Directed by Chris Munger
Written by Daniel Cady and Warren Hamilton Jr.
Starring Suzanna Ling, Ernesto Macias, Herman Wallner, Patricia Landon, Beverly Eddins, and Jay Scott
I like independent movies. Sometimes they’re derivative, trying to cash in on whatever made a lot of money recently, but they can also allow creativity to flourish outside of the scrutiny of corporate oversight. In some cases, these films can rise above the setbacks of low budgets and inexperience before and behind camera to give us a refreshingly novel approach. I’d like to make the case that Kiss of the Tarantula is such a gem.
The Giant Spider (2013)
Written and Directed by Christopher R. Mihm
Starring Shannon McDonough, Daniel Sjerven, Billie Jo Konze, Michael Cook, James Norgard, and Mark Haider
Homage movies can be a challenge to review. More than most movies they are meant to be seen in the context of a particular genre and/or period of filmmaking, depending on the audience having at least passing familiarity with the sources. It’s similar to the spoof, which relies on audience expectations built from one or more previous movies. They can be hard to distinguish at times — much of the humor of The Lost Skeleton of Cadavracomes from deliberately crafted flaws, typical of the movies it emulates — but in general the homage seeks to tell a story more than to poke fun. Such a film is The Giant Spider
Directed by Jeff Leroy
Written by Eric Spudic
Starring Lisa Jay, Jeff Ryan, Phoebe Dollar, Calley Edmunds, and Ron Jeremy
Some movies aren’t good. Some movies are so bad they’re enjoyable. Some movies try to be so bad they’re enjoyable and wind up on SyFy. Some movies take that as a challenge and appear to be created as some form of social experiment to find out if people will actually watch anything. I owe apologies to some of the movies I’ve panned, because Creepies proved that it’s possible to be more artless and less ambitious than The Asylum.
Directed by Mike Mendez
Written by Gregory Gieras
Starring Greg Grunberg, Lin Shaye, Ruben Pla, Alexis Kendra, Lombardo Boyar, and Ray Wise
Titles are important. They set audience expectations of tone and content. Other factors play into it of course — trailers, posters, tie-in products — but in the end, it’s just the title listed with a time. So when I learned there was a film named Big Ass Spider! I figured it would deliver a big damn spider, a comical tone, and hopefully enough action to make up for its shortcomings. Spoiler: my guess was right.
Written Directed by Brett Piper
Starring Erin Brown (as Misty Mundae), Julian Wells, Rob Monkiewicz, Erika Smith, Michael R. Thomas, Caitlin Ross, and Sylvianne Chebance
If you’re setting out to review every big spider movie commercially available, you’re going to eventually have to deal with sleazy movies. I’m talking low-budget films with lots of gratuitous nudity and sex, simulated or otherwise. When I did a movie podcast years ago, the episode that broke me was about Jess Franco’s Mari-Cookie and the Killer Tarantula. Two of my friends took my displeasure as a challenge and watched for themselves. One said he’d seen worse but agreed it wasn’t good. The other sent a messenger to kick me in the junk for him. At least I’d earned it.
Directed by Tony Randel
Written by Brent V. Friedman
Starring Rosalind Allen, Ami Dolenz, Seth Green, Virginya Keehne, Alfonso Ribeiro, Peter Scolari, Ray Oriel, Dina Dayrit, Barry Lynch and Clint Howard
There have been several films about minuscule terrors; Phase IV and The Flesh Eaters come immediately to mind. Likewise The Beginning of the End and The Empire of the Ants present the peril of small things vastly enlarged. There is a minor niche in between for films about the tiny grown to not-very-big, and within that the chief example is Ticks.
aka Zombie: Dawn of the Dead
Written and directed by George A. Romero
Starring David Emge, Ken Foree, Scott H. Reiniger, Gaylen Ross, and Tom Savini
George A. Romero emerged from the legal disputes over the rights to Night of the Living Dead being allowed to make sequels but unable to use the phrase “Living Dead” in titles. That must have been especially galling, as it had been an oversight during renaming for distribution that had stripped the film of its copyright. When Romero decided at last to make a sequel, he struck a deal with his friend Dario Argento. Romero would write and direct the movie, and Argento would raise the funding in exchange for the overseas distribution. In America, the movie was released as Dawn of the Dead. Argento re-edited the film and released it as Zombi.
Directed by Yôhei Fukuda
Written by Mari Asato and Yôichi Minamikawa based on the novel X gêmu by Yûsuke Yamaha
Starring Kazuyuki Aijima, Hirofumi Araki, Shôta Chiyo, Meguru Katô, and Ayaka Kikuchi
The title of the Japanese movie X-Game (originally X gêmu) may need some explanation. There’s a sort of tradition on comedic shows of the loser of a competition having to then accept a punishment. This is something mildly unpleasant that’s played up for laughs. It’s called the batsu game, and the character used to write it means ‘X’ (i.e., “incorrect”) as well as “penalty”. Fans of anime might have seen references to “penalty game” in shows like The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, where Suzumiya subjects her brigade members to penalty games for things like being late. It’s well-known enough that it wouldn’t be surprising if school-kids played punishment games just for the heck of it.
And we all know that children are cruel.
Directed by Robert Young
Written by Judson Kinberg, George Baxt, and Wilbur Stark
Starring Adrienne Corri, Thorley Walters, Anthony Higgins, Laurence Payne, John Moulder-Brown, Lalla Ward, Robert Tayman, and David Prowse
With their 1958 release of Horror of Dracula Hammer Film Productions brought new life to vampire movies. By the 1970s the market had shifted, and the studio tried various ways to repackage the monsters to suit the modern audience. One result was the Karnstein Trilogy, which featured female nudity and lesbian sexuality. Dracula A.D. 1972 brought Christopher Lee’s Dracula to swinging London, which went about as usual but with different clothes and embarrassment all around. Then there’s the truly original Vampire Circus, which failed to make money but gained a following.
Written and directed by Curtis Harrington
Based on footage from Mechte navstrechu by Mikhail Karzhukov and Otar Koberidze
Starring John Saxon, Basil Rathbone, Judi Meredith, Dennis Hopper, and Florence Marly
Queen of Blood is a patchwork movie, built around footage from at least two Russian films: Mechte navstrechu and Nebo zovyot. Roger Corman snapped up the U.S. rights to the films and gutted them to use for his own features. Nebo zovyot was mostly turned into Battle Beyond the Sun, while Mechte navstrechu became the basis for this one. Given this origin, it’s remarkable that the film actually works.