The second night of Toronto After Dark was critter night and there was no critter bigger than Big Ass Spider! The exclamation mark tells you how seriously to take the story.
Director Mike Mendez had a short clip before the film, apologizing for not being able to attend the festival screening. He was tied up at the Los Angeles premiere. Since that's the city his creature destroys, his absence was forgiven by the enthusiastic crowd.
Taking a break from his work in television, this is Mendez’s first feature in seven years. He returns to his campy horror roots with Big Ass Spider! The 80-minute movie has three threads: the first is the hapless military, led by a deadpan Ray Wise as the major in charge of an operation gone horribly awry. By the end he doesn't even bother consulting with his mad scientist, who is less than helpful. As majors don’t leave the command center, his Lieutenant is played by Clare Kramer (Buffy’s Glory). She is the one who interacts most with our heroes.
The second point of view is that of our heroes, a duo who is faster with their quips than they are with their weapons. Greg Grunberg (from television's Alias, Heroes, and The Client List) plays Alex Mathis, an exterminator who happens to be in the right/wrong place at the right/wrong time. Despite playing an everyman, it's a character with knowledge and one who's able to apply that knowledge to actually fix the situation. What is a hero without a sidekick? We don't have to wonder as hospital janitor, Jose Ramos (played by Lombardo Boyar) decides to offer himself by listing off great pairing, starting with Batman and Robin, but ending with Don Quixote and Sancho Panza as a mule rider.
The third aspect of the movie is the spider itself. Starting small, which is when it provides the most jump scares, it first terrorizes a hospital and then moves on to the sewer system, a large park, and finally downtown L.A. and a very very tall building – leading to a battle that must be a homage to King Kong.
This movie also won best trailer in Toronto After Dark's audience appreciation awards.
Is this a movie for the ages? Does it provide a keen insight into the human condition? Does it pass the Bechdel test? No – but, it promises campy fun and delivers on that promise.