Back in 2013 a really huge spider, I’m talking a big ass one stomped on Los Angeles. Here we are in 2015 and Los Angeles is getting stomped on again, and a lot worse, if you ask me, by our friendly neighborhood arachnid. No, not by Spider-Man, I’m talking giant spiders again. That’s right plural this time, and they drool and spit lava! These new eight legged freaks have been dubbed, wait for it, wait for it, no, seriously, wait for it—LAVALANTULAS!
What is it that director Mike Mendez has against L.A. we may never know, but what we do know is he sure as hell loves slinging mutant arachnids at it. He also likes putting unlikely heroes up against them, which end up being just the right heroes the city needs. In Lavalantula it’s four members of those 80s Police Academy comedies: Steve Guttenberg, Michael Winslow, Marion Ramsey and Leslie Easterbrook. Also making a return from the 80s is Nia Peeples, who’s just as hot now as she was back then. Steve and Nia are husband and wife, Colton and Olivia West, the core characters of the flick along with their son, Wyatt (Noah Hunt).
Colton was a huge action star from the 90s who’s having trouble getting work nowadays. Getting in trouble with the law on a regular basis might have a little something to do with that. Olivia teaches a kickboxing class and Wyatt is your average teen who loves to bike ride around the city with his friends. On this particular day Colton has walked off the set of this movie he was given a small role in and his son has walked out of the house tired of waiting for Dad not being there when he says he will.
Having never been to L.A., and knowing anything of its topography, I have no clue if the mountains around it really are dormant volcanoes or just a plot point for the movie. Off hand I’m going to assume it’s a fictional plot point for our lavalantula’s to be based. Well, one day this dormant volcano decides to blow its stack and launch these mutant wall crawlers into our world and wouldn’t your know it Colton is stuck right in the middle of traffic when that happens.
About 8-minutes in and there are lavalantulas everywhere. The main story is watching Colton and his wife try and find their lost son, who’s hold up in an abandoned studio warehouse with two of his friends, Jordan (Diana Hopper) and Travis (Zac Goodspeed). Along the way Colton teams up with a tourist, Chris (Patrick Renna), and a retired stunt man that worked on one of this movies, but had to give up the business because he lost a hand. He’s now Pirate Jack (Ralph Garmen), Pirate for hire, and when the lavalantulas side track their mission into the La Brea Tar Pits museum they also temporarily befriend a scientist who informs them all of L.A. is riddled with lava tubes under the ground, which easily explains the sightings of spiders all over the place.
When father, wife and son are finally in one place and in one piece Colton and his two FX friends, Marty (Michael Winslow) and Teddie (Marion Ramsey) devise a plan to bring up the Queen lavalantula and take her out, because these spiders have a hive mind. Take out the Queen and you shut down the colony.
It’s almost mindblowingly ironic that I could easily suspend my disbelief enough to accept the notion of fire breathing spiders laying waste to human society but couldn’t when Guttenberg’s character donned the jetpack superhero costume he wore in an old movie of his, and actually flew around on said jetpack as he went into battle with the Queen. In my initial SyFy channel viewing that just about ruined the movie for me, but seeing it last night, without all those damn commercials pulling me out, and seeing it projected in a much better transfer (i.e. DVD) I admit now I’m okay with that final confrontation.
With Lavalantula I see now there are SyFy movies and there are SyFy movies. I have never been a fan of that channel’s let’s-find-the-most-absurd-creature-we-can-make-a-movie-on mantra, or of most of their creature features in general for that matter, with the sole exception of Sand Serpents (2009), and that’s only because the giant CGI worms were competently rendered, and there in lies one of my biggest gripes about their monster movies. CGI that is not competently rendered, not to mention the lack of any build up. I mean, the creature is there in your face in the first few minutes and then it’s just more of the same for the next 90. Yes, with Lavalantula the spiders are in your face 8-minutes in but I learned that deficiency could be remedied if the CGI monsters look good and for the most part the lavalantulas of Mendez’s flick look good. And you get three sizes too, for me the bigger the lavalantulas got the better the CGI looked, but having said that there were some really nice close-ups of the dog sized spiders too. Of the truck sized versions, the ones coming out of the Tar Pit, the one attacking the gang in the museum and the one attacking the kids in the warehouse looked the best, and the CGI for the Queen was good as well.
Tibor Takac’s Spiders 3D (2013) even got some love in the film too. His movie was mentioned during a newscast.
Leslie Easterbrook is the only Police Academy actor who has the smallest role, she’s only in it for like 5-minutes before having her face melted off by a spider, and speaking of gore, for an “unrated” flick there isn’t any. Just mentioning this for any gorehounds who are wondering if they should make time for this one. If you like 50s style big bug flicks done by way of 21st century movie making then, yes, make time for it.
On November 3rd Alchemy releases Lavalantula on DVD only!
Video/Audio/Subtitles: 1.78:1 widescreen—2.0 English Dolby Digital Stereo, 5.1 English Dolby Digital Surround—English SDH, Spanish subs only.
- Featurette (3:08)
Apparently this movie takes place within the Sharknado universe. I personally cannot stand those movies, but for you fans there’s a quick cameo by Ian Ziering who quickly tells Colton he’d love to help but he’s got “shark problems” and runs off glancing warily into the sky.
SyFy has greenlit a Lavalantula 2 for next year. No director or cast attached yet. Not sure how I feel about that. If the CGI remains equal to or even better than the first one, then, yes, I will support it. In the meantime I’m hoping Mike Mendez does a third giant spider movie (not Lavalantula 2, it needs to be something as different as Lavalantula is from Big Ass Spider), just so we can have something I’m unofficially calling ‘The Giant Spider L.A. Apocalypse Trilogy’ to call our own.