Sunday, July 27, 2014

Review: Big Ass Spider!

Everyone has something they're scared of. It can be a mild fear sort of thing where it only startles y ou a bit or it can be a full-blown phobia that influences you to avoid that very thing at all costs, but we're all privy to fear's hold. For me, I'm not scared of too many things. I will face down tough guys, imagine scenarios where I destroy the windshield and insurance premium of someone who hits me in their vehicle, and I came very close to getting mauled by wolves once. But there are a few phobias of note in regards to me. Acrophobia, for one, is a big influence on me as I cannot handle being very high off the ground without a sense of vertigo taking over. But the big phobia? Arachnophobia. That's the one that make me paranoid and apprehensive as all hell. I cannot stand spiders. They scare the living shit out of me. Literally, they scare me so badly that my fecal matter gains sentience and explodes from me to go off into the world and make something of itself, as shit does. Spiders. Eufhfghghgjhjhjghdfhsfdjgnggggghhhhh.

I really don't like them. I don't know if I mentioned that.
But, despite that I have enjoyed some movies involving the spindly legged bastards. Eight Legged Freaks, for example, amused me to no end and didn't really bother me. And I would say that the reason that I could watch that and not cringe myself into a coma when I cannot watch Arachnophobia is due to the overall comedic tone to the film. There is literally a scene where a spider is being dragged by a car as it goes "owowowowowowowowow", so it's not exactly the most serious film. That brings me to this film, another film with a comedic overtone to it but with a much less-realistic looking monster. I knew I had to watch this. It was like a challenge of sorts. SyFy channel films are, as I have mentioned previously, a big of a crapshoot. You can either get a really entertaining movie or something so bad that you can barely stand more than 10 minutes before you bail out. So, trying to remain hopeful, I gathered my strength and delved into Big Ass Spider!




After all, it's got to be better than jumping from an airplane.
The movie begins by setting up the closing battle, showing our hero as he gazes at the destruction being wrought by the massive arachnid as it looms over the city from a skyscraper while a cover of "Mad World" plays in an attempt to make this seem more serious than this film is capable of being. Then we flash to an earlier time and see our selfsame hero, played by the chubby lovable mind-reading cop from Heroes (Greg Grunberg), who is a friendly exterminator who is doing what I can only assume is the eleventeenth visit to an olde lady's place to catch something that we never actually see. His name is Alex and is a really nice guy, as is evidenced by the fact that he lets her pay him with fruitcake that is probably less edible than the plastic it is wrapped in.

I will never understand the appeal of fruitcake. Get your fruit away from my cake, dammit!
The old lady is also played by genre veteran Lin Shaye, who is always a delight to see in a movie. If you claim to be a horror fan and don't know this lady, you need to go study up because she's horror royalty having appeared in many films including: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), Alone in the Dark (1982), Critters (1986), and the newer Insidious films among many others. I salute you, Lin Shaye, for being a staple of many of my favourite horror films. Anyway, she spots a spider on Alex and attempts to kill it, resulting in him being bitten by one of the more poisonous spiders out (a brown recluse) and having to go to the hospital. Around the same time, he notices a body bag being wheeled in that makes him a bit nervous. To alleviate this nervousness, he flirts with the nurse who remains unimpressed and the film trudges along.

Sorry, I'm not important enough to the plot to go out with you.
The body bag ends up in the morgue where it starts shimmy-shamming, which spooks the mortician more than a little bit, and eventually a rather above average spider crawls out and bites him on the back of the neck. And let me tell you, that bite looks really nasty. It's all gangrenous looking and oozy. It's the sort of thing little boys are purported to adore. Maybe they'll make a Garbage Pail Kids character based off of this guy and his oozing bite? I'd kinda like that, actually. Someone get the Garbage Pail Kids people on the line! Let's make this happen! But yeah, he freaks out and pulls the fire alarm, which causes the hospital to be evacuated and he shows his pus-leaking wound to the director. Alex mentions that he is an exterminator and often handles large spiders, thus is immediately hired to handle the job in exchange for his hospital bill being covered. He also gets a sidekick in the form of the hospital security guard, Jose (Lombardo Boyar), who really likes showing off that he's allowed to carry a gun.

