I was born in this city, and I will die in this city, BUT NOT TONIGHT!
Year Released : 2015
Directors : Mike Mendez
Cast : Steve Guttenberg, Nia Peeples, Noah Hunt and Patrick Renna.
I don’t think I’ve ever been so sure about how poor a movie will be based purely on the poster and the description, but that’s what I have got from Lavalantula.
IMDB describes the film as “Volcanic eruptions in Los Angeles unleash a swarm of gigantic, lava-breathing tarantulas.” There’s no part of that that doesn’t sound stupid and yet somehow I feel compelled to watch, I suppose that’s the thing about SyFy Channel movies. You know precisely what you’re going to get and I’m not going to lie, I’m going to watch this against my better judgement.
Oh well, six days into the horror month of reviews, I suppose it was inevitable that I’d run into a SyFy Channel made film eventually….even if it is definitely not filling me with excitement. I have watched a few films by the SyFy channel over the recent past and it’s safe to say that they are not good, but the one thing that I will always say about them is that they are memorable, even if only for the wrong reasons.
Colton (Guttenberg) is an aging action star that struggling to find a role that he feels comfortable in, quitting a role that he considers beneath him. On the drive home to see his son (Hunt), a volcano erupts and a huge horde of giant spiders break through the emerging cracks in the ground. The spiders start killing off of all around them, including spitting fireballs at them.
The spiders, eventually revealed to be ancient lavalantulas, soon start breaking through all over Los Angeles and Colton’s wife Olivia (Peeples) barely survives the attack. Meanwhile, Colton has commandeered a coach of tourists in his mission to get back to his family, including the excitable Chris (Renna), a man who claims to be his biggest fan.
After much hardship, including all three members of the family successfully surviving their individual battles against the lavalantulas, the family does eventually reunited, and along with a plethora with Colton’s acting friends they decide to take the fight to the insects, but have they bitten off more than they can chew when the queen emerges?
Justified in pessimism?
I’m going to start by giving Lavalantula (stupid name by the way) some credit, it is unapologetically “what it says on the tin”. There is nothing fancy about it, far from it (more on that later) but it is an honest film and seems to embrace it’s camp silliness, allowing you some freedom to simply sit back and enjoy the film that you’re watching. That being said, this is still a poorly made movie.
The storyline is just your typical creature movie plot, mixed with a bit of a disaster, but the strange thing is that a volcano going off seems to pose no danger compared to the spider. Spewing lava, ash, water turning to acid, none of it seems to really have any impact on the local area, it’s quite strange in many ways. It would have probably been a better film had the volcano and lava also pose a threat, but other than the initial sightings of the volcano in the first few minutes, it’s barely looked at again.
I don’t often talk about how a film looks so often but I really do have to start with just how visually diabolic it really is. The CGI used is just so incredibly bad that it is hard to sum up in words just how bad it is. Everything looks unconvincingly superimposed onto everything else, and I would go as far as saying that this is one of the most ridiculous films in terms of visuals that I have ever seen.
One such example of the poorly used CGI comes when Chris is asking the other passengers on the bus to calm down, he is super imposed over a video of Colton driving, who in turn is also superimposed on a visual of a bus being driving. I’d be curious to know what percentage of their budget was spent on visuals because it appears that most has been spent on a computer run on Windows 95, that visuals are that bad.
In all fairness, the acting isn’t as bad as I was expecting and the cast makes the best of what is effectively a bad situation, and I do love the joke of Guttenberg’s character moaning about being in a poorly made science fiction movie about insects, almost as if the film-makers are poking fun at themselves and in many ways it’s kind of hard not to truly hate on a film that takes the piss out of itself.
With a host of self-referential jokes and connections to other SyFy channel movies, there is plenty there for those that are fans of the movies, and even though I’m not, on some levels I did find Lavalantula enjoyable. It’s watchable, which is one of the most bizarre things that I think I have ever written on this site.
You feel like you’re getting your time’s worth as despite only being 78 minutes long, it seems to last a hell of a lot longer and the first half an hour seems to go on for a long time. I think this is in no small part due to the fact that they get into the action very quickly, with the lavalantulas first appearing on screen and attacking the main cast within the first five minutes. There is very little wasted time during the run time and it feels like a very busy.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not even slightly considering giving it the approval stamp, not even slightly, but there is something somewhat enjoyable that I can’t quite put my finger on.
An atrocious film visually is still somewhat enjoyable and fun, however, I am not prepared to give the film approval stamp because it’s simple poorly made.
The movie is an easy fix though and given a few tweeks here and there it would probably actually be worth than approval stamp, but there are too many minor flaws to take the film overly seriously and to enjoy as anything more than a passing chance.
If it’s on your TV at any point and you have nothing else to watch, give it a try, but I wouldn’t say go out of your way and watch it.