Movie Review: KISS OF THE TARANTULA

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KISS OF THE TARANTULA
Cinema-Vu
1976
PG

  • John Bradley operates and lives in a mortuary along with his wife, Martha, and daughter, Susan, who collects tarantula spiders and has always been ostracized by her friends because…well, she’s a bit strange. When Susan discovers that mommy dearest is plotting to have dear old dad killed by her secret lover, who is also dad’s brother, she places a tarantula in mommy’s bed while she sleeps. Abruptly awakened by the spider, mom dies of a heart attack. This bizarre little episode apparently puts sweet little Susan over the top. Later as a teenager, Susan uses her pet tarantulas in acts of revenge against her terrified classmates, who have been tormenting her for way too long. And innocent looking Susan doesn’t stop there, making good plot use of her father’s mortuary and her creepy little playmates!

Back when I was 6 years of age, one of my uncles — who is only ten years older than I am — told me that if any kind of spider bit me, regardless of what the size of type, it would kill me. And then he promptly shoved me into a spider web. I remember screaming before blacking out. Good times. Of course, that left me with a low-grade arachnophobia throughout my life.

Of course, over the years, I’ve managed to study up on these nightmare fuel of nature, gaining an understanding of what ones I should actually bug out over (pun intended). It still doesn’t mean that, despite many of the species of arachnids falling squarely in the “harmless” spectrum, I’m gonna be making pets of these things. Or allowing them to live if they invade my bubble.

Which bring sus to this mid-1970s low budget “horror” movie, Kiss Of The Tarantula. this is yet another nature-based movie that, like the Shatner-riffic Kingdom Of The Spiders that would come a year later, uses tarantulas for the visual freak-outs.

So, what we have with Kiss Of The Tarantula is a reworking of the plot from the 1971 movie Willard, only gender-swapped and substituting spiders for the rats. And so, let’s get the pedantic stuff out of the way: Them spiders wouldn’t kill anyone, even if they wanted to. It’s just that they’re the go-to critters Hollywood uses to up the ookie factor. Knowing that the worst thing a tarantula bite can do is give a painful bee-like sting and some muscle and skin irritation, the over-the-top reactions from the victims in this movie, followed by their melodramatic deaths, just stretches the suspension of disbelief. Even if you argue that they died from panic and shock, I would question the credulity of that. Otherwise, the entire community must suffer from high-grade arachnophobia.

Once you get past that, what’s left with Kiss Of The Tarantula is a slipshod exploitation flick that seems slapped together with a micro budget and features a creepy incestuous uncle angle that really didn’t add to the movie, other than an ick factor that didn’t involve the spiders. The story is dull, the tension and conflict unbelievably hackneyed, and acting that can be likened to nails on a chalk board. You’ll be shaking your head in disbelief, and not in a good way. Hard pass.

Movie Review: KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS

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kingdom of the spidersDimension Pictures
1977
PG

“Well, that would explain Spider Hill…”

In between the end of his career-defining run on the original Star Trek series and his return as Kirk in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, America’s favorite Canadian import William Shatner kept relatively busy by guest starring on several TV shows and starring in several TV movies and miniseries. Kingdom Of The Spiders was one of the more memorable TV movies of that period. Memorable for all the wrong reasons, mind you, but memorable none-the-less.

I remember seeing a commercial for a re-run broadcast of Kingdom Of The Spiders in 1979, when i was but a wee lad. It featured the clip of the guy in a bi-plane freaking out because his lap was crawling full of SPIDERS! AAAAHH! Of course, I wasn’t allowed to watch it, as I was five at the time, and it was on past my bedtime. Oh, and my parents were operating under the assumption that Kingdom Of The Spiders was “scary” or something. Anyway, it wasn’t until recently that I finally watched the movie, while recovering from a malady with my knees, through the magic of Amazon streaming.

In Kingdom Of The Spiders, William Shatner plays Doc “Rack” Hansen, a rural vet in Arizona whose days of vaccinatin’ cattle and sexual harassment of his assistance in doing so is interrupted by a call from a local farmer, whose calf as mysteriously fallen ill. After sending for a blood test to the university in Flagstaff, the science division send over one of their arachnologists to investigate, and for ol’ Doc “Rack” to hit on relentlessly. As you may have gleaned from the title of the movie, the spiders in the area seem to be organizing to hunt much bigger prey due to the spraying of pesticides having wiped out the spiders’ natural food supply. Next thing you know, they’re taking over the area, killing off livestock and people, and the mayor still doesn’t want to do anything to scare off the visitors that are going to come for the county fair that’s coming up. So, basically this is Jaws with tarantulas. Or something. Anyway, the population dwindles, and next thing you know everyone alive takes refuge inside the local Inn, only to wake up to the entire county being webbed over by their new spider overlords. The end.