Someone with a badge flashing their gun at an innocent bystander in Los Angeles? How unheard of!
Our two intrepid heroes go down in to the morgue to go spider hunting, where Alex figures out that it's likely heading towards the basement where it is warm and moist. Fun fact, spiders like warm moist places, like your mouth. Enjoy sleeping while wearing a surgical mask from now on. While Alex tracks the crawling menace, said menace decides to go kill a poor dying old man in his bed in a scene that is honestly pretty creepy. Hiding under our covers is a very primal safety response that is programmed into us as child, so the fact that the big nasty crawls under the sheet up to his face just makes for a genuinely scary concept. It's honestly creepier than the similar scene from The Grudge 2. I wish an attractive woman crawl under my sheets to surprise me, because that's not what I would call horrifying at all.

Oh myyyy....
The military then shows up, because you know how they love showing up when there's a giant monster involved, and they find the poor dead old man in his room. Alex shows up in the basement to re-enact Predator and loses a quarter to the spider. No, I am not kidding, the spider actually steals his quarter. And what does he do when a giant spider leg darts out and drags his quarter away? He gets mad and tries to get it back, of course! In this economy ever bit of money matters, after all, so who can truly blame him? Although I think I'd let the quarter go, personally. There's a time to fight for money and then there's a time when a giant blood-sucking crawling thing takes your money. When the latter happens, running is a much smarter option. But not Alex, no, he's fearless in the face of the biggest spider he's ever seen. The spider seems like it is about to pounce and put him down from behind, but then Alex gets saved by the obvious love interest, Lieutenant Karly Brant (Clare Kramer), who shoots at the big fucker as it runs away into the sewers.

Soooo....do you wanna make out now or wait until the end of the movie?
Major Tanner (Ray Wise) and his creepy sorta German sounding doctor decide that Alex needs to go, because for some reason no one is taking seriously as a spider expert. I can only assume they somehow saw the part earlier where he got the giant spider's webs all over his hands and caught himself on fire. But he decides to take the Major's advice and steer clear of the whole problem....for 5 minutes. Yeah, that's about how long it takes him to get to his care before his little buddy Jose shows up and convinces him that they are the only chance L.A. has of dealing with this big ass spider. The military boys decide they need to keep things pretty quiet about the giant spider but find that'd pretty hard, as the spider is now viral due to people not only having seen it but also having recorded it and posted it online. Our tax dollars at work. The dynamic duo then heads out to a tunnel opening to the sewer under the building the spider was spotted at, because Alex deduces that the thing will want somewhere dark and wet to make its home. The military figured this out too, but sadly not in time to save a hapless bum who the spider lures in with...and I am not joking here...Alex's quarter. Yep, the spider has the quarter hanging on a thread and the bum decides that a quarter hanging from a mysterious sticky string is worth the effort. Guess what happens to him?

He does his best impression of the Incredible Melting Man, that's what happens.
But, yeah, the military finds various spider-leftovers webbed up in the tunnel, but no spider. That is because, as Alex has once more deduced, it has headed somewhere with a lot of food (i.e. people). This smorgasbord is otherwise known as Elysian Park. They were right too, as that is one crowded fun-filled park full of people just asking to be giant spider food. Lots of beautiful people too, which isn't too shocking as this is California. Yeah, even...wait...is that...? Could that really be...? Yep, it's Lloyd Kaufman, the man who brought us the Toxic Avenger and made Troma into a B-movie empire. He's power-walking and enjoying some good looking young women when suddenly he finds that his cameo came at a price as he's also playing caterer to a eight-legged foodie. Much to his chagrin. it seems he's on the menu.

