Toronto After Dark 2013: It’s Exactly What You Think It Is – A Review of Big Ass Spider!

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Giant insect movies have been around for the better part of the last century. There’s just something about those tiny things that creep so many of us out running amok and squashing us for a change that seems to speak to moviegoers. When you couple that notion with the recent public adoration of made-for-cable campfests like Sharknado, Piranhaconda, or Mega-Whatever-Animal-Meets-Some-Other-Mega-Thing, it’s not hard to figure out why a movie called Big Ass Spider! (orginally known as Megaspider) would be a real thing. Well, as far as movies featuring giant CGI bugs go, Big Ass Spider! is far from the worst of the lot, but it’s also nothing that you need to rush out and see as soon as possible either.

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The plot of the film is simple: Everyman exterminator, Alex (played by Heroes‘ Greg Grunberg), gets bitten by a brown recluse, resulting in a trip to the hospital. While there, a mortician is attacked by an oversized arachnid that was transported in a dead body. Alex, wanting to skip out on his medical bill, offers to help kill the thing, but he gets more than he bargained for when the military shows up and tells him that said spider is the result of some sort of genetic testing and that it will grow in size exponentially as it feeds on humans.

If this sounds overly simple or illogical to you, then you are probably not the target audience for Big Ass Spider! The movie, written by Gregory Gieras and Directed by Mike Mendez, is an intentiaonally campy B-Movie that makes no bones about why it exists, and from what I can tell, that is to cater exclusively to the throngs of people who love whatever cheapie movie that SyFy is premiering on any given weekend. There’s not much to dig into thematically in the film, and in some ways, that’s a relief. However, a movie does need more than silly dialog and a giant CGI insect to be thoroughly entertaining.

I consider myself a fan of Mike Mendez’s work. I really enjoy Killers and The Convent, and I love The Gravedancers. However, while Big Ass Spider! has some of the filmmaking traits that made those movies enjoyable, I can’t help but feel that its desire to be campy gets in the way of things. There are a number of jokes that fizzle out or miss the mark entirely, and while that’s not necessarily a terrible thing, it definitely hurts a movie like this. It takes more to be entertaining than just winking at the audience and realizing that the movie you are making is silly.

That’s not to say that the movie is poorly made from a technical perspective; because it’s not. The CGI is just fine for what it is, Grunberg is a likeable enough hero, and the film is well edited and shot competently. Supporting performances are good, too. Ray Wise definitely steals the show as a hardass military sergeant, and Lin Shaye shows up for an amusing scene early on. My only complaint would be with Lombardo Boyar, who plays Alex’s sidekick, Jose, the most stereotypical Mexican Security Guard you will ever see on film. I know it probably sounds weird to say about a movie like this, but you would think that, since it takes place in LA, there would be more latinos and/or they wouldn’t play the only character of that descent strictly for laughs.

Anyhow, at the end of the day, Big Ass Spider! is watchable, even if it is flawed. However, I really can’t say I have any intentions of watching it again any time soon. As far as movies with CGI spiders eating people go, I’d be more inclined to rewatch Eight Legged Freaks well before I would pop this one on again. Still, if you are a devoted fan of SyFy monster schlock, then you may find this more entertaining than I did. View the recap of Toronto After Dark 2013 Day 2, right here.

(5/10)

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