong to think that. This movie has, what I believe, is the fastest pace of all his movies! I don't even think much more than five minutes or so went by at any given time without cutting to some great giant killer spider action - An attack on a Drive-In Theater and a town dance are among my favorites, plus a couple scenes where he masterfully integrates stock footage of a WWII battle in order to cheaply include some scenes where the military squares off against the spider. It's always important to note that Christopher R. Mihm creates these movies on a minuscule budget (your payments from buying previous DVDs go towards making the next movie), and the guy has seemingly got 'getting the most out of spending little' down to an art form.
This movie also includes what I felt like was the most connections to previous movies in the Mihmiverse, I think finding ways to connect to each and every previous entry save for two (Cave Women on Mars and Destination: Outer Space I didn't see any connections for, however I may have just missed them if they were indeed in there), which may make it a bit confusing if this is your first Mihmiverse movie, but for those who have watched and loved all the previous seven entries, it was simply a fun and delightful little celebration of this film universe. For example, Phantom Lake from the original movie is said to now be off-limits to the public, we get to finally see Phantom Lake University after having it mentioned in several of the previous movies, we get introduced to the all-female Paddle Girls Corps, an off-shoot of the Canoe Cops from the first two films, the minor character of General Castle from House of Ghosts returns here as a much more main character, and Mike Cook reprises his role of Dr. Vincent Edwards from Terror Beneath the Earth and Attack of the Moon Zombies, and even gets some direct mentions in of the events from Terror Beneath the Earth, even going so far as to imply that the same atomic testing that created the bat monster from that movie also created this giant spider. In addition, the parents of a character from Attack of the Moon Zombies appear here, as does James Norgard, also reprising his scientist role from Attack of the Moon Zombies, and lastly the character of little Danny Johnson from Terror From Beneath the Earth makes a quick little appearance, and soon he'll be making a much bigger return to the series in a couple movies' time.
Joining those characters are also a round of new ones, though played by familiar faces from the Mihmiverse. Faces like Daniel Sjerven from Cave Women on Mars, Terror From Beneath the Earth, and Attack of the Moon Zombies playing a mild-manner news reporter not unlike Superman's alter-ego of Clark Kent, and I'm not 100% clear but I *think* he's the brother or cousin of his character from Terror From Beneath the Earth due to the fact that it's the same actor playing a different character but with the same last name (that's usually not a coincidence in this series). Joining him is also my personal favorite Mihmiverse regular, Shannon McDonough as his fiance', though here she puts on an distracting and annoying foreign accent. Props to her for giving it a try, and maybe I'm just being a bit harsh but personally I found it really distracting and would have much rather her character didn't call for that.
Actually, there's one other thing I wish Christopher R. Mihm had made a different call on with this movie. For the first time in the series he felt the need to fade the edges of the screen and black them out a bit. I understand what he was going for with that visual style but it's not a style I care for at all, and I found it was constantly taking me out of the movie and preventing me from fully enjoying it as much as I was wanting to because my eyes kept going to it and I was finding myself distracted by it.
Luckily though, that is really only a couple small issues in an otherwise great eighth outing. After a couple of doom and gloom movies in a row (Attack of the Moon Zombies and House of Ghosts), it was refreshing to get back to a lighthearted cheesy and funny entry. Don't get me wrong, those two doom and gloom entries are actually my top favorites in the series up to this point (horror is my personal favorite genre), but I'm always a fan of variety to keep things from getting stale or overdone, and he switched things back up at just the right point in the series.
As with all movies in the Mihmiverse, this self-produced DVD is surprisingly stacked right up with tons of excellent bonus content. There's a laugh-out-loud hilarious Blooper Reel (seriously, by this point I almost look forward to the side-splittingly funny outtakes almost more then I do the movie itself because they're always a great treat to watch directly after the movie), a handful of short In-Universe Radio Drama episodes for Commander Lambent: Space Explorer...In Space!, a trailer for the movie in addition to trailers for some previous movies in the Mihmiverse, a Photo Gallery of tons of Behind-the-Scenes photos, introductions to the film by Horror Host Dr. Ivan Cryptosis and Christopher R. Mihm himself, and the usual informative full length Audio Commentaries, one by just Christopher R. Mihm by himself and a second one where he's joined by his wife Stephanie Mihm, costume designer and SFX artist Mitch Gonzales, Behind the Scenes extraordinaire Cherie “Rhuby” Gallinati who anyone that listens to the Mihmiverse Bonfire Podcast will instantly recognize the voice of, and her husband and fellow Mihmiverse regular actor Mark Haider.
Seeing as how most of the advertising for these movies come from simple word of mouth from the fans, if you do check his stuff out and enjoy it please help get the word out there on these movies and hopefully we can snag in a few other fans that may not even realize these exist. You can order these on DVD (and even BluRay for some of them!) over at his official site which is filled with all sorts of other goodies as well (including a monthly newsletter in addition to two separate very laid back, yet fun and informative, podcasts).
8/10 rooms in the Psych Ward