Toronto After Dark: Big Ass Spider!
There has been a growing trend recently to make schlocky films just so audiences can laugh at how bad they are. This recently culminated in a certain pop culture phenomenon involving raining sharks and one former 90210 star. The downside to the popularity of these films is that audiences often lump the good creature feature with these bad ones.
Big Ass Spider! is the latest example of how to pay loving homage to the genre the right way. While up there with the best in regards to on the nose titles, the film falls closer to Deep Blue Sea, a guilty pleasure of mine, than it does Snakes on a Plane in terms of overall enjoyment. The film’s eager hero is Alex Mathis (Heroes’ Greg Grunberg), an exterminator who stumbles upon a possible epidemic while attending to his own spider bite at the local hospital. Ignoring Lieutenant Karly Brant’s (Clare Kramer) orders to let the military handle the situation, Alex and his newly found sidekick Jose (Lombardo Boyar) set out to track down a spider that they assume is merely larger than your average arachnid. Of course this is no mere spider, but a mutation that seems to be linked to some hush-hush military testing.
While adhering to many of the tropes in this genre, Big Ass Spider! never takes itself too seriously, unlike some recent big budget B-Movies. However, the film does not play like a parody of itself either. This is actually rather refreshing considering the self-awareness throughout the film. You could easily make a drinking game out of the creature feature checklist that Big Ass Spider! goes through. At one point Alex even exclaims that his plan includes saving the day and kissing the girl. Fortunately, these moments are easy to digest thanks in part to the nice level of humour incorporated in the film. Lombardo Boyar in particular, as the dimwitted and loyal Jose, provides much levity and comic relief.
Despite its solid humour, the element that will probably shock viewers the most is how well-crafted the film is. Clearly working on a limited budget, director Mike Mendez still manages to make a solid film that is surprisingly effective from a visual standpoint. Moments such as the King Kong homage actually play far better than one would expect them to. It would have been nice to see what Mendez and his special effects team could have achieved with an even bigger budget. However, when you think about it, then it would not be in the true B-movie spirit…which this film has in spades.
Like many films in this genre Big Ass Spider! is not the type of film that will linger in your consciousness long, it is not The Host after all. Regardless, the film features enough humour and action to more than satisfy for a few hours.