Saturday, March 23, 2013

BIG ASS SPIDER! (2013) movie review

Big Ass Spider! (2013) (1st viewing) d. Mendez, Mike (USA)

One could argue that any giant spider flick (with an exclamation point in its title, for crying out loud) ought to exist outside a world of conventional criticism. Clearly, expectations are set pretty low, suspension of disbelief is double-stuffed at the door, and all cinematic standards regarding such commonplace elements as acting, directing, cinematography, dialogue, etc. should be lowered accordingly. Why even bother putting digits to keyboard, when those who want oversized arachnids invading their retinas will be thrilled if the thing has five legs and a thorax, while more “discriminating” viewers will never venture near the marquee (video shelf, Netflix subsection, etc.) anyway?

Because despite the uninitiated’s beliefs to the contrary, all big bug flicks are not created equal and as a card-carrying Ambassador of Horror, it’s my self-appointed duty to separate the Tarantulas from the sloppy also-rans.

So it was that upon seeing BAS! pop up on the SXSW Midnighter schedule, I resigned myself to sucking it up, sitting down, hoping for the best and preparing for the worst. The happy news is that while its CG creature effects immediately draw comparisons to the current spate of SyFy and Asylum lowbrow crimes against humanity, director Mendez and his adventurous band have set their sights much, much higher and it shows. While their droll comic approach is certainly the safer avenue in these ironic times (as opposed to taking the fantastic situation dead-faced serious), the fact that they actually know how to do comedy buys a whole lotta goodwill.

The set-up is fairly simple: Cocksure exterminator Greg Grunberg gets nipped by an eight-legged friend and heads to the emergency room. While there, he becomes embroiled in a military science experiment gone poophouse, one involving an arachnid that “QUAD-ruples” (a la the convoluted dialect of brainiac Patrick Bauchau) in size every few hours. Looking to impress the sweet, sexy, sassy special forces stunner Clare Kramer, Grunberg teams up with heavily accented Mexican security guard Lombardo Boyar to combat the web-spinning, acid-spitting exoskeletoned menace. Amusing banter and pinscher-stabbing ensues, the former as legitimately funny as the latter is surprising in its enthusiastic body count.

While I concede that some of the CGI is less than awe-inspiring, special effects producer Asif Iqbal doesn’t hide his creation or resort to recycled sequencing where we see the same shot repeatedly used ad infinitum. (Hello, MegaPython vs. Gatoroid or any number of recent cheapie creature features.) Instead, for much of the latter half his carnivorous beastie is front and center, vaulting, spearing, gobbling and earning its titular antagonist billing big-time. What it lacks in detailed rendering is made up for with sheer ferocity and energetic presence. Mendez & Co. deliver the creepy crawly goods while screenwriter Gregory Gerias nimbly constructs characters that ably support the mayhem. (The always welcome Ray Wise once again proves himself a national treasure as the square-jawed no-nonsense military man with a heart of gold. Love that guy.)

In conclusion, one can see why the SXSW programmers felt this high spirited rampage romp deserved a place on their 2013 slate. While no cult classic in the making, it’s more beer n’ pizza fun than it probably has any right to be; in the annals of supersized spider cinema, that’s more than enough.

--Aaron Christensen, HorrorHound Magazine



  1. I wasn't sure about this after seeing the trailer but if they've got it pitched just right then sign me up. :-)

    1. I think they did. Not sure what your feelings are about EIGHT LEGGED FREAKS, but I'd compare it favorably to that one.

  2. I really liked Eight Legged Freaks, so should enjoy this :-)