Alex Mathis is set for unscheduled overtime. Setting out onto the streets of L.A., exterminator extraordinaire Mathis will need to rundown a huffy arachnid, one of those egregious government experiments which have slipped out of control.
To no one’s shock, the spider is of substantial size, and possibly miffed over the title card which splashes an offensive reference to its derrière. Grizzled and remarkably calm, a scientist spouts off lingo as to why our government showed interest in creating such a thing, boiling down to mad hattery, Mars, and because we like big things in America.
Mathis forces his way into central command through his affection for an uptight soldier, Karly (Clare Kramer). Greg Gunberg energizes his Mathis character, played back-to-back with an enjoyably chill security guard Jose (Lombardo Boyar). These two snap off colloquies with the no budget, snarky charm of Simon Pegg & Nick Frost.
Big Ass Spider would almost certainly be the result if SyFy or Asylum cared about more than their features. Crud like Mega Crocosaurus vs. Mechanized Sand Sharks (that will happen, right?) grabs YouTube trailer views and social media infamy, but with a diminishing end product as thoughtless as the mash-up title. Spider legitimately scores with its winking play on tropes and snippy comebacks. This is an intelligently stupid movie if such a thing makes sense, displaying an encyclopedic knowledge of tropes with Mike Mendez direction sparking performances into a rambunctiously playful groove.
The film has no time for gluttony, spilling its title character into the bowels of a hospital where it can munch on unfortunately placed victims within minutes of cascading its title card. Big Ass Spider is a mad house of anarchy, slipping through the seams of slim budget filmmaking for a riotous pace which (remarkably) keeps the critter in the frame. Audience trickery is rarely employed; the kitschy title does not lie with its premise.
And, maybe it’s because of a decades worth of bile being spewed from direct-to-cable mockbusters, but Big Ass Spider’s big ass spider typically looks fantastic. Breaking through L.A.’s concrete structures and climbing buildings (because spiders like skyscrapers?) reveals a genuinely sharp design, fitting into the visual framework. Splotchy gore and cameo deaths keep the piece spirited, as if Universal’s 1955 Tarantula was spun into a kitschy, modern day web of comedy. See Spiders 3D? This is how it’s done.
Creature features often ditch charisma for the agonizing sake of screen smearing bloodshed, as if yet another decapitation suddenly salvages decrepit stamina. Big Ass Spider has no time to dilute itself, barely making an adequate running time from its slender concept. Thus, being unapologetic about its existence – even insanely proud of it – makes this a big ass success. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Movie]
Clearly captured digitally, Big Ass Spider is tweaked and molded for a ferocious pop whether it knocks out fine detail or not. Light sources are exaggerated with outlandishly bright whites, from hospital door/windows to other exteriors. Imagery, without question, has an intense and fierce quality. Vibrant seems to fit, and so does overdose when discussing contrast.
While knocked back with sullen blues in low light, color correction adds some spunk to primaries. Flesh tones prop up with a hint of warmth while other hues shine. Mathis’ truck is an especially vivid yellow, creating an opening scene (post-flash forward) with a bit of dazzle.
Source concerns include aliasing, held mostly to the morgue which introduces the creepy crawler. A haze of noise has a tendency to emerge from the depths on an infrequent basis, enough to warrant a pause given how random it feels. Epic dumps an AVC encode to Blu-ray which finds itself processing this one sans difficulties.
Through it all, fidelity and sharpness are notable, exceptions set aside for green screens or other visual effect elements. Close-ups resolve a substantial level of facial definition when focus is pure. A handful of aerial shots show off the city, although a park is oddly mushy at a distance during its establishing shots. Otherwise, it’s contained in a budgetary package up to expectations. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Video]
TrueHD is a codec of choice, both in 5.1 and stereo, the latter appearing to be more of a default. Surrounds are glossed over even in heavy action, with gunfire splitting the fronts and little directionality sifted through to the rears. Score/soundtrack bleed will expand the soundscape a touch.
LFE comes through with minimal heft, jump scares dominant in their effect. A few spider lunges stab the ground with enough force to sell the size, while city rampages are generally dry. It’s quick, on a budget, and flat. [xrr rating=3/5 label=Audio]
Stars Greg Grunberg & Lombardo Boyar join director Mike Mendez for a frantic commentary, never slowing down. And, it’s still informative too. A quick slice of cast interviews are glossed over for the better SXSW premiere footage, items taken from before and after the show. Note the disc has no subtitles. [xrr rating=2/5 label=Extras]
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