The best (and funniest) moment of The Giant Spider comes fairly early in the film, when we watch the series of expressions of horror which cross the face of a milquetoast of a husband as he watches the titular spider devour his abusive wife (offscreen) – and take its time about it. They just keep coming and coming and coming…
It is these moments when Christopher R. Mihm‘s films seem to shine – the deliberately filmic gags, which both point out his own absurd budgets and use a touch of comedy to mock our expectations.
He somehow has taken a desire to make a film that his Father would have loved as a Saturday Matinee back in the Fifties and turned it into a small empire of amiable low budget films all tied together, by shared references, into a single cinematic universe. Or, as he calls it, the Mihmiverse.
The films themselves are goofy, deliberately cliche-ridden, and very, very familiar. Which is, of course, part of their charm. As are the occasional in-jokes – like the fact that Deputy Hayes didn’t actually see the bat monster the others saw in the radioactive caves outside of town. Naturally, he couldn’t because Michael G. Kaiser is THE monster actor of the Mihmiverse and was playing both parts in Terror from Beneath the Earth. Or there’s that The Monster of Phantom Lake Plushie that just happens to be the favorite toy of the youngest Johnson child (Alice Mihm) – and is, of course, for sale on Mihm’s St. Euphoria website.
This time, we actually get appearances from Mimh, Mrs. Mihm, both Mihm children, and even the Mihm pet, Tarantulos Mihm.
I’ll let you guess which part she‘s playing
One thing that definitely impressed me is how nicely the rear projection giant bug effects were done, as in one scene at the drive in, where a stampeding herd of people runs through the parked cars, while a necking couple remain oblivious in their convertible, and the spider passes between the convertible and other parked cars. Impressive. I’ll bet Bert I. Gordon wishes he could have pulled that one off.
Of course, the best shot – a truly iconic image – came only moments before, with the Spider’s arrival at the Drive In when it suddenly appeared over the back of the screen tower. Now that’s how you make an entrance.
As usual with a Mihmiverse film, it is a bit slow at the start – and this one seems to suffer more than some of the others from too much talk. Other glitches are less obvious, although it isn’t hard to guess that they weren’t allowed to drive that vintage Indian off-road, which would have helped the final battle with the Spider (there is, however, a nice little Easter egg on the DVD showing just how hard it was to get that classic bike started!).
This is a charming, goofy and entertaining little film, which will please fans of giant bug movies and Fifties SF, but may not have as much to offer to the mainstream film audience.
But that doesn’t bother me at all. After all, it is the eccentrics, the originals, the individualists and the out-and-out crazy filmmakers who bring a little life into the film going experience. After all, we all get tired of seeing the exact same, special effects heavy, superhero origin story over and over again, only with different actors in different tights.
So let’s hear it for the fools, the goofs and the hopeless dreamers.
…We desperately need all of you we can find!
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