‘Todd Tarantula’ Review: Reality Distortion May Cause Eyes To Bleed

Movies are weird.

At least, the ones I watch tend to be. One could argue that I only watch weird films, and it’d be hard for me to dispute that. However, I’d say there’s an inherent sense of weirdness in the foundation of cinema in general, even in films trying to be “grounded”. Name a film, and there’s bound to be some weird element to it. Weird, for lack of a better word, is good. Whether subtle or in your face, weirdness keeps movies interesting. It’s also a reflection of real life since reality can be just as strange through coincidences, déjà vu, and random, unexpected events. What am I getting at with this surface-level pretension comparing basic story structure to basic life structure?

Nothing, I just watched a weird movie the other day.

Like I said: such a proclamation doesn’t really mean much coming from me. But once in a while there’s a film bizarre enough, zany enough, dare we repeat the adjective WEIRD enough that it sticks out enough to make specific mention of it—and Todd Tarantula is, without a doubt, that movie.

Todd Tarantula

(Directed by Ansel Faraj; Starring Ethan Walker, David Selby, Nathan Wilson; 2023)

“A psychedelic journey across Los Angeles to find his stolen motorbike leads antihero Todd Tarantula through a time-bending experience where he must uncover the secrets of his past.”

Tarantulas symbolize intuition, patience, and feeling trapped. “I came here to learn about movies, Giallo, not arachnid symbolism,” you may protest. Well, first of all, good cinema touches all things, so jot that down. Secondly, as indicated by the descriptor “psychedelic” in the synopsis, symbolism and abstraction are about all you can cling to as you plunge deeper and deeper into the surrealism of this film. 

Speaking of surreal, let’s talk about the camera filter. The smudgy, paint-like overlay bleeds oversaturated, bright colors, vividly dousing every single frame to an almost obnoxious level. It caught me completely off-guard, concerning me for a moment, but I thought surely it would go away. It was just some sort of dream sequence, and it’d leave soon. Right?

No. Not at all.

It was there to stay, and I don’t know how I feel about it. On the one hand, it’s definitely unique. Whenever I see a similar overlay again, this film will instantly pop into my head. In that regard, it’ll always be one of the ingredients within my skull noodle. It definitely added to the atmosphere of un-reality. I get what it was going for (I think) and it achieved that in spades.

On the flip side—it messes with my eyes, man. I’d have to turn away and blink hard every five minutes or so, slowing my engagement with the narrative. I got used to it by the halfway point, but it never stopped being distracting. Granted, this is more of a personal issue than a full mark against the film. It might not bother you at all! I’m all about creators expressing flair in their work, so I’m not mad. Just a hurdle I had to hop over, and one that people with visual sensitivities might need to be aware of going in.

As far as the story goes, it can actually be summed up quite easily with a line used within the film itself—“What the fuck is going on?” Wish I could help out more there, friendos, but I’m not 100% sure what the plot is all about myself. The titular character, Todd Tarantula (Ethan Walker), is the resident “cool guy” of Los Angeles, born of a wealthy family he rejects because he’s also a tortured soul with daddy issues. Oh, and Todd can also see into the past, future, and presumably the present, which was an ability he was born with, but never noticed until now.

It Gets Weirder.

What begins with a search for a missing motorbike ends with a journey through time and space, as Todd deals with the totally-not-evil Lucifer Grey (David Selby), who has connections to his father and—more importantly—his stolen ride. I didn’t know what I was getting into when I pressed play, but it definitely wasn’t talking skulls and lizard people. When the credits began to roll and the story came to a close, I could confidently say Todd Tarantula was… not for me. That said, I HIGHLY admire its creativity.

Ethan Walker plays Todd as a likable person who seems to be tolerated (at the very least) by everyone in town. He’s competent enough to deal with any perils thrown his way and is kind enough to want to help people when presented with the opportunity. He brings to mind the pulp heroes of old, an objectively good human being who represents the best of us.

Despite how that may sound, especially in the era of the gruff morally gray action star, it’s far from a bad thing. As long as the archetype is done well, it’s fine, and fortunately, Walker knocks it out of the time-displaced park. There wasn’t a single point where I found myself disliking the character, and by the story’s end, I’d even say I was soundly invested in him. Which is good, because he’s pretty much the only character who gets fleshed out in any meaningful way.

Lucifer Grey serves as the story’s villain… and that’s about it. He’s a bad guy who does bad things and wants to continue to do bad stuff. While I’m not entirely sure what his plan is with all the time-travel/dimension-hopping shenanigans, I do know he doesn’t care who gets hurt along his pursuits. Paired with Selby’s performance, these motivations make Lucifer a serviceable antagonist, again reflecting the pulpish archetypes I mentioned earlier. Honestly, I’m still surprised he wasn’t revealed to be the actual Devil. Faraj didn’t take the easy route, I respect that.

If you ask me, Todd Tarantula does what it set out to do with style and panache. I’m just not the target audience. But for those who love gonzo, Lynchian stories, I think you’ll more than get your fix here. You can watch Todd Tarantula here, or pick it up on Blu-Ray here.


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