What do you want out of a B/Z-movie?
If you like your B- or Z-movies purposely stupid and fun and ridiculous, there exists films like Sharknado. If you want a movie that aspires to be something a little bit more, you have films like Eight Legged Freaks, which, as I said in my review, “knows it’s a B-movie, acts like a B-movie, but isn’t made with a B effort. It’s a smart script, full of expected thrills and likable characters.”
BIG ASS SPIDER! cuts the difference between these two poles – it’s not funny or dumb enough to laugh at it, like Sharknado, nor is it likable enough to be Eight Legged Freaks. It’s not a bad Z movie, though it’s not a great one, either. It just sort of … is. It’s a passable way to spend 80 minutes, the kind of movie that works best when your brain needs a break and you want to want to absorb something more than engage it. There’s nothing here that’s overly memorable, it doesn’t really hit a particular spot better than anything else, and watching it once is enough.
But it is worth watching once.
Alex Mathis (Greg Grunberg) is a bug exterminator who gets bit by a brown recluse spider and ends up at a hospital. While he’s busy striking out with a nurse, a big spider crawls out of a black bag down in the morgue and chomps down on the attending doctor. Alex works out a deal with the hospital manager to kill the spider in exchange for erasing his medical bill, and away we go.
As Alex is tracking down what he thinks is a big (but not big ass) spider and developing some chemistry with hospital security guard Jose Ramon (Lombardo Boyar), who’s been told to give Alex whatever helps he needs.
Boyar is the star of the film. He plays Jose with the right mix of arachnid cluelessness and street smarts. Quick with a comment and better at figuring things out than Alex, Boyar provides most of the film’s laughs, and his chemistry with Grunberg is the main reason to watch the film. Forget the spider, which starts out big and grows into big ass, I had more fun watching Alex and Jose’s chemistry than any of the Big Bad Spider action.
There’s a military angle here that sees Ray Wise barking orders for much of the movie. His second in command is an attractive female because Alex struck out with the nurse and needs to have someone to hit on. The spider keeps getting bigger, keeps killing more people, and goes King Kong at the end of the movie.
And that’s really all there is for me to say about BIG ASS SPIDER! I was hoping it would be the kind of film that reinforces my love of the B/Z movie, but honestly, if I’m in the mood to watch a B-movie about spiders, I can’t imagine myself skipping past Arachnophobia or Eight Legged Freaks to come back to this. While SPIDER! has enjoyable elements, it plays everything a little too safe and predictable. I give the filmmakers credit for wanting to do something above the level of regular Asylum/SyFy film, but just because your aims are higher and the end result is better doesn’t mean you’ve made a more memorable film. I’d recommend SPIDER! to people, but I wouldn’t recommend they buy it.