Micah Gallo’s new eight-legged creature feature Itsy Bitsy is a film that has all the elements needed for a fun popcorn movie. Unfortunately, those elements fail to fully work together to create an entirely enjoyable film.
Based on a story by Gallo with a script he wrote with Bryan Dick, and Jason Alvino, Itsy Bitsy is the story of a woman named Kara (Elizabeth Roberts) who travels halfway across the country with her children Jesse (Arman Darbo) and Cambria (Chloe Perrin) to take a job as an in-home nurse to Walter Clark (Bruce Davison), a man who has spent his life traveling the world, exploring, and collecting exotic treasures.
Now losing his mobility, Walter needs all the help he can get, especially after a mysterious artifact is delivered to his home with a deadly surprise inside: a spider tied to an ancient curse.
On the surface, it’s the perfect setup for a creature feature paying homage to its predecessors like Arachnophobia while creating their world.
Both Davison and Darbo give really great performances. Darbo, in particular, is a young actor to watch. He seems to have a maturity that others his age sometimes lack, and he brings emotional depth to his character in spite of the sometimes uneven writing.
The scenes the actors share are some of the most poignant and emotionally effective in the film.
Likewise, Gallo’s special effects team rose to the occasion, creating practical special effects for his creatures, giving them an interesting texture and allowing the actors to really interact with them during the film.
Unfortunately, where Itsy Bitsy drops the ball is in editing and pacing.
The first two acts of the film bog down repeatedly, dispersing what little tension they manage to build in key moments almost immediately. This makes for a particularly long first hour of the film which unfortunately the viewer cannot quite forget when the action finally does begin to ramp up toward the end.
Gallo manages a couple of genuine moments as Kara faces down the dog-sized spiders in an attempt to save her children, and Denise Crosby (Pet Sematary, 1989) gets to flex a bit as the local sheriff who made a connection with Jesse earlier in the film here.
It’s as if they know how to set up really great moments, but are unsure how to complete them. It’s rather like having that one person you really like asking you out on a date over and over again, but they never show.
The final showdown and denouement ultimately gives way to a somewhat saccharine, optimistic ending that just did not feel genuine given the previous events in the film.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with a horror film with a happy ending. This one simply did not land, mostly because of a couple of gaping plot holes, one of which they attempted to cover in 30-second tag after the family rides away into the sunset.
Gallo and his cast and crew attempted to make a horror film with heart. Sadly, the film’s issues prevented it from solidly landing its emotional message for this reviewer, and without that element the rest just seems to fall flat.
Itsy Bitsy is currently available on multiple streaming platforms and will be available on Blu Ray on October 1, 2019 from Shout Factory so you can watch and decide for yourself.