If Big Ass Spider! was one of those Syfy Channel Saturday Night schlocky monster movies, I wouldn’t have given it a second look. But Big Ass Spider! stars three actors I like and respect, so I had to watch it. And if you’ve ever seen and loved the Kevin Bacon/ Fred Ward early 90s monster flick, Tremors, you’ll love Big Ass Spider! as much as I did.
Greg Grunberg, a great, likable character actor who always plays second fiddle in TV and movies, gets the opportunity to take the lead for a change. Starring as overly confident pest exterminator, Alex Mathis, Grunberg is funny, charming and brings just enough seriousness to the role to keep Big Ass Spider! from veering into camp. When Alex has to go to the ER to get treated for a venomous spider-bite, he negotiates to have his bill waived by investigating the rodent-sized arachnid crawling around in the bowels of the hospital. But Alex isn’t some fool getting in over his head; he’s a spider expert, with knowledge about how they think and all of (well most of) their instincts.
Alex is paired up with Jose, the hospital security guard. He’s played by Lombardo Boyar, another fine actor whose work includes supporting work on The Bernie Mac Show, as well as some exemplary dramatic turns on shows like The Closer and Southland. Like Grunberg, Boyar is often relegated to supporting status, so to see him sharing the spotlight with Grunberg is exciting. While Alex and Jose begin the hunt for the big spider (it isn’t big ass yet) the military shows up and quarantine the hospital. You got it, the spider is the result of a government experiment and it must be contained before it doubles, triples or quadruples in size. Leading this special unit assigned to capture the spider is everyone’s favorite devil, Ray Wise, who uses his comic flare that made Reaper a cult hit. Like Boyar and Grunberg, Wise is obviously having a blast in this movie in the role of Major Tanner. Sure, the film contains most the same beats found in almost every monster movie, but the script, written by Gregory Gieras, is a well thought out homage, rather than a cheap, quickly made movie done to make a fast buck.
Before long, the spider does become big ass and it’s on the loose in the mountains and neighborhoods of Los Angeles. Alex and Jose join forces with Major Tanner and Lieutenant Brant (Clare Kramer), his right hand woman, and together they must to find a way to stop the giant arachnid before it reaches phase 4. You’re just going to have to see the movie to find out what that is.
Like I said, this film brings to mind Tremors, that cult classic from 1990 that succeeded because of how great Bacon and Ward acted together. Grunberg and Boyar share that same kind of chemistry. Beyond my hopes that directors will give each of them more leading roles, I also hope someone pairs them up again for another comedy.
Director Mike Mendez does a hell of a job with a minuscule budget and a great deal of CG and green screen effects. Furthermore, the director does an excellent job in setting up his scenes and keeping the pace moving along. When the movie needs to be scary, it makes you jump; and when the move needs to make you laugh, it can be pretty damn funny.
It’d be easy to write off Big Ass Spider! as just another cheesy horror movie, but this little indie does a great job a pulling of what other big ass Hollywood movies have trouble doing: it’s frightening, it’s funny, it’s romantic and most of all, it’s entertaining. That’s a big ass accomplishment as far as I’m concerned, and for that reason I hope you’ll check out Big Ass Spider! and help champion the movie.
Big Ass Spider! is available on DVD and Blu-ray January 7.[youtube width=”602″ height=”350″ video_id=”BvEL10Ugd4I”]