I’m very open about my love for SyFy’s original movies. No matter how bad or ridiculous they seem to be, they always have a way of putting a smile on my face while taking away the stresses of life; even for a short amount of time. When I first heard they were making a sequel to Mike Mendez’s LAVALANTULA I was totally on board. As the weeks went on, I kept seeing my friend, director Nick Simon (THE GIRL IN THE PHOTOGRAPHS) posting stills from the set of 2LAVA 2LANTULA. I remember thinking to myself, that’s odd, he’s not listed as the director of the film, maybe he just went and visited the set. As time went on it became clear that Nick was undertaking this epic sequel and I couldn’t be more overjoyed for him. Is 2LAVA 2LANTULA as ridiculous as the name sounds? You betcha, how could it not be - it's spiders coming out of lava to destroy Florida - but I would be remiss if I didn’t say that at the end of the day, it’s actually a pretty good popcorn flick.
2LAVA 2LANTULA leaves off after the destruction of Los Angeles at the hands of Lavalantula. Our hero, Colton West (Steve Guttenberg) is back to his roots as a not-as-washed up action movie star while his step daughter is studying across the US in Florida. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, Lavalantulas descend onto the beaches of Miami and all hell breaks loose. It is now up to Colton to once again save a city from destruction and to finally put a stop to the baddest bitch of all - Gargantulantula. The film also stars Michael Winslow, Michele Weaver, Jimmy Bellinger, Erron Jay, RJ Walker, Martin Kove, and a slew of other actors and actresses that you’ve seen in some of your favorite films.
Typical to all SyFy original movies, the special effects and CGI are just above awful, but that’s to be expected and doesn’t bother me in the least. However, for what it’s worth, the spiders were kind of creepy in this version. It could be because I don’t dig spiders in general, but I didn’t hate how ridiculous and over the top they looked, especially when there were scenes of them coming out of people’s eyeball sockets. Putting aside the less than desirable CGI, the acting was actually pretty terrific. Steve Guttenberg was everything Steve Guttenberg needed to be for the film, but the two people that stood out to me the most were Jimmy Bellinger, who plays Colton’s sidekick Kyle and the Crocodile Dundee/Paul Hogan inspired Alligator Dundee played by Eric Etebari. Every time Kyle was on screen I just wanted to hug him - he was the perfect juxtaposition to Colton’s character and it made their scenes that much more enjoyable. I also loved the character of Alligator Dundee and though he was only onscreen for a brief amount of time, he managed to leave a hilarious impression on me. When it comes to the writing, director Nick Simon was able to ride that fine line of being cliche, cheeky, and original. There were many throwbacks to favorite films of the past such as SCARFACE, MIAMI VICE, and my personal favorites JURASSIC PARK and POLTERGEIST but what really elevated those scenes were how they were implemented into the film. They weren’t forced nor were they over the top - they were put in at the right place at the right time and they made sense with what was happening within the movie (okay, maybe not so much with SCARFACE but I can look past that).
If you aren’t familiar with Nick Simon’s previous work, he’s responsible for one of my favorite slasher films of 2015, THE GIRL IN THE PHOTOGRAPHS, which is a very dark and unsettling film. To see Simon go from that to 2LAVA 2 LANTULA was a bit of shock, but thinking back to some of the humor that was shown in THE GIRL WITH THE PHOTOGRAPH, it isn’t that surprising. It was refreshing to see him do a film that wasn’t straight up horror, that allowed for a more comedic range, and didn’t take itself too seriously. From the photos he posted on social media to the end result of this film, it’s clear that he enjoyed every minute that went into making this over-the-top spider invasion. As someone who has mixed feelings about the state of Florida (love the theme parks, hate the politics and most of the inhabitants) I liked that a lot of the characters made sure to discuss how they weren’t surprised that such an attack would happen in the Sunshine State
Overall, 2LAVA 2LANTULA, was an incredibly fun romp through the sweltering everglades. The acting, though to some may not be grade A, was playful and engaging, and the story was consistent. Sure, the spiders and the lava look like they were pasted into the film from a 10 year old, but fans of SyFy should not be surprised by that - it’s part of the appeal. All in all, I loved the movie and I hope that SyFy continues with these sequels as they are a nice departure from the SHARKNADO series (don’t worry, I love those too).
P.S. Make sure you watch Sharknado: The 4th Awakens as there is a cameo from Steven Guttenberg hinting about being attacked by Lavalantulas.
2 LAVA 2LANTULA premieres August 6 on the SyFy Channel.