I had heard about filmmaker Christopher R. Mihm’s low-budget homages to the cinematic science-fiction fare of yesteryear for a year or so, with my first introduction being the Monster Kid Radio podcast (http://monsterkidradio.net/), but I only recently had my first exposure to Mihm’s work, with a viewing of his The Giant Spider (2013). It’s an entertaining black-and-white effort with a heart as big as its titular creature, and fans of 1950s giant monster movies should have a lot of fun with it.
The title creature appears near the town of Phantom Lake, devouring people in its path as it heads toward the heart of town. Newspaper reporter Howard Johnson (Daniel Sjerven) does his heroic best to save the local residents, while hard-headed army officer General Castle (Mark Haider) wants to dispense with science and reason, and blast away at the beast with a variety of weapons.
One problem with some retro homage movies is that they focus on making fun of the genre after which they are modeled; The Giant Spider, however, is much gentler in its send-up style. It is content to give a sly wink or nod to viewers rather than elbowing them in the side with its humorous references. Mihm’s movie is also a valentine to the giant-bug subgenre, rather than an all-out parody of it.
Though a low-budget effort, Mihm and his crew have turned out an impressive creature feature in the spirit of 1950s drive-in fare. Mitch Gonzales’s cool spider effects, including close-ups of the monster’s face (actually, it may be the same take repeated several times, which would make it no less impressive but that much funnier), bolster the film. The care taken in bringing this oversized arachnid to screen life shows the love that Mihm and his crew bring to their motion pictures. Visual effects such as cigarette burns and abrupt jumps add to the affected old-school authenticity of The Giant Spider. The cast acquits itself well, including Sjerven, Haider, and Shannon McDonough as Howard’s fiancee Zita Marczak.
In the spirit of 1950s creature feature trailers, I offer my own teaser text about The Giant Spider: “SEE! A colossal arachnid terrorize a small town! SEE! Soldiers wage war on a creature that cannot be stopped by conventional weapons! SEE! Heroic citizens battle this hungry behemoth! SEE! A scientist wear a Hawaiian shirt underneath his lab coat!”
Interested readers can watch a trailer of The Giant Spider and order a DVD, if they wish, at Mihm’s official site, sainteuphoria.com/spider.html.