Saturday, October 11, 2014

31 Days, 31 Horror Movies: Big Ass Spider

Big Ass Spider
I remember hearing about this last year and the title of the film generated a lot of good will on its own - you gotta love when a filmmaker is willing to embrace the cheese in such an up front way. Initial reviews were promising as well, so I've been looking forward to seeing and was happy to find it on Netflix streaming yesterday.

Maybe I was expecting too much from a film called Big Ass Spider.

The Medium
Netflix streaming, I think I said that already. (The more I do these 31 Days writeups, the less important the The Medium section seems.)

The Movie
Big Ass Spider starts promisingly with our protagonist Alex (Greg Grunberg) waking up in the middle of a rubble-filled street. He rises and walks forward in slow motion to a Pixies tune while people run and soldiers fire into the air at something we can't see. Finally the camera tilts to show what he's looking at - it's a big ass spider doing its best King Kong impression on a skyscraper as helicopters buzz around.

Bring me Fay Wray!

Nice! That's an awesome opening and it primes you for what you're expecting will be an epic ride.

The movie then flashes back to the morning of the same day and we're introduced to Alex properly, as a wise-ass but kind-hearted exterminator who's willing to take payment in fruit-cake from an elderly customer. He's bitten by a brown-recluse and ends up at a local hospital where he hits on a nurse (badly) and negotiates to have his bill thrown out if he takes care of a little problem the hospital has. Seems like a large spider is loose in the building...

I'm already concerned at this point. I like Grunberg, but the jokes are pretty flat and the production quality is pretty low.

Alex is teamed up with the security guard, a guy named Jose (Lombardo Boyar). The jokes get even broader and less funny, though I love Jose. His half-hearted corrections and asides are the best part of the movie for me. The two actors do work well together, though, and even the crap dialogue can't diminish the obvious fun they're having.

The expressions are so much better than the dialogue.

Ray Wise shows up, heading the obligatory military contingent. He's always fun to watch but his character, as with everything in this movie, is overly broad. The military has, in its monster movie way, created the spider and needs to contain it before it reaches the dreaded 'stage 5' (which is reproduction, in case you're wondering). Alex tries his moves on Lieutenant Karly Brant (Clare Kramer), though he's shot down (at first).

Alex and Jose thrust themselves into the middle of the spider hunt, being as effective (and more so) than the military in tracking and confronting the ever growing spider. There are lots of cameos and gore along the way - including Loyd Kaufman, who gets his face eaten off and a shot where the spider venom melts a guy. Eventually they find themselves back at the beginning, needing to get into that skyscraper and rescue Karly before the spider's eggs hatch.

Although, I think she's got this.

The spider effects are inconsistent. Sometimes the armored, alien looking thing is pretty impressive - the skyscraper sequence is particularly well done - and sometimes looks like the worst low-budget CGI effect you can imagine. The jokes are bad, the dialogue is also bad, the acting is... also bad, with a few exceptions.

I get the feeling like there's a certain tone the filmmakers are going for and I'm just missing the joke. I know the film is trying to be funny - that it's making fun of a certain kind of film - but it's just too on-the-nose. I'm left feeling like I'm with the guy who keeps elbowing me in the side and going "Isn't that funny? That's funny, right!?" I haven't seen enough SyFy Original Pictures, I guess.

Bottom Line
I would happily watch a show that was just Alex and Jose running around LA getting into trouble.

Bad boys, bad boys, whachu gonna do...

It's not that there isn't some fun to be had. I get the feeling like I might enjoy this a lot more with a group of friends. It's just too broad and flat for me. It left me wanting to watch a film with more craft,  heart, and subtlety - like Shaun of the Dead or Tucker and Dale vs Evil.

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