For a low-budget film about a gigantic mutant spider destroying Los Angeles, Big Ass Spider! is surprisingly decent. Why this spider exists and why it is attacking humans is never made entirely clear. But director Mike Mendez is evidently less interested in creating a plausible storyline, and is more concerned with provoking laughter.
It’s easy to go into Big Ass Spider! with low expectations. However, it’s just as easy to leave the cinema feeling satisfied. While some of the CGI work looks like it has been borrowed from the ‘80s, everything else comes together quite well. The acting from the leads is good, the gags are funny, and the suspense may actually scare you.
Expectations are blown away in a beautiful opening scene, which sees protagonist Alex (Greg Grunberg) awake to absolute carnage to a haunting cover of The Pixies’ “Where is My Mind”. The film then rewinds back to the start of the day, when Alex, a bug killer by trade, accidentally finds himself racing against the United States military in order to exterminate a lethal spider.
Alex is assisted in his mission by Jose (Lombardo Boyar), a security guard who provides the film’s primary source of comic relief. Despite being relative no-names, Grunberg and Boyar are a delightful combination, taking on the enemy much like Simon Pegg and Nick Frost in Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead. Indeed, the whole film has a distinct Pegg-Frost feel to it, in its unapologetic black humour and occasional gore.
Admittedly, some of the funniest scenes of the film fit more appropriately in the so-bad-it’s-good category. The swift relationship between Alex and Lieutenant Karly Brant (Clare Kramer), for instance, defies belief. Then again, for a film about a human-slaying spider, nothing is too far-fetched.
One suspects Mendez is well aware of his film’s limitations. The scene in which we hear the scientific explanation for the spider’s growth is filled with character-based humour in order to dilute the film’s absurd premise. Meanwhile, all the textbook horror tactics are employed, from black gangsters threatening to pop a cap in the spider’s ass to big-breasted beach volleyball players suffering bloody deaths. It could even be said that Big Ass Spider! is a parody of the horror genre, much like Pegg and Frost’s work or the Final Destination series.
Whether irony was among Mendez’s intentions is unclear, but the director nevertheless designed his film to be funny. While Big Ass Spider! won’t have too many sci-fi junkies frothing over the special effects, it entertains with its humour, and may well be the surprise hit of the summer.