The Giant Spider is a film that was released in 2013 but was an homage to 1950’s B-movies. Part of me wants to give it a pass for the sentiment, but unfortunately, it’s not a very good homage. The filmmakers try too hard be authentic, yet don’t succeed in that goal. It’s too self-referential. Too much winking at the camera, like, “Hey, this is what social interaction and gender politics were like in the 50’s.” It’s overcooked and overdone. However, there’s a lot about this movie to admire. It’s not a terrible little film, but I wouldn’t call it good.
On authenticity, the acting is suitably awful. Seriously, the acting is on par with a bad school play. Overacting, underacting, they run the gamut. In defense of bad 1950’s acting, they were never quite this bad. I’m not sure this was intentional or not. I think it was partly intentional, but they go too far, and some of these actors are legitimately bad. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but something about how everyone speaks just doesn’t feel right. They don’t use the incorrect verbiage or anything, but they just don’t look or sound like any of them came from the 50s. Just another signifier that the authenticity is lacking somewhat.
Don’t get me wrong. They try, they really do. It’s in black and white, replete with film grain and cigarette burns, but you can tell that it was filmed digitally. The effects are cheesy enough but are actually too good. The spider is a real tarantula, composited in the frame to look large but it was done digitally so it doesn’t have that transparency or jitteriness it should have. Close-ups of the spider are done using a puppet, and again, the puppet looks too good and too expensive. The music has the proper degraded sound to it, and that only makes rest of the audio stand out with its crispness. My last major complaint in regards to things that ruined the illusion for me is the camera work. The camera stayed pretty stationary back then. Here there is a lot of handheld camera work. And not near as many Dutch angles as there should be, dammit! Since the tried with some aspects of the film to make it feel genuine, it does highlight where they failed.
You can tell there was passion put into this. It’s an okay love letter to B-movies, just not a great one. There even a few clever references to films I love like Star Wars, Toy Story, and Back to the Future. Sure that borders on being a mite too referential, but they manage to do it without being anachronistic, so they get points there. But as the rest of the film goes, you can tell they were trying to be funny, but it just comes off as dull. Those references were the only moments that brought a smile to my face. I appreciate what they were trying to do. I love these kinds of films too, and this isn’t the only movie from this crew done in this style, so maybe I’ll check those out at a later date. As far as The Giant Spider goes, they tried to be bad, and they succeeded. Unfortunately, without any of the charm of a real B-movie from that era of cinema.