It took three platforms—Prime, Showtime, and Hulu—but I at last hit a quarantine high with big killer spider fun, a nasty infected remake with plenty of hunky bodies, and a slasher sequel with a gay lead character. Let’s see what I loved about Itsy Bitsy, Rabid, and Pooka Lives!
ITSY BITSY (2019)
Sometimes I just need a creepy-crawly movie to make me itch, and this simple little spider flick does the trick. It’s definitely the new yet familiar horror comfort food I crave right now.
A classic slow burn in which we know the spider is lurking around much longer than the family it is terrorizing realizes it, Itsy Bitsy is a fairly predictable formula for those of us who have been around since last millennium (for instance, we just know what’s going to happen to the cat).
We get a little voodoo ritual action at the beginning to explain why a big spider is crawling around the house of Bruce Davison, whose horror resume dates back to starring in the original 1971 Willard! There’s just enough spider goddess myth to get the web spinning.
Bruce is ill, so a home nurse comes with her two children to live with him. The nurse has experienced something traumatic and is a mess, and unfortunately that makes her character totally unlikable. Also floating around is Denise Crosby of the original Pet Sematary as the sheriff.
Much of the horror elements revolve around the little daughter exploring the house and having close calls with the spider. It’s all very cliché…because it works every time.
The final half hour is when the spider action really kicks in, and what makes this one so good is that the ample gore and spider goo are all practical effects. None of that CGI crap.
For me, this is their best work yet. It modernizes the basic premise of the original and delivers a look and feel that is a great throwback to sleazy, gory VHS horror of the late 80s.
A rather boring, wannabe fashion designer gets horribly disfigured in an accident. She is given free, experimental facial reconstruction and looks even better than before.
But the drugs and protein drinks she must take after the surgery have troubling side effects; she hallucinates that she’s seducing and gruesomely killing and eating sexy men.
She might think they’re hallucinations and nightmares, but we know better. Anyone bitten begin to spread the infection, which causes monstrous deformities.
This wild midnight movie has it all: gore, practical effects and makeup, a cameo by the Soska Sisters, a juicy man-on-man kissing session, hot man bods, and a major, monster-filled climax. I ordered the Blu-ray before I even finished watching the film on cable.
POOKA LIVES! (2020)
The director of Juan of the Dead revives one of many ultimately disappointing installments of Into the Dark, not only breathing new life into it, but possibly creating a worthwhile franchise that needs to escape the Into the Dark label.
While the original Pooka was a Christmas installment, the sequel squeezes in a one-liner sarcastically referring to Pooka as an Easter bunny to justify his resurrection in an April installment.
But it doesn’t even matter that it’s not really a holiday horror film. Pooka Lives! goes from being a dark and violent slasher to a initially jarring but inevitably satisfying horror comedy with a Buffy vibe.
Wil Wheaton has a cameo in the opener, then we meet our group of thirty-somethings. That’s right—a slasher that’s not about teens or college kids. Awesome.
The group of friends includes a black copywriter and his black love interest/co-worker (that’s right…two black characters), a married couple (including Felicia Day of Supernatural fame), and a gay sheriff (that’s right…a gay sheriff).
So the friends create a Pooka challenge that goes viral, and it turns out anyone who does the challenge is hunted down and killed by a version of Pooka. That’s the awesome slasher part.
Once the five friends realize what’s happening and decide they have to stop it, the goofy comedy fun begins. It’s perhaps a little too “quaint” at times, but it is also loads of fun. Not to mention, the best one-liner comes when the gay sheriff steps in to play the hero.
That makes two films in this single blog that land on my does the gay guy die? page.