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Friday, 2 January 2015

Itsy Bitsy Spiders (2013)

Director: Bertrand Paré
Stars: Julian Feder and Jessica Galinas
This film was an official selection at the 10th annual International Horror & Sci-Fi Film Festival in Phoenix in 2014. Here's an index to my reviews of 2014 films.
Itsy Bitsy Spiders was the first peach of a horror short to screen at this year's International Horror & Sci-Fi Film Festival and it felt that way from moment one. I was highly surprised to discover that Bertrand Paré, who wrote, directed, produced and edited, isn't as experienced as I expected. In fact this was his debut in all but one of those roles, as he'd edited the universally panned Ulli Lommel movie, Curse of the Zodiac, back in 2007. Either IMDb is lying to me or he picked up these skills like a champ because it's a superbly crafted short, as slick as if he'd been turning these things out for years. It's set up well, it grows well and it ends well. It's cast superbly, child actor Julian Feder note perfect as Edwin, the focus of the story. It's a visual treat as well, partly because the cast and crew spent their time in between takes drawing spiders on walls but partly because the cinematographer, Clayton Moore (really), knew just what to do with the camera. At one point, he flows into a photo, for Paré to give us back story, then backs out of another one.

There are two stories intertwining. The one we're in as we begin follows Edwin, who rages in oddly quiet ways, remaining infuriatingly calm while the room rages for him. Clearly he has some sort of power, but it's one he hasn't quite mastered yet because his mother keeps his hands bandaged. Whenever they're unwrapped, he takes to the walls with a black marker pen, drawing uncountable images of spiders in no time flat. He's a quick worker, that's for sure, as is emphasised during the medical tests in the flashback scene. 'You don't understand,' his mother, Agatha, tells the doctor, who takes his bandages off. One pan away and he's covered a wall with spiders. And so 'special medication', which he naturally doesn't take. The other story is the one he watches on television, about a serial killer dubbed the Collector, who takes kids from their apartments and presumably does unspeakable things to them. Of course, these two plot strands are going to entwine and it's not rocket science to picture how they're going to do so.
This short is twelve minutes long, so it has time to build but not enough to waste and Paré uses them to great effect. Joshua Mosley's bouncy score is reminiscent of Danny Elfman and, as such, keeps things in motion. Those dozen minutes were never rushed, but they still felt shorter than the seven minutes that each of the two films that preceded it ran. The goal of the film, as stated in the Q&A after the screening, was to tell an origin story with the feel of an Amazing Stories episode. I'd say that it nailed it, even with props bought from eBay. While it's highly original, Paré freely admits that he 'stole a lot'; surely that's in moments from the sort of show he's imitating, but he put it all together in a way that I hadn't seen done before. While this story could easily be expanded into something more substantial, maybe even feature length, I'd be interested in anything Paré does, especially if he can retain the crew he worked with here, even if he needs a different cast. If the future is the past, it's Amazing.

Itsy Bitsy Spiders can be viewed for free on Vimeo.

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