“…we’re surrounded by liquid hot magma.”—Dr. Evil
I am pleasantly surprised as of late with the SyFy (wish they would revert back to the old spelling/logo) channel. The network programmers in recent weeks, have done a stellar job by showcasing hours of B-movie creature features promoting Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No! (2015). A resurgence to the genre is among us as my living room, watching the tube or not, has been infected by sharks, octopuses, bugs and crazy crocodiles. Creepy, crawly cinema that entertained enthusiasts back in the 50s & 60s, is alive and well once again. There are thousands of low budget titles produced over the years that will never see the light of day by most film lovers, but hey, at least SyFy is trying to educate the masses. The Sharknado franchise undoubtfully is the golden chum of their station, but this past weekend, SyFy successfully premiered another one of its schlock filled releases, Lavalantula (2015). Trade out your harpoon & chainsaw for your economy sized can of Raid, we are about to go into the belly of the beast.
Welcome to Los Angeles…again. Colton, Steve Guttenberg of Police Academy (1984) is a troubled has been, action movie star still trying to ride the success of his feature Red Rocket from twenty years ago. Colton is deep into the throes of filming a cheesy flick that he believes is beneath his value of talent. Colton throws a temper tantrum, walks off the set due complaining of grueling hours, a hostile work environment, and occupational hazards such as nitrogen (foreshadow) fused special effects he has been exposed to. Colton’s tirade will subside when moments after his departure from the set while being threatened to “never work in this town again,” Santa Monica experiences an earthquake, triggering an eruption of lava spiders from the core of a dormant, prehistoric volcano.
The heat has definitely just turned up a notch for our lead star. Colton races home, to warn his family of the impending giant, magma-powered spiders running amok around the sunny, picturesque locale. Colton’s wife, Olivia, Nia Peeples of Tower of Terror (1997), believes her erratic husband has been drinking, is in need of meds and a doctor (doesn’t help that Colton is all over the news being charged with assault from a drunken brouhaha the night before…maybe at the Blue Oyster), dismissing the outrageous claims of his encounter with eight-legged fire spewing arachnids on the drive home. Believing that the end is upon them, Colton begins to hastily pack up to leave fantastic L.A., but not before he grabs some arms & ammunition venturing back into the city to locate his fed-up teenaged son, Wyatt, Noah Hunt of 90210 (2013).
Hittin’ the mean streets like an Orkin man on a mission, Colton steals a tour bus and aided on his quest to save his son, and the city, by star struck fan Chris, Patrick “You’re Killing Me Smalls” Renna of The Sandlot (1993). Their journey full of fire spitting spider silliness, finds the dragline duo joining forces with Hollywood Boulevard character actor, Pirate Jack, Ralph Garman of Sharktopus (2010). The trio embark on an adventure to warn L.A., before being graced with a comedic cameo by Ian Zeiring of Sharknado who simply replies, “I’d love to help you, but I got shark problems right now.” Taking a break from waging war on the lava spiders, the exterminators seek shelter in a museum inhabited by the mysterious Dr. Von Struebel, Time Winters of The Runaways (2010). After an explanation that the corruption of ethical scientific standards is at fault for this bug blunder, our heroes must act fast.
Colton returns to the set to assemble and motivate his special effects crew in fighting the spiders with nitrogen bombs and utilizing his old action movie costume that is reminiscent of the one used in The Rocketeer (1991). Will Colton save his son? Will the city survive yet another catastrophe? Will Grandma Peeples realize that she is in her 50s and shouldn’t bounce around in her athletic sports bra the whole flick? These answers will all come to light, when SyFy replays Lavalantula 200 hundred more times before August.
Lavalantula was directed by Mike Mendez of Big Ass Spider! (2013), scribed by Neil Elman of Mongolian Death Worm (2010), and Ashley O’Neil of I Spit on Your Grave (2010). Lava is a Police Academy reunion of sorts as it brings together Guttenberg, Michael “Jonesy” Winslow (he still makes noises with his mouth), Leslie “Callahan” Easterbrook (has a great death scene), and Marion “Hooks” Ramsey (has a deeper voice than expected). I sure wish Tackleberry showed up with extra firepower to aid his friends, but as Mick once said, “You can’t always get what you want.” Maybe it will happen in the sequel, and yes, they have implied in the ending moments that there will be one. Get your DVRs ready.
Lava is a CGI spider fest full of comedy, over the top action sequences, and self-aware of its goofiness as it is far from the realm of highbrow cinema say the likes of Orson Welles or Sir Laurence Olivier. In no way is Lava very good or an Oscar material, but it’s not a bad way to spend an evening with family and friends surrounded by a tub of popcorn. Overall, it’s an entertaining flick peppered with campy acting, laughable dialogue, and unbelievable scenarios. The cast & crew knew what type of film they were making from the get go. The sheer fun of it all by those involved, was felt when viewing Lava, and that certainly does mean a lot to this cinephile.
Enthusiasm and imagination go a long way in my book. Sometimes you just need to be entertained by the lowest common denominator, even if it is spiders, sharks, or bizarre crab monsters. Seeing my kids laugh and squirm while watching Lavalantula pleased me enough to write this review today. That’s something special you can’t put a price tag on, no matter how huge or miniscule the film’s budget is…so “B” it.
Check out the Lavantula Trailer
ANY FILMMAKERS, PRODUCTION COMPANIES, OR DISTRIBUTORS WHO WOULD LIKE TO HAVE YOUR FILMS, MUSIC, & BOOKS REVIEWED, PLEASE CONTACT EITHER MYSELF OR THE INTESTINAL FORTITUDE.
- Rick Baldwin is a writer, filmmaker, film/music historian, and can be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/rick.baldwin.568