Naming your film Big Ass Spider! is risky business. For one, it’s off-putting to those who might be interested in a more “nuanced” horror movie; it’s also an indication to the viewer that it’s probably going to sit somewhere in between a bigger budget production and a SyFy Saturday night shlock-fest. The connotations are stereotypical but generally par for the course – bad CGI, low-budget production values, and actors that were most likely dragged off the street because of their sex appeal.
Yet Big Ass Spider! really isn’t as bad as its title or SyFy-esque plot suggest. It’s got a fairly big cast including Greg Grunberg as the exterminator protagonist Alex, Ray Wise as Major Braxton Tanner, and even Lloyd Kaufman in a quick, lecherous cameo appearance. That means that, for the most part, the viewer isn’t forced to sit through a lot of cringe-worthy dialogue – it’s delivered by capable actors, making Big Ass Spider! a movie that is not only unhindered by its characters, but also buoyed by memorable ones.
Alex is an exterminator looking for more in life than just the next bug-zapping job. He’s obsessed with spiders, and he’s a big fan of women – he hits on his nurse, he hits on the military officer he works with, Lieutenant Karly Brant (Clare Kramer) – but for the most part he’s a harmless guy who loves his job. He teams up with Jose (Lombardo Boyar), a security guard for the hospital, after a really big spider crawls out of a body bag.
From there, hijinks abound as Alex and Jose try to track the rapidly growing spider before the military gets to it. Alex wants to save the day and get the girl, and Jose just likes having a partner. Their characters are drawn fairly thin, and the movie relies on stereotypes for Jose quite a bit, but the interplay and banter between Boyar and Grunberg works very well. That is, for the most part – some of the jokes do fall flat and become tiresome with overuse.
The spider effects and production values are significantly higher than your standard creature feature fare, but the CGI is still pretty bad all around, especially with blocking effects. That’s pretty natural for a horror comedy though – obviously the lower budget means that they can’t really blow the whole thing on effects, and it also allows the film to add more comedy thanks to the spider’s lack of realism. No one is going to be taking Big Ass Spider! too seriously.
Even at 80 minutes, though, the film begins to drag during the latter portion. It’s because Big Ass Spider! is predictable, from its love story to its final battle with the Chekov-esque rocket launcher. The one thing that does make the movie stand out from the countless droves of other big-ass monster movies is Grunsberg and his exterminator good guy – he puts in a good show, and that’s what counts in a movie that’s as substanceless as Big Ass Spider!
But viewers who appreciate the form will most likely have fun with the creepy-crawly film, as long as they go in with little expectation. A bad SyFy film this is not – it’s more advanced, with better writing and a better cast. Yet it’s not going to blow you away with originality – this is your normal, everyday daddy longlegs of spider movies.
Thanks to Epic Pictures Group for review screener.