Micah Gallo’s ‘Itsy Bitsy’ (2019) A Skin-tingling Movie Review

It’s been awhile since we first talked to Filmmaker Micah Gallo (read our interview with him here) about his eight-legged creature feature, Itsy Bitsy. He had spent years working with Adam Green on the special FX for Frozen (2010) and the Hatchet franchise and was ready to create his first feature film. After more than two years, the time has finally come to see the finished product. Did it live up to my expectations?

While Gallo directed, wrote the screenplay and supervised the post-production, Special FX Artist Jason Alvino (TRON: Legacy 2010) and Brian Dick (Psycho Wedding Crasher 2017) co-wrote the script. Eileen Dietz (the voice of Pazuzu from The Exorcist) acted as an associate producer. The cast includes Bruce Davison (X-Men franchise, The Lords of Salem 2012 – read our review here), Denise Crosby (Pet Semetery 1989), Elizabeth Roberts (upcoming Haunted: 333), Arman Darbo (And Then I Go 2017), Chloe Perrin (Mary 2019), Treva Etienne (Black Hawk Down 2001) and Stranger Things‘ Matty Cardarople. The special FX team consisted of Gallo and the hugely talented Dan Rebert (Slither 2006 – read our retro review here), while Anthony De Chellis (Underworld: Rise of the Lycans 2009) supervised the visual FX through Intelligent Creatures. Editing for Itsy Bitsy was done by Matt Latham (Victor Crowley 2017 – read our review here), and the music was composed by Garry Schyman (BioShock video game franchise) and Frederik Wiedmann (Tremors franchise).

Synopsis:

Based on the centuries old poem, a family moves into a secluded mansion where they soon find themselves being targeted by an entity taking the form of a giant spider.

Itsy Bitsy follows Kara (Roberts) as she starts a new life in a new place with her two children, pre-teen Jesse (Darbo) and five-year-old Cambria (Perrin). She’s heading for a job as an in-home caretaker for a Walter Clark (Davison), who is suffering from a debilitating disease. Kara is bringing more baggage than just the kids’ toys and a box full of dishes, however. She is suffering from PTSD after getting into a lethal car accident. She’s self-medicating with pain pills and has dumped all responsibility for Cambria onto Jesse, all while wallowing in her own trauma. I wasn’t surprised to see that she was a bit lacking in her professional life as well.

On the other hand, we’ve got Walter, a sick, lonely old man who used to travel the world with his late wife, collecting rare tribal artifacts. His home is full of them. He’s visited by a young African man named Akheeba (Etienne) who has brought him something… a long sought-after black egg that was worshiped as a crop-growing spider god by a now deceased tribe. Surprise, surprise – the egg breaks, and the cocooned spider god inside, who just happens to be the size of a small dog, is absolutely ravenous.

Looks like that bassinet may hold more than just long-forgotten dollies

What Works

The opening scene of Itsy Bitsy, where the tribal leaders get ready to perform their yearly sacrifice to the spider god, set up the film perfectly. Watching the natives drink and dance and paint each other’s bodies as their world slowly starts to morph into a hallucinogenic mindtrip gives idea of the spider a powerful grip onto your imagination. Anything strong enough to cause people to do this must be one mean mother. What a way to start off a horror film!

The acting was decent all around, although I was highly impressed with Arman Darbo as Jesse. He wore his character’s heart on his sleeve, managing to be both motherly and protective of his sister while keeping up his line of teen-induced, snarky comments to his mother without missing a beat. He perfectly portrayed a put-upon yet responsible youth whose childhood had been jerked out from under him after his mother’s car accident. I’m anxious to see Darbo in other things.

I love that Kara is such a complicated character. Many inexperienced filmmakers don’t know how to create a balance between a character-drive story and a terrifying horror flick, but Marcus Gallo and Editor Matt Latham had no problem knowing how to use Kara’s weaknesses and her children’s strengths to create an even tenser film without spending too much screen time or obvious exposition on either one.

What’s the opposite of a Hope Chest?

The Itsy Bitsy spider itself is an ingenious invention. It manages to invoke hatred and a predatory mystique while also looking completely alien. A lot of research must have been put into this creation, as the creature moved and acted like a real arachnid, right down to the way it laid its eggs. I appreciate that it was kept hidden for much of the film, relying on shadows, off-putting noises and creepy-quick cuts to build it up in the viewer’s mind without spoiling the monster’s true form too early.

What Doesn’t Work

I enjoyed pretty much everything about Itsy Bitsy, but if there was anything negative to mention, it’s that the spider’s movements could sometimes be jerky, especially when it was running from one place to another. Like I mentioned above, the close-ups and even the shadow of the spider was creepy, so seeing it herky-jerk its way across the floor was almost laughable. I know that it’s a god, so I wasn’t surprised that it was omnipotent, but I was a bit confused as to how it could physically be in two places at once. Watching the spider get thrown out a window and then seeing it run out from under the bed was annoying and took me out of the film.

Final Thoughts

I was struck by how well Itsy Bitsy worked, especially from such a new director. The film has great flow and a macabre, dreadful creature that horror fans and arachnophobes alike are sure to have nightmares about. I love that little Cambria wore costumed butterfly wings every day, making her the perfect victim to this eight-legged devil god. Itsy Bitsy is a perfect combination of Hollywood-quality filmmaking and indie creativeness. If you love creature features and your house is full of spiders (honestly, whose isn’t?), then Itsy Bitsy is the film for you.

Watch Itsy Bitsy right now at the link below!

About Tracy Allen

As the co-owner and Editor-in-Chief of PopHorror.com, Tracy has learned a lot about independent horror films and the people who love them. Now an approved critic for Rotten Tomatoes, she hopes the masses will follow her reviews back to PopHorror and learn more about the creativity and uniqueness of indie horror movies.

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