|Big Ass Spider! (2013)|
Reviewed by Dustin Putman
(Release Date: January 7, 2014) Don't let the title fool you; "Big Ass Spider!" is not another piece of low-rent, asininely written dreck made for the SyFy Network. Oh, sure, its computer effects aren't up to par with a giant-budgeted blockbuster and the premise strictly falls into camp, but director Mike Mendez is well aware of these things and adds a snappy, often winking sense of humor to the mix. It is clear right from the stylish in medias res prologue scored to Storm Large's cover of The Pixies' "Where Is My Mind?" that this movie will be a step above something like "Sharknado," and it is.
The naturally charismatic Greg Grunberg (formerly of TV's "Heroes") makes for an engaging protagonist as Alex Mathis, a Los Angeles exterminator who teams up with overeager security guard Jose Ramos (Lombardo Boyar) when they come upon a fast-growing mutated spider in an office laboratory. As the eventual 100-foot arachnid escapes into the city, a military unit seeks Alex and Jose's help in putting a stop to the creature before it's too late. That's more or less all there is to the plot, but, like 2006's "Slither" and 2010's "Piranha" before it, "Big Ass Spider!" has a lot of fun paying homage to vintage monster movies of the B-grade sort while also updating it with an injection of modernity. Furthermore, the performances are adequate to outright inspired (Lin Shaye has a funny small role as one of Alex's doting clients) and the pacing is just right at a brisk 80 minutes. No one will be confusing "Big Ass Spider!" for anything more than it isa silly sci-fi comedy about a giant spider on the looseand that's okay. Director Mike Mendez and screenwriter Gregory Gieras are well aware of the kind of film they wanted to make, and on those grounds they wholeheartedly achieved their goal.
"Big Ass Spider!" was shot on a very tight budget (Mendez reportedly didn't have enough funds to hire a proper casting director), so it is especially pleasing to see its 1080p digital transfer looking so slick. Some of the lesser CG effects (such as the plumes of smoke and fire in the opening scene) appear soft, blurry and not rendered to completion, but there are other times when the computer graphics could be mistaken for a studio picture of much larger means. Really, it's a toss-up, and aside from this rare downfall, the image is one of surprisingly attractive clarity and dimensionality. The lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio is boisterous and energetic, perhaps not on par with the best of the best but certainly well-equipped to deliver an excitable sonic display with strong use of the rear speakers. Dialogue is never less than crystal-clear.
Audio Commentary with director Mike Mendez and actors Greg Grunberg and Lombardo Boyar; South By Southwest Premiere (5:01, HD); Cast Interviews (1:23, HD); Theatrical Trailer (2:05, HD); International Trailer (1:04, HD); TV Spot (0:31, HD)
If given the choice between watching "Big Ass Spider!" and one of SyFy's umpteenth D-grade messes starring ghost sharks and mega pythons, there is really no question which is preferable. Inconsequential and ridiculous but never dumb or insulting, "Big Ass Spider!" will please those viewers who wish most of SyFy's original movies were actually, you know, competent. A passionate commentary that, like the film itself, doesn't take itself too seriously but still imparts lots of insightful production information sweetens this Blu-ray release's pot. Recommended.