I hate movie trailers.
When cut well, they can make a horribly drab dullard appear competent and atmospheric. Sometimes, they look more like the movie the filmmaker set out to make than the finished product does. That’s especially the case with Itsy Bitsy, a 2019 horror movie written and directed by Micah Gallo (Massacre Lake, Scavengers).
As the name and plot imply, a giant spider is running amuk, and wreaking havoc on a small family. Spawned from the ancient legend of Maa-Kalaratri, the oversized arachnid does a lot more sitting and waiting than anything else. The spider takes a back seat to other elements, like loss, tragedy, broken families, and mysterious white men that profit off of the cultures of others.
Before we get to enjoy any real spider fun, we have to learn about Kara’s prescription drug problem spurred from a deadly accident. We watch her son, Jesse, take on ample responsibility as the big brother to eight-year-old Cambria. There’s a little exposition into Walter’s past, his collection of cultural artifacts, and his deceased wife. We even get to hear why Sheriff Jane, a side character with no ability to read people at all, became a cop. There is way too much crammed into a movie that was marketed as a terrifying spider film.
Instead of focusing on what viewers were pining for, Itsy Bitsy goes for a dramatic arthouse flick. Every character is tragic, and every subplot contrived. Why the mother had to be a drug addict, and why the family needed to be recovering from loss is inconsequential to the plot. You expect the mother’s messy use of pain killers to lead to something, but it only serves to fill up time. For a movie that’s only 94 minutes long, padding shouldn’t be necessary, especially when you can spend time freaking viewers out with spider tropes and arachnid cliches.
When we are treated to the malice of Maa-Kalaratri, it’s often so slowly paced that it’s frustrating. There is a fine line between building tension, and boring the viewer, and Itsy Bitsy crosses that line on many occasions. The tensest scene in the movie ended in a cheap and illogical cutaway, and an unsatisfying death of the movie’s most interesting character.
It’s so hard to watch a movie like Itsy Bitsy and not think of Arachnophobia or even Eight Legged Freaks. Though the latter was a ridiculous take on the arachnid genre, it was still more effective in what it wanted to pull off than Itsy Bitsy. As for Frank Marshall’s Arachnophobia, Micah Gallo should have taken some pointers. The spiders were the focal point, and the only additional plot we needed was that of the arrival of Jeff Daniels’ Ross Jennings and his fear of spiders.
To work better, Itsy Bitsy needed to expand its scope beyond the forgettable family drama and the confines of a secluded guest house. Maa-Kalaratri was begging to be let loose into the world, but was forced to stay put and snack on cats and the viewer’s time.
While Crawl and 47 Meters Down: Uncaged were the big releases for fans of nature horror, Itsy Bitsy should have been the film that snuck under the radar to achieve a cult following. That’s not at all the case. If it’s to be remembered for anything, Itsy Bitsy will be a cautionary tale for filmmakers that want to cram their move with unnecessary exposition and character backstories. There’s a time and a place for it, and it’s not when you’ve invited viewers to watch a movie about a giant, poisonous spider.
If you’re looking for the dark horror movie we were promised in the trailers, you’re not going to find it in Itsy Bitsy.