Directed by Mike Mendez [Other horror films: Killers (1996), Bimbo Movie Bash (1997), The Convent (2000), Masters of Horror (2002), The Gravedancers (2006), Big Ass Spider! (2013), Tales of Halloween (2015, segment ‘Friday the 31st’), The Last Heist (2016), Don’t Kill It (2016)]
What makes a movie good?
That’s a question I sometimes, perhaps often, find myself wrestling with. There are occasions which I watch a movie that’s terrible on many technical levels, but I still enjoy. The IMDb score might be south of 3/10, but I still want to rate the film an average score (7/10 for me). Is enjoyment more important than technical value?
It must be, because despite the flaws, I found Lavalantula an exceptionally acceptable and enjoyable film.
Let’s talk cast, brothers and sisters: Steve Guttenberg (of Police Academy fame) stars, and while he’s definitely older, you can certainly tell it’s him. Honestly, I’ve not seen Guttenberg in anything outside of the 1984 classic comedy – at the same time, Police Academy is one of my favorite comedy movies ever, so it’s enough to feel nostalgic seeing him here. I really enjoy his sometimes over-the-top performance, and overall got a kick out of him.
No one else really blows me away in particular, but there are some solid performances here. Nia Peeples (who I just saw a few days back, at the time of this writing, in DeepStar Six) does pretty good as an action-oriented mother. Patrick Renna (X-Files ‘Bad Blood’ episode, 2006’s Dark Ride, 2016’s Fear, Inc.) was pretty amusing as a fanboy of Guttenberg’s action-hero persona. There are three characters here who also played characters in the original Police Academy (Michael Winslow, Marion Ramsey, and Leslie Easterbrook), but none of them really do a whole lot for me.
What makes this movie fun is the fact Guttenberg plays a washed-up action-hero, and there are quite a few references made to other films throughout Lavalantula that made me crack a grin (such as Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jurassic Park, and of course, 1997’s Volcano). There’s not really anything that special about the humor, but I had a good time with it.
And I think that’s what this comes down to. Certainly, the special effects here, while still terrible, were better than fellow contemporaries like Arachnoquake, and the spiders here definitely had a better design than the creatures in Arachnoquake, but what matters more was that I had a lot of fun with this one. The conclusion is a bit more ridiculous than I’ve have preferred, but it doesn’t really damage the film much. Overall, Lavalantula is a movie I could see myself buying on DVD, or at the very least, watching again, without much guilt. Or at least, too much guilt.