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Lavalantula

Year: 2015
Production Co: Cinetel Films
Studio: SyFy
Director: Mike Mendez
Writer: Neil Elman/Ashley O'Neil
Cast: Steve Guttenberg, Nia Peeples, Michael Winslow, Marion Ramsey, Leslie Easterbrook, Ralph Garman

There's a brilliant line in the current awards contender Trumbo, where producer Frank King (John Goodman) – a purveyor of low rent, fast and cheap genre movies that will never win Oscars – is threatened with exposure for using a screenwriter who's not allowed to work because he's on the Hollywood Black List.

"Go ahead," King says, brandishing a baseball bat at the smug WGA lawyer who's come to his office to issue the threat, "The people who come to my movies can't fuckin' read."

If King Brothers Productions was still around, it might well be making movies like Lavalantula. If you're new to this whole film movement (Sharktopus, Sharknado, etc), it might be an acquired taste – they're Ed Wood-esque levels of bad in almost every respect, from the script to the effects.

From director Mike Mendez (Big Ass Spider, a similarly unambiguous effort) comes the story of earthquakes in Los Angeles that cracks the Earth open in volcanic fissures and issues forth giant lava spewing spiders to lay waste to the city, most Angelenos curiously unfazed as if it's no more than a slightly inconvenient rainstorm.

And it all falls to faded action movie star Colton West (Steve Guttenburg) to save the day. Whether it's taking command of a hop-on-hop-off bus on its way to Hollywood or dressing up in his old superhero costume to penetrate the den of the monstrous lavalantula queen's nest in the climax, Guttenburg grits his teeth, cocks his shotgun and knows exactly what kind of film he's in.

So does the production company behind the film (Cinetel Films, whose website lists titles like Stormageddon and Icetastrophe) and the network that originally aired it (SyFy). If you're in any doubt about where the film's pitched, watch for the scene where Colton runs into Fin Shephard (Ian Ziering), desperately asking for his help but told by the latter he has a shark problem to deal with.

To say Lavalantula and its ilk are formulaic is almost to insult the word 'formula'. The hero is once again estranged from his wife, misunderstood and believed to be a loser, with a teenage child who's off fighting the threat facing the city with his friends in their own subplot.

But rather than hope you can look past the first-draft script, iMovie-quality special effects, shocking continuity and woeful acting, the movie wants them to be a selling point, something to be laughed with/at among pizza, beer and your least cinematically discriminating friends.

Now all the golden-hued serious dramas are crowding cinema screens as they jostle for 2016 Oscar recognition, seeing badly rendered CGI spiders the size of cocker spaniels vomit lava over screaming victims who burn and melt away in hilariously inauthentic death scenes might be just the antidote you need.

And if that's not enough to get you interested, Guttenburg is joined by three of his original Police Academy colleagues, Marion Ramsey, Leslie Easterbrook and Michael Winslow (the one who used to do sound effects).

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