SXSW Review: Big Ass Spider


Alex Mathis (Greg Grunberg) is a big ass exterminator; he’s good at his job, but he also wants more than he has. He just can’t figure out quite how to get it. He’s about to find out, however, when fate and ridiculously ineffective soldiers drop a Big Ass Spider on the City of Angels.

Really, it’s all up there in the title; a big ass spider movie by any other name would still just be a big ass spider movie and director Mike Mendez knows that.  He doesn’t even make a pretense of trying to take his subject seriously – going straight for fun without crossing the line to camp.  It’s a difficult dance at best, but Mendez treads it very carefully.

Mostly because he’s got a cast who knows exactly the effect he’s going for and is ready to play along. And none more so than Grunberg himself, perfectly cast as a younger version of John Goodman’s Arachnophobia character, filled with fast talk and bravado and just enough competence to back it up. Grunberg is in pretty much the same spot, appearing as he does in almost every scene. It takes just the right mix of charm and skill to carry a film. Yeah, it’s a movie called Big Ass Spider, but it’s got to be done and carry it he does.

It helps that he’s got Ray Wise and Patrick Bauchau along to spew the film’s needed exposition, leaving Grunberg free to smirk and smug his way through the screen and keep us laughing without being “funny.”

For all of the good work they do, however, they’re all upstaged by Lombardo Boyar as hospital security guard-turned-Alex’s unwanted aide de campe. Not every line lands – after the title, the script for Big Ass Spider rarely reaches greater heights than passable – but even when there are flops the quality of the actors shows through salvaging all but the worst material.

Still, for everything it does right, there is definitely a ceiling Spider bumps its head against. Most notably it’s look. The giant spider effects, once they finally rear their head, are…decent. They won’t stand the test against the best Hollywood has to offer, but they get the job done. 

The bigger problem is they take so long to show up. Big Ass Spider spends a fair amount of time, compared to the overall running time, building up the reveal of the spider, laying down a trail for the heroes to follow, the same as larger budget version might.

But this isn’t the larger budget version. This is the Big Ass Spider version and anything trying to avoid that reality is a waste of time. Mendez seems to know that as the film finally does come alive once said spider finally shows up in all its glory. Before then there is much of the typical treading water you get from spectacle films looking to just get from one plot point to another.  Just like everything else, it’s not bad, but it’s not great. It’s just typical.

Still, those problems aside, Big Ass Spider is fun enough, evoking the ridiculous monster movies of previous years. It will never be great on any scale, but it is knows what it is and that is fun to watch.

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