First up, thanks to reader and fellow movie blogger newguy87 for suggesting this – I saw posters for it when it first came out, but for some reason I decided to ignore them. The name didn’t intrigue me enough, maybe? But I’m here to tell you I was a fool, this film is absolutely fantastic and you should all go and watch it immediately, if not sooner.
It’s a welcome (and immediate) return for the director of “Lavalantula”, Mike Mendez. After debuting with “Killers” in 1997, he’s been busier as an editor for TV and movies, but has directed from time to time – plus, he’s got three movies in post-production right now, and I hope they bring him back for the sequel to last year’s Steve Guttenberg classic, so he’s doing okay. It’s also a welcome return for star Greg Grunberg, who we loved in “End Of The World” (he was in “Witchcraft 5” as well, but we won’t hold that against him).
How to sum up such a movie? Grunberg is Alex Mathis, an exterminator (we first see him helping out little old lady Lin Shaye) and after getting a bite from a brown recluse spider, has to go to hospital. Somewhat unlucky in love, he hits on the nurse but she turns him down; at the same time a bodybag in the morgue starts moving, and out pops a very big spider. It bites the mortuary attendant, so the hospital administrator asks Alex to go and exterminate it, and sends security guard Jose (Lombardo Boyar) to help him out.
Nice and simple, characters sketched out well, and then it suddenly expands its universe by bringing in the Army, in the shape of Major Tanner (the great Ray Wise), Lt Karly Brant (Clare Kramer) and their unusual scientific adviser Dr Lucas (Patrick Bauchau). Turns out the hospital should have never received the bodybag, and the spider is a result of experiments with alien DNA! Are you on board yet? So, they chase it through the hospital, Alex and Karly do a bit of mild flirting, but the spider grows extremely quickly, eats (a lot) and soon decides to head downtown – I am happy to report “Big Ass Spider!” does not skimp on its premise.
I really have absolutely nothing negative to say about this movie. It starts off with a beautifully edited little sequence, set to a slowed-down cover of “Where Is My Mind?” by Pixies, and does my least favourite trope, “12 hours earlier”, but I can’t even fault it for that. It hides its presumed very low budget well, keeping action inside the hospital for the first act, which gives them more money to spend on the giant spider effect, which looks really good, and the spider-acid eating peoples’ faces effect, also good. The chemistry between the main characters is great, with Grunberg a great lead, both comic and romantic. There’s no stereotypical bad guy either…I’m completely at a loss. I don’t normally get to review movies I enjoy this much!
A lot of the dialogue was based on improvisations, apparently – Grunberg and Boyar got on like a house on fire and came up with many funny interactions for their characters; same with Grunberg and Kramer. Proper comic monster movies are difficult to pull off, almost always falling more on one side than the other (and usually neither being all that funny or all that exciting), but this one absolutely nails both. We’re talking “Tremors” and “Slither” territory here – although “Big Ass Spider!” is a bit lower budget than either.
A quick word about monster movies and sexual politics – long term readers (or just people who know me and have to hear me bang on about this stuff in real life) will know that I’m very tired of movies which just crowbar in nudity, or have men ignore a “No” from the main love interest and go to psychotic lengths to win her over, with sex used as a reward for being good at your job. While there’s a brief scene of young women playing beach volleyball, it’s very brief, and the main women manage to dress appropriately for their job and the situation. Amazing, I know! Plus, the central relationship is more believable because it doesn’t start from rejection, and the attraction is there on both sides. Okay, Alex puts himself in danger because he wants to kiss Karly, but…people do dumb stuff to impress other people from time to time; and we see him accept a “No” immediately, at the beginning of the movie from the nurse character, and move on. It’s little stuff, but having respect for all your characters works.
Turns out these reviews are pretty short when I don’t have to mock the actors, director, special effects, or the plot, so there you go. If it’s available via the streaming service of your choice, you should definitely check this out.
Rating: thumbs up