Itsy Bitsy is a movie that rarely gets made anymore—a creepy creature feature with top-notch practical effects. The movie is also another example of a visual effects artist taking a stab at directing. You’ve seen his work before, too—the Hatchet trilogy, The Innkeepers, and more. This is Micah Gallo’s feature debut, but you wouldn’t know that from watching the movie. Itsy Bitsy is a strong, entertaining, and creepy film you shouldn’t miss.
Itsy Bitsy follows a mother and her two children who move into a rural farmhouse to care for an aging, secretive gentleman. They soon become the target of an entity that takes the form of a giant, deadly spider. It’s a solid premise that works with the isolated location and small cast. However, it falters with its world-building that feels forced, even though it has a purpose later on in the film. This is one of the few missteps made that make the movie feel a bit bloated, despite its 90-minute runtime.
The strongest part of the story is the relationship between Kara (the mother, played by Elizabeth Roberts) and her children Jesse and Cambria (played by Arman Darbo and Chloe Perrin, respectively). There are layers to the relationship that are slowly peeled back as the story progresses, revealing family secrets and resentment. The character building makes you care for the family and their survival. You want them to succeed, but that feeling comes late into the film, a victim of the world-building.
The actors shine when Gallo focuses on the family and the small cast of supporting characters. Roberts’s portrayal of a mother desperately trying to hold her family together as the once-promising job opportunity descends into chaos, nudged over the edge by demons both personal and foreign, is heartbreaking. Perrin and Darbo are stellar, embodying kids who have lived an unstable home life with sympathetic authenticity. Bruce Davison (playing Walter Clark, the secretive aging gentleman) and Denise Crosby (portraying Sheriff Jane Dunne) offer intense, convincing performances that elevate the film even further.
Itsy Bitsy shines with its practical effects, which shouldn’t be a surprise considering Gallo’s experience. The spider is downright unsettling. It’s large enough to highlight the creepier aesthetic bits, yet small enough to scurry away, leaving you wondering where the eight-legged monstrosity is hiding. It would have been easy to use CGI, but there’s no way it wouldn’t have been a distraction for audiences. Instead, the practical spider adds to the overall creepiness of the movie. The practical effects also allow for several tense moments, one of which I’m still thinking about today.
Don’t let Itsy Bitsy fly under the radar. It’s a solid feature debut with strong acting and even stronger practical effects. Yes, the story falters a bit at the beginning with its world-building and lack of focus on the family, but those issues fall away as the film progresses. We don’t get movies like this very often, so when they do happen, we must celebrate them—especially one as solid and entertaining as Itsy Bitsy.
Popcorn Frights 2019: ‘Itsy Bitsy’ Has A Big-Ass Spider Problem [Review]
Itsy Bitsy will turn you into an arachnophobe.