Confession: I love B movies when (and usually only when) they’re well made. What that means to me is that all of the particulars associated to said B movie – the writer, the cast, the crew – are “in” on it. From the outset, they realize that their movie may not have the chance to legitimately compete with the latest Michael Bay gloss-fest, the next effects-laden miracle from Peter Jackson, or anything Steven Spielberg chooses to put his name on (even when he’s phoning it in). Well-made B movies are genius: they’re a celebration of exactly what film could be when everyone in it decides to just ‘have fun with it.’ It doesn’t mean that the material gets disrespected; rather, it means that the various players realize their only shot at greatest is breaking through the glass ceiling of critics in favor of finding that soft, soft place in the hearts of movie fans everywhere.
With a name like BIG ASS SPIDER!, one really should know what one’s getting into right away. Thankfully, it delivers almost everything it could: a celebration of things that go bump in the night with a handful of laughs along the way.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
L.A. – aka Los Angeles – is about to face its most dire challenge yet. No, it isn’t an earthquake. It isn’t a tsunami. It isn’t the Obama Administration. Rather, a secret government project has somehow been outsmarted (why does that always happen?), and a giant, hungry spider is roaming the streets. When all else fails – when our government can’t even begin to get things back under control – mankind’s only hope takes the shape of Alex Mathis (played to near-perfection by a goofy Greg Grunberg), a crack exterminator, and his wise-cracking sidekick Jose Ramos, an armed hospital security guard. Together, they’ll do what the United States military can’t … or they’ll die trying!
Look. I’m not going to try to convince you otherwise. As I said, the name of the flick – BIG ASS SPIDER! – really should tell you everything about this motion picture that you need to know. It’s all wry, sly, and witty from start to finish. The special effects? Well, they’re not STAR WARS quality, but they work just fine for what they were intended to do. They’re good CGI, not grand. The story? Oh, of course, it isn’t perfect, but it’s probably fairly close to what scribe Gregory Gieras intended with some modest ad-libs by everyone on the set.
But the experience?
Anyone who celebrates B movies should recognize a quality effort, and that’s what SPIDER is: hands down, it’s probably some of the most fun that a cast, crew, and audience had together. Grunberg – who’s had solid cameo works in more than a handful of major productions – is clearly the ringleader here, and he attacks it all with a kinda/sorta chunky Bill Murray quality. He manages to lift every scene he’s in to a level higher probably because of his goofiness. And Boyar – as his quick-witted partner – only lets a few good opportunities escape a witticism from him. And veteran character actor Ray Wise as Major Braxton Tanner – ultimately the man responsible for both letting the spider get away as well as marshaling the effort to see it stopped – is about as brilliant as casting work one could expect from B movie greatness.
All in all, this is a wonderful time at the movies. It’s the kind of flick that isn’t too long (80 minutes) and is best served with a bowl of popcorn and a couple of beers. Leave your brain at the door. You’re not going to need it.
BIG ASS SPIDER! (2013) is produced by Epic Pictures Group, Wittgenstein Entertainment, Film Entertainment Services, ICE Animations, and Snowfort Pictures. DVD distribution is being handled by Epic Pictures. As for the technical specifications, I’m going to be perfectly honest: this is a B movie, and, as such, you can expect for very high quality B movie sights and sounds to dictate your experience – there were some minor instances of audio varying on the dialogue track that became a bit distracting in the first half, but it did seem to work itself out in the latter. (It could’ve used a better mixer.) And – say it isn’t so! – there’s actually an assortment of special features including cast interviews, TV spots, trailers, a SXSW featurette, and something resembling a commentary track.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. B-movie patrons and makers could all benefit from a quick study: watch BIG ASS SPIDER! and take its sensibilities to heart. Clearly, everyone associated with this film (the screenwriter, the director, the cast and crew, etc.) knew precisely what they were doing, understood precisely what they wanted to achieve, and then delivered on their collective promise to deliver exactly the kind of movie that a network like SyFy Channel would benefit from following. Everything is tongue-in-cheek, from the established movie science right down to the winning performances by Greg Grunberg and Lombardo Boyar. There’s no doubt in my mind all associated with this had a blast making it; it’s the kind of satisfying experience lesser movies should strive for! Bravo, director Mendez, for bringing it all together! Now … let’s see a sequel!
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Epic Pictures provided me with an advance DVD copy of BIG ASS SPIDER! by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.