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Big Ass Spider! (2013)
Blu-ray Disc Released: 1/7/2014
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 1/2/2014
If I asked you which genre has benefited the most from CG visual effects, your immediate answer probably wouldn't be low-budget creature-features, but that, my friend, is the correct answer. While CG is used in many different types of movies, the explosion of monster movies using digital baddies is unprecedented. Simply watch SyFy for just a few minutes, and your bound to see one of these films. The problem with this output is that most of these movies are really bad, and if you've seen one of them, you've probably not been inclined to seek out many more. However, there are exceptions to every rule and Big Ass Spider! sets out to be a giant monster movie that is actually enjoyable.
Big Ass Spider! introduces us to Alex Mathis (Greg Grunberg), a mild-mannered exterminator. After being bitten by a spider, Alex goes to the hospital for treatment. While there, he overhears that the coroner has been attacked by a spider, Alex volunteers his services (in exchange for the hospital writing off his bill). He enlists security guard Jose Ramos (Lombardo Boyar) to help him with his search. Meanwhile, Major Braxton Tanner (Ray Wise) and Lieutenant Karly Brant (Clare Kramer) arrive at the hospital and put it under military jurisdiction. They are looking for a corpse which was brought there by accident. It was from this body that a larger than normal spider appeared. After a confrontation with Alex, the arachnid escapes from the hospital. Tanner and Brant write Alex off as a unqualified civilian, but, having seen the spider, he decides that he and Jose will help to stop it. What Alex doesn't realize is that the spider is going to continue to grow until it is huge and seemingly unstoppable.
At first glance, Big Ass Spider! doesn't appear to be anything special and it actually has a lot in common with last year'sSpiders. In fact, there are a lot of things in Big Ass Spider! which are reminiscent of other movies. The way in which the spider gets to the hospital is similar to something seen in Arachnophobia. On a related note, Alex will remind many of John Goodman's character from that same movie. The titular spider itself sort of looks like the tank bugs from Starship Troopers. And of course, the way in which the spider climbs a skyscraper only to be assaulted by helicopters feels like a homage to King Kong.
But, it should also be clear from the get-go that Big Ass Spider!'s goal isn't to be original. It's to be -- prepare yourself for a word which I don't use very often in reviews -- fun. Director Mike Mendez, who made the underrated The Gravedancers, obviously had two goals here. He wanted to make a movie which falls within the parameters of a creature-feature movie, in the sense that it contains a monster and the requisite fright scenes. However, the movie is also intentionally goofy and not only spoofs the genre, but revels in having dumb characters do dumb things. We get scenes in which the spider attacks people, inter-mingled with silly movies where the bumbling Alex attempts to assert his expertise. The movie is never scary (although there is one gory movie), but it is legitimately funny in places.
I don't want to oversell Big Ass Spider!, but given how truly awful most of these movies are, the fact that I actually wanted to finish the film makes it worth recommending. Again, Mendez and company have tried to make something a little different here. Unlike most of these movies, the film isn't afraid to show the spider and we get an ample amount of arachnid action. The finale contains some pretty nice CG effects and shows that the movie doesn't pull punches. For once, a movie lives up to its overly campy title and Big Ass Spider! will make for a good party film.
Big Ass Spider! could have used more Clare Kramer on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Epic Pictures. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing only mild grain and no defects from the source material. The image is never overly dark or bright and the colors look good. The level of detail is good and the depth works well. I did note some obvious ringing halos at times. The Disc carries a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The action sequences offer nice stereo effects which offer good separation. The surround effects during these scenes work nicely and a few offer some detailed sounds. The subwoofer effects vary in quality, but do help to bring the finale to life.
The Big Ass Spider! Blu-ray Disc contains a few extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY with stars Greg Grunberg and Lombardo Boyar and Director Mike Mendez. This talk is fun and goofy from the get-go, showing that commentaries can be informative and entertaining. "SXSW Featurette: Big Ass Spider! Premiere" (5 minutes) from March, 2013. We first hear from random people in line and then see footage from inside the theater, as the film is introduced. "Interviews with the Cast" (83 seconds) features quick comments from Grunberg, Boyar, and Kramer. The extras are rounded out by a THEATRICAL TRAILER, an INTERNATIONAL TRAILER, and a TV SPOT.
Review Copyright 2013 by Mike Long