October 18, 2013 (Limited U.S. Theatrical)
Lin Shaye as Mrs. Jefferson
Ray Wise as Major Braxton Tanner
Clare Kramer as Lieutenant Karly Brant
Greg Grunberg as Alex Mathis
Patrick Bauchau as Lucas
Lloyd Kaufman as Himself - Jogger
Lombardo Boyar as Jose Ramos
So many of the giant animal or giant insect movies of days gone by are hilarious, but unintentionally so… the fun of those old horrors is not wrapped up in fear of a huge ant, but in the absurdity of the whole thing. Writer Gregory Gieras and director Mike Mendez sought to capture that essence in the 2013 release Big Ass Spider!.
Big Ass Spider! starts out in a similar fashion to Arachnophobia, with a highly poisonous spider hitching a ride to the United States in a body bag, draining the corpse inside of every last bit of fluid. There is even a John Goodman-type character in the exterminator Alex Mathis (Greg Grunberg) with a heart of gold. Although both films are about killer spiders, there are some significant differences between the two – but the set up is similar. Alex happens to be in the hospital that receives the spider, getting treated for a workplace bite, and it is soon discovered that the stowaway spider has some heavy artillery gunning for it as the U.S. Military attempts to recapture an experiment gone awry. It is up to Alex to save the world, and get the girl.
Big Ass Spider! is campy and ridiculous, and so over the top and predictable that it’s impossible not to love it. This film is just plane fun entertainment that doesn’t try to be anything other than that. Greg Grunberg’s Alex Mathis is supremely likeable, starting out with his removal of pests from an old granny’s house and accepting fruitcake as payment because the social security check is late. It makes sense that such a “Mr. Nice Guy” would have trouble getting the girl, as is often the case in real life (contrary to the assertions of most women who righteously claim that they are looking for a man with a “sensitive side” yet invariably end up with the bad boy), and his pudginess doesn’t help much either certainly… well, perhaps his unreasonable infatuation with “getting inside the mind of the spider” is a little creepy too… but still, incredibly likeable guy that is easy to rally behind. When he sets his sights on the very hot Lieutenant Brant (Clare Kramer) he doesn’t stand much of a chance at first, but saving the world can definitely elevate a man in a woman’s eyes.
The effects are actually pretty good in Big Ass Spider!. Hey, we’re talking about a spider, a “big ass spider”, and this one runs around the city, climbs up on buildings, and peeks his head into the ghetto to make sure that there are some hilarious urbanites with iPhones ready to upload their discovery to YouTube. This creature alternates between being a big spider doll pulled around by a string to a huge CGI spider chasing our hero through a park… well, maybe. The CGI maintains the appropriate moderation to actually appear as if this huge spider is actually solely done with practical effects. This monster never really looks like an ACTUAL spider exacting mayhem on Los Angeles, but it does very much look like an actual fake spider doing mayhem, and the effects are done well enough to make sure that it appears to the audience that a big spider is moving around and stabbing people with it’s legs. It’s quite wondrous, really… goofy, lame, and wondrous. So fun.
Big Ass Spider! had a tremendous run in some high-rent festivals, and brought down the house with each showing. The filmmakers knew they had a winner with this film, and they are right. Although many horror fans weren’t conscious and dating during the 1950s, there are enough pictures of enthralled audiences, sometimes wearing those paper 3-D glasses, enjoying a creature feature during their date night. Big Ass Spider! is like that, but updated for the times. If there are any drive-in theaters left in the United States, this film should play there – and young couples in love should do their duty and make out in the back seat to commemorate the comeback of the B-movie ‘nature gone wild’ creature feature with Big Ass Spider!. Who knows, this film may wind up being responsible for another population explosion.