Big Ass Spider!: SXSW Review

Big Ass Spider SXSW Film Still - H 2013

Big Ass Spider SXSW Film Still - H 2013

Greg Grunberg helps keep things light in a Corman-esque monster movie.

A King Kong-sized spider terrorizes downtown L.A. in Mike Mendez's fun cheapie.

AUSTIN — Delivering on its title's promise with a much higher fun-per-dollar ratio than Snakes on a Plane, Mike Mendez's shamelessly Corman-esque Big Ass Spider! does almost everything just a tiny bit better than it needs to. Greg Grunberg in the lead should help attract enough attention -- should a house-sized arachnid fail to do so -- for the film to escape the straight-to-remainder trajectory its shoestring budget might portend.

Grunberg plays Alex, a romantically frustrated exterminator whose very bad day begins with a bite from a brown recluse. While being treated in the emergency room, he overhears hospital administrators fretting about a giant spider that bit someone in the morgue. Offering his professional expertise, he and security guard Jose (Lombardo Boyar, making the most of the script's Latino-sidekick wisecracks) head down to kill the thing.

That's no ordinary spider, of course, but the tragic result of military experimentation -- an ordinary insect on an exponential growth spurt, soon to be man-sized. A team led by Major Braxton Tanner (Ray Wise), intent on killing it before it reproduces, first rejects Alex's offer of assistance, then realizes his ability to think like a spider (often abetted by Jose's common sense) might help stop the beast.

Though it's tongue-in-cheek from the start, the pic gets some legit scares in while the superbug is still small enough to skitter through air ducts and lurk in dark corners. Soon the story segues into a gorier version of '50s drive-in fare, with the spider terrorizing a park and attacking Los Angeles locations like the U.S. Bank Tower. (Take that, Empire State Building.)

Some effects shots in this last section aren't as clear as they should be, and the picture appears not to have been color timed -- defects that producers mightn't have expected to be visible on the small screen. But too much polish would have been at odds with a movie that relishes its campy heritage from the title card onward, and few viewers (except perhaps FX hobbyists thinking, "I should make one of these things myself!") will mind.

Production Company: Epic Pictures Group
Cast: Greg Grunberg , Lombardo Boyar, Clare Kramer, Ray Wise, Lin Shaye, Patrick Bauchau
Director-editor: Mike Mendez
Screenwriter: Gregory Gieras
Producers: Patrick Ewald, Shaked Berenson, Travis Stevens, Klaus Von Sayn-Wittgenstein
Director of photography: Benji Bakshi
Production designer: Sxv'leithan Essex
Music: Ceiri Torjussen
Costume designer: Ambre Wrigley
Sales: Epic Pictures Group
No rating, 80 minutes