But I never got to make Poultrygeist II: Bawk to the Grave!
Poor guy. But he's not alone as the spider goes into a feeding frenzy not unlike the sort one's overweight aunt might go into during a holiday dinner. Unlike said aunt, this involves a whole lot of people dying. Alex and Jose show up where it looks like they may ram the monster but...Alex seems to change his mind rather quickly as he flips a u-turn and drives away as the spider pursues them. I should point out that by this point the spider is roughly the size of a very large elephant. That's a whole lot of arachnid. They stumble upon an ambush by the military that totals his truck and ends with a lot of dead soldiers with the spider escaping into the woods. Now, Alex warns them that going in there after her is a bad idea, as that is the perfect hunting grounds, but of course they treat this man who has found the spider before them with the appropriate response by completely ignoring his very sound advice. This results in many more dead soldiers and in Alex and Jose showing up to save the totally not at all meant to be Alex's love interest Karly. Sadly, not even his leaping racist stereotype sidekick's shooting can save her as she gets snatched into a web cocoon by the spider as it flees the scene and heads for downtown Los Angeles. German doctor guy tells the Major to blow up the area before it can lay eggs, but the Major has reservations.

Don't worry, Major, I assure you that the massive extermination of innocents won't come back to bite me at all.
Alex and Jose feel like they're all alone in this mess until a camera spots a still living Karly in the tower that the spider laid its eggs in, cuing the Major to beg the bad ass spider fighters to save her. So, they accept and head downtown where havoc is what's trending as people run around screaming and various bits of debris rain down on the street. After said havoc causes them to wreck, we're back to our opening scene and Alex remembers Jose exists just in time to shake him violently to make sure he's alive. I always love when people shake others violently in movies when they think they might be hurt. If they don't have whiplash yet, you can be certain they might after you're done shaking them. They come up with a plan to ignite the spinneret in the spider, because Alex remembered lighting his web-covered hands on fire earlier so he figured the stuff has to be super-flammable. They go upstairs a fight off the babies as they save Karly and most of the other people there.

Sorry, lady. Maybe you should've formed a bond with Jose so you wouldn't be slowly eaten by giant baby spiders?
Despite the lady with the obviously big boobs dying horribly, things seem to be going well. The military shoots the momma down and she hits the ground in time for everyone to celebrate. It's too bad that Alex and Jose's plan that was talked about was completely useless and that the giant armour-plated spider is totally dead after falling down, right? You see where I'm going here, right? She wakes up, everyone shits, and Alex decides it's time to put that plan into action as Jose rushes to get the bazooka for him. He throws it to Alex, who then shoots said giant spider in the spiderhole, it explodes, and Karly finally gives him some lip service. The Major thanks them for a job well done and we get a rather beautifully silly teaser for a possible sequel.

Call Jerry O'Connell because Lady Liberty might have a bit of a roach problem.
This movie was a lot of fun, much in the same way that the classic 50s giant monster films were. Sure, this movie rarely ever treated the subject material all that serious, like those films did, but the self-aware ridiculousness of it all was a big part of the appeal. It was a silly monster movie and it knew that going in, so it played with it in the best ways. Lloyd Kaufman appeared in here just so he could get eaten, so that tells you a lot. Silliness aside, the actors did rather well with what they had. Grunberg shined as Alex, being a lovable shmuck that you just want to see come out on top. And Boyar as Jose was equal parts humourously poking fun at the sidekick stereotype while also turning it on its head by being more capable than a lot of the soldiers. Seriously, you find yourself questioning why he's just a security guard at a rather shitty hospital when he's clearly a bad-ass. But that's truly all part of what the filmmakers must have been going for, as this movie has fun with various cliches without letting it slow down the action or story a bit.

Our hero set his hands on fire. Just thought I would remind you of that.
I would watch this again. Maybe not too often, but it definitely worth a viewing a couple of times a year just to take it all in again. I really do hope they make that sequel too, because I would love to cover in next July. In closing, don't go into this one expecting a serious film, but if you want something entertaining that isn't afraid to poke fun at overused cliches from various films, you should give this a shot. Especially if you love giant monsters as much as I do. Until next time, Bleeders, I'll be here with my rubber mallet that I use to kill spiders. My friend nicknamed it Jomnir.

I'll just sit over here while you two make-out....I should've saved the lady with the big rack.

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