Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #530
Also known as Mega Spider
Number of Views: One
Release Date: October 18, 2013
Sub-Genre: Monster Movie
Country of Origin: United States
Running Time: 80 minutes
Director: Mike Mendez
Producers: Shaked Berenson, Patrick Ewald, Travis Stevens, Klaus von Sayn-Wittgenstein
Screenplay: Gregory Gieras
Special Effects: Cleve Hall (uncredited)
Visual Effects: Asif Iqbal, Mohammad Bilal
Cinematography: Benji Bakshi
Score: Ceiri Torjussen
Editing: Mike Mendez
Studio: Epic Pictures Group
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Stars: Greg Grunberg, Ray Wise, Clare Kramer, Lombardo Boyar, Patrick Bauchau, Ruben Pla, Alexis Kendra, Lin Shaye, Bob Bledsoe, Eben Kostbar, Kerry O’Quinn, Adam Gierasch, Bobby C. King, James C. Mathis III, Lloyd Kaufman
Suggested Audio Candy
Storm Large “Where is My Mind?”
noun: extreme or irrational fear of spiders.
Arachnophobia is no laughing matter. For anyone unfortunate enough to be afflicted with this particular phobia, the mere sight of an eight-legged freak in the vicinity will be enough to encourage a panic attack. Once any palpitations are underway and those palms get sweaty, it’s all downhill from there and rationale goes straight out the window. The simple glass and sheet of paper approach is out of the question and, instead, an arachnophobe’s best friend is a vacuum cleaner as it provides a ranged weapon with which to rid themselves of said undesirables. However, in extreme cases, this still doesn’t provide sufficient closure as who knows what really goes on inside a hoover bag when our backs are turned?
I count myself particularly lucky not to live in constant fear of arachnid invasion although even I have my limits. While tiny tiddlers are most welcome to pay a passing visit to my personal space, anything with a body mass larger than your average walnut has no right prowling about my coordinates. Thanks to the myth that the average human swallows a handful of these creeping critters every calendar year while sleeping, any “big ass spiders” are just too ominous a threat for my liking and can weave their treacherous gossamer someplace else.
Speaking of which, there ain’t no vacuum cleaner sizable enough to dispose of Mike Mendez’ Big Ass Spider! The Los Angeles-born filmmaker started particularly young and was barely 23-years-old when his first full-length feature Killers was accepted into the Sundance Film Festival and he followed this up with the similarly noteworthy The Convent and The Gravedancers. Having recently watched and thoroughly enjoyed his Friday the 31st segment for Epic Pictures’ Tales of Halloween anthology, Mendez already had me snagged in his web of intrigue and I felt primed for a little more of his tongue-in-cheek terrorization. While the title of his latest offering suggests Syfy shenanigans of The Asylum variety, one glance over the impressive cast instantly set my mind at rest. With the likes of Ray Wise and Lin Shaye attached, the oversized arachnid in question had me at “hello”.
After a visually arresting opening, offset by Storm Large’s serene cover of Pixies’ classic Where Is My Mind? we tag along with cocksure exterminator Alex Mathis (Heroes alumni Greg Grunberg) as he goes about his regular daily grind. After taking a bite from a brown recluse spider, Alex heads off to the local hospital for treatment and soon discovers that his pest control expertise may well be required. Having managed to infiltrate the infirmary, stowed away inside a stiff, a particularly troublesome arachnid has escaped into the air duct system with the solitary goal of performing its very own ward rounds.
Alex agrees to take care of this problem in exchange for his hospital debt being cleared and even bags himself his very own sidekick in Latin American security guard Jose Ramos (Lombardo Boyar). However, this is no ordinary “small ass spider” we’re talking about and, instead, a genetically engineered hybrid with the ability to reinvent itself every few hours and quadruple in size with each metamorphosis.
Needless to say, the government are very much aware and have sent a crack military squad led by Major Braxton Tanner (Wise) and Lieutenant Karly Brant (Clare Kramer) to apprehend said eight legged freak of nature before it has its next growth spurt. If I were Alex, I’d be thinking like a spider and heading for the warmest place I could find. It just so happens that Karly has one of those between her thighs. Of course, he’s one step ahead already.
Mendez keeps said freak on a leash for the first act and it hangs back in the shadowy recesses, occasionally revealing a little leg to unnerve any arachnophobes amongst us. However, with a brisk 80 minute running time, it isn’t long before our spindly friend wiggles its child-bearing hips to downtown Los Angeles, where it proceeds to continue its rampage, feasting on Lloyd Kaufman in a wonderfully knowing nod to its B-movie origins and running amok in a public park. Ordinarily, the true star of a movie such as this is the creature in question but not in this case. You see, Grunberg and Boyar make for a rather delightful double-act.
It is their chemistry that drives Big Ass Spider! forward and the pair spark off one another brilliantly throughout. Their banter is priceless, while Jose’s dedication to his new numero uno is both admirable and heartfelt. Moreover, there’s more than a dash of sexual chemistry as Alex attempts to wear down the lieutenant’s defenses through sheer persistence and heroic endeavor. Meanwhile, Wise is perfectly cast as the square-jawed military man whose no-nonsense approach eventually gives way to reveal a heart of gold. Gregory Gieras’ screenplay may not be MENSA material but neither does it need to be. What it does and does effortlessly is provide us with reasons to care, outside of the inevitable threat to national security.
Big Ass Spider! does precisely what it says on the tin but a little more besides. Granted, the CGI effects are hardly state-of-the-art, particularly when our arachnid assumes its position front and center but what Mendez achieves with minimum resources is beyond commendable. However, where it really separates itself from the likes of Sharknado and other low-rent cable fodder is that it doesn’t bank on being so-bad-it’s-good and, instead, just focuses on the latter. Will watching it make you smarter? Negative. The clue is in the title Grueheads. But it may just encourage you to purchase a big ass vacuum cleaner.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 7/10
Grue Factor: 2/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers & Pelt-Nuzzlers: We are provided with a handful of mutilated corpses and one particularly painful looking acid facial, in addition to plentiful web spinning and pinning once the rampage is underway but it’s hardly what you would call a big ass bloodbath. It has to be said though, great fucking meltdown! As for Mendez catering for our perversions, well let’s just say that this particular arachnid has a thing for chicks in skimpy bikinis. God bless it.
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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