Oct 16 2013 -The 8th Annual Toronto After Dark Film Festival has arrived. Nine nights of Horror, Sci-fi, Action and Cult movies to satisfy the most discerning aficionados and T-Mak World will be there.
Maybe it’s my lifelong fascination with eight legged arachnids that makes BIG ASS SPIDER! such a web slinging Sci-fi romp. Or, maybe it’s the James Bond like stealth with which this arachnid evades detection while still diminutive in stature that piqued my interest. Throw in a heat seeking exterminator who chases eight legged spider with the same fervor as he chases two legged blondes, add a Spanglish speaking security guard and you have the makings of a bug hunt with teeth and a whole lot of laughs.
Mild mannered Los Angeles based exterminator Alex Mathis (Greg Grunberg), is the purveyor of all things vermin with a speciality in spider extermination. A nice comedic turn off with versatile character actor Lin Shaye, (remember the uber tanned Magda in There`s Something About Mary), sets the stage as Alex captures a large spider in her infested bungalow while she scolds her cat Mrs. Butterworth for slacking. A subsequent spider bite lands Alex in the hospital where his clumsy pillow talk gets no play with the ladies. After morgue technician Carl (Ruben Pla), is bitten by the zipper opening James Bond of arachnids, the chase is on.
As the hospital moves to Def-Con 5 lock down under the direction of US Army Special Forces Major Braxton C. Tanner (Ray Wise), this spy-like arachnid slowly reveals a mysterious back story as the body count begins. Director, Mike Mendez deploys a two pronged narrative with Alex and his Spanglish side-kick Jose (Lombardo Boyar) pushing the frontal ground assault while Major Tanner and his strike-force goes wheels up. With exponential growth coursing through the DNA of our cocoon slinging crawler by the hour, the race towards annihilation becomes all too real.
Mendez had fun with BIG ASS SPIDER! and it showed. So many joyous homages to iconic films like Ghostbusters, Aliens, and The Terminator continues to tweak the narrative while staying true to his Sci-Fi roots. But, the real kicker for me was the comedic threads woven throughout this movie by the pugilistic banter between Jose and Alex in their unending quest for one-upsmanship as their miscommunication looms large with every exchange. Kudos to Writer Greg Gieras, for getting it right, again and again and again. The pop cultural reference during the L.A. news coverage, “Hide ya kids . . . hide ya wife” was a classic send up to the glamorization within the current celebrity saturated media machine where everyone is the star.
Verdict: 4 out of 5 - Let there be laughs is the motto of this popcorn friendly Sci-fi. Strong writing and even stronger direction wins the day as our everyman hero finds the resolve to take on the mother of all arachnids and still find time to win over the two legged variety. Mendez kicks up the creepy from time to time just when you start to feel comfortable within his surroundings and that keeps you weary of exactly what is around that next corner. So pony up a double buttered bag of goodness and buckle up for the laughs.
Closing Thought: BIG ASS SPIDER! serves up BIG ASS FUN!
Release Date: Oct. 2013
Runtime: 80 Minutes
Director: Mike Mendez
Writer: Greg Gieras
Producers: Patrick Ewald, Shaked Berenson
Director of Photography: Benji Bakshi
Cast: Lin Shaye, Greg Grunberg, Ray Wise, Clare Kramer, Lombardo Boyar, Patrick Bauchau, Ruben Pla, Alexis Peters, Bob Bledsoe