aka Mega Spider
D: Mike Mendez / 80m
Cast: Greg Grunberg, Ray Wise, Lombardo Boyar, Clare Kramer, Patrick Bauchau, Lin Shaye
With a title like Big Ass Spider! you know going in that subtlety isn’t likely to be the movie’s top priority, and yet the opening scene is just that. Our hero Alex (Grunberg) lies unconscious on the ground. He wakes, gets to his feet, and to the strains of Where Is My Mind? by Storm Large, we see him staring off in the distance as people run past him screaming, and debris clutters the street around him. The camera pans round so we can see what Alex sees, and there, perched on top of a downtown Los Angeles building is…a…big ass spider! It’s a great opening, and while in many ways it’s the best scene in the movie, it shows that the filmmakers aren’t going the SyFy route and just throwing a movie together based on the title alone.
With the scene set we rewind to twelve hours earlier. Alex is helping regular customer Mrs Jefferson (Shaye) when he’s bitten by a poisonous spider. At the hospital he flirts (badly) with one of the nurses while down in the morgue, a body bag starts to show signs of something alive inside it. The morgue attendant soon becomes a victim of the not-quite-yet big ass spider. Soon the military arrive, led by Major Braxton Tanner (Wise) and his second-in-command Lieutenant Karly Brant (Kramer). Alex is already attempting to deal with the morgue’s new resident, but it soon becomes clear this spider isn’t like any other spider, and even though Tanner warns him off, Alex, aided by hospital security guard Jose (Boyar), decides to try and catch the spider by himself. What he doesn’t realise is that this particular spider is growing at an exponential rate, and soon will become…a big ass spider!
Despite the obvious low-budget and technical restrictions, Big Ass Spider! doesn’t disappoint when it comes to showing the arachnid going about its business of killing and encasing its victims in its web. A sequence set in Elysian Park is one of the movie’s highlights, as dozens of people are chased down and killed, and while some of the stabbing/impaling effects are a little shonky, they don’t detract from the horror the scene conveys. And when the spider eventually finds its way to the top of that downtown building, the falling debris effects are very well done indeed.
Director/editor Mendez and writer Gregory Gieras have done a great job in making a scary, funny, almost every expense spared creature feature that is consistently entertaining and above average in terms of execution and design. From the spider in its initial form – larger than average sure but scary purely because of the length of its legs – to its final gigantic size, the various incarnations of the spider are handled effectively and with panache, keeping it in the shadows to begin with, then showing it off in all its web-spinning glory. The cast too are fun to watch, with Boyar stealing the show as Jose, the “Mexican Robin” to Alex’s Batman. Alex is a slightly desperate would-be Romeo, and pursues Lieutenant Brant with wonderfully awkward humour; somehow he wins her over – surprise, surprise! – while Wise, an old hand at this type of thing, watches over things with increasing frustration and perfectly-timed exasperation.
Ultimately there’s nothing new here, neither in its characterisations or its plotting – the spider’s growth is the result of a mix-up in a military lab – and some of the dialogue is perfunctory, but it doesn’t matter one bit. From that memorable opening scene to the last-second possibility of everyone returning for Big Ass Cockroach!, Big Ass Spider! will put a smile on your face throughout thanks to its good-natured approach to the material, and the obvious love the filmmakers have for this kind of movie.
Rating: 7/10 – obvious flaws notwithstanding, this is a fun ride that doesn’t outstay its welcome, and could easily pave the way for a sequel; More Big Ass Spiders! anyone?