Toronto After Dark: “Big Ass Spider!”

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  • Written By: Gregory Gieras
  • Directed By: Mike Mendez
  • Starring: Greg Grunberg, Lombardo Boyar, Clare Kramer, Ray Wise

Toronto After Dark: “Big Ass Spider!”

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Horror comedies are tricky at the best of times. And now that the SyFy channel seems to have re-branded themselves as attention getting arbiters of bad taste (see any iteration of Sharknado and Tara Reid) the place of the horror/genre comedy is rapidly changing. No longer are they cherished silly movies with a big heart like SHAUN OF THE DEAD or absurd thrill-rides like EVIL DEAD, they can be mass-produced, bad CGI-laden affairs. Now many genre-directors remember the classics and will always attempt to make something on that level, but they can’t possibly resist some stunt-casting and god-awful CGI, and here is where we come to the new film BIG ASS SPIDER.

In a video introduction for the Toronto After Dark crowd last night, director Mike Mendez recommended having a beer (or six) or possibly taking a hit off of something else to fully enjoy this film. All I can say is, it would have kept me on a more even keel with this uneven movie than seeing it sober like I did. Big Ass Spider is full of peaks and valleys, for every high note it hits, it also falls flat on several occasions.

Alex (Greg Grunberg) is a hapless L.A. based exterminator just trying to get by. After being bitten by a spider he gets treatment at a local hospital, while there a big ass spider chews its way out of a body and attacks the hospital as the army moves in. The spider then gets into the sewer, continuing to grow, and attacks L.A. It’s up to Alex and the hospital security guard Jose (Lombardo Boyar) to track it and stop as the army fails time and again to contain it.

While it’s definitely a plot by the numbers affair, Grunberg (mainly known for his supporting roles in J.J. Abrams projects) easily fills the leading role mantle and, as his new partner, Boyar consistently keeps the humor and energy of the film rolling. The film tends to drag when it cuts to action sequences, which reek of bad CGI and feature cuts that make it seem like the visual effects weren’t completed so they had to cut around them which is confusing and pulls you out of the film. The plot, which is standard, doesn’t help. It slows as you wait for characters to come to realizations that the audience has already known from the start. Director Mendez does well cutting to Grunberg and Boyar for reaction shots and knowing comedic winks, but it doesn’t help the pacing of the film, becoming sluggish and does an immense disservice to the final act, which falls flat rather than brings an audience to its feet.

BIG ASS SPIDER has several good ideas and a solid cast, but rather than focusing on its characters or its subtle digs at the health-care and armed forces policies, it wastes energy on action sequences that are at best by the numbers and at worst clear indications of the small budget they were working with. Mendez clearly has an appreciation for these kinds of films, but he fails to translate that into a film worthy of its predecessors.

 

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