Kingdom Of The Spiders is very much in keeping with other nature run amok horror movies that I’ve seen from that era. I’ve seen far more of these types of movies than I’m comfortable with, really. This one endures mostly due to the masterful thespian craft of William “It’s not a toupee, dammit” Shatner, who plays his veterinarian character much like he played Captain Kirk: a cocky manly-man who likes to chew the scenery as well as the ladies. This was a television movie, mind you, in case you forgot it being brought up a mere couple of paragraphs ago, so there really isn’t much by way of graphic and scary bits, beyond a bunch of live tarantulas wandering about and some people being webbed up. Mostly when the humans are attacked, they flail about with a bunch of spiders–who probably have no idea what’s going on in the first place–crawling about them, trying to hang on for dear life due to this human they were put on freaking out. The actors try to do the best they can with what they were given, with the melodrama used to keep me from falling asleep in the middle of things. Oh, useless trivia: The little girl that plays “Rack”‘s niece was played by none other than William Shatner’s actual daughter. There, that’s something you know now.

Overall, I think I may have had a better reaction to watching this back when I was 6 or 7. Sure, Kingdom Of The Spiders is cheesy, melodramatic and fun for all the wrong reasons, but I’ve also seen way worse than this. It’s worth a Bad Movie Night showing some time.

HALLOWEEN’ING Day 8: Haunted Haul

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halloween'ing 2017
The first in my seasonal Halloween accessorizing hauls wasn’t a big one, as it was more of a spur of the moment thing rather than planned out. Essentially, I was at the Walmart off of 168th and Maple in Omaha picking up my medication refill, when I decided to pick up a few things in their Halloween section. Only a handful of things, really, but pretty decent ones.

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First, I got a small thing of orange-scented hand soap that features a Halloween scene of Jack-O-Lanterns. They’re orange, so hence the orange sent. Though, it would probably have made more scents (see what I did there?) to have it smell like pumpkin, but we’re all about to be assaulted by nothing but pumpkin spice this and pumpkin scented that, and who really wants pumpkin scented hand soap? Anyway, I picked this up for the other spirits in the Haunted Victorian to use in the washroom.

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Next, I got this sheet of spider-riffic window clings, to put up on the glass partition over my cubicle at work. Look at ’em. All cute and adorable there. There are more on the back, but they’re pretty much the same things, only in different sizes. The really big one I decided to use as the decorative decal on the Silver Laptop. It looks nice. I’ve name her Despair. How do I know it’s a she? Because the female spiders are always bigger than the male spiders, silly.

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There were a couple of choices for the hanging figures there, one a straight skeleton, and this Grim Reaper/Ghoul one that I decided to go with. Another thing to adorn my work space. Only, I leave everything up year round. This will be a permanent residence there. And I’ve name this one Melvin, in honor of the Grim Reaper from Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey. “They melvined me.” Classic.

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And finally, this is the only time of the year I can really restock on black candles, without having to special order over the internet. Only, these two were the only ones left, the other taper candles being colored orange. It seems there are other weekend Goth types in the area. Or whatever. I’m going to have to scour the rest of the greater Omaha area, it seems.

So, this is a nice start to the seasonal accessory hauls. Can’t wait to see what else is out there. It’s such a wonderful time for the decor.

::END TRANSMISSION::

Movie Review: ARACHNOPHOBIA

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arachnophobia-dvd-coverAmblin Entertainment
1990
PG-13

“Respect is fine, but actually I’ve always wanted to be feared.”

Hindsight being the way it is, and depending on where you stand with those little eight-legged bugaboos, Arachnophobia isn’t at all that scary. It is, however, a great small-town-overrun-by-killer-bugs rainy afternoon mindless popcorn flick.

Dr. Ross Jennings (played by an affable Jeff Daniels) and his family have moved to the quiet California town of Camaina to take over as the community physician…or so he thinks. See, the elderly town doctor who was supposed to retire and hand his mantle over to Dr. Jennings decided at the last minute to not retire and keep his practice. But, that’s really the least of Dr. Jenning’s problems. See, various citizens of the community are dying mysteriously, and it doesn’t help that they had a medical check-up by Dr. Jennings previously. Obviously, as small towns are, people start getting suspicious, especially the elder doctor and the power-happy town sheriff. Of course, it has something to do with the swarm of nasty little Venezuelan funnel web / common house spider hybrids running around. Then again, no one catches on until a specialist pays the small town a visit…then it’s “fangs for the memories”…sorry, had to do it…

While the good part of the movie plays off like a mild poke at nature-run-amok horror flicks, the last quarter of the movie is genuinely creepy, especially if you have even the smallest amount of fear of spiders (and who doesn’t, really?). I should point out, though, that the second time I saw this in theaters back in the day, I noticed several shots where the overhead boom mic dropped down into the shot, where I didn’t notice the first time. The first time I saw it, though, I wasn’t really looking for those…since I am mildly scared of spiders, I was curled up into a ball in my chair for most of the movie. One thing I’m still scratching my noggin over to this day is, why was John Goodman listed as one of the stars? His roll- as the local bug exterminator- was more of a quirky supporting character that everyone remembers after the movie’s over. Yet, he was given third billing on the TV spots…and if I remember correctly, in one of those commercials, he yells out “ROCK AN’ ROOOOOOOLL!” after he’s loaded with his equipment, whereas in the movie, he utters a more understated…and more effective…version of that overused catch phrase. Eh, whatever…

Anyway, bottom line: Arachnophobia = fun little nature vs. humans movie that doesn’t pretend to be more than that. Great for a rainy afternoon, perhaps as a triple-feature with Kingdom Of The Spiders, and Eight Legged Freaks…