“An exterminator (Greg Grunberg) and a security guard (Lombardo Boyer) take on a giant, rampaging spider that's spreading terror through the streets of L.A. in this super-sized creature feature co-starring Ray Wise and Patrick Bauchau.” ~ rovi’s AllMovie Guide
Big Ass Spider! It sounds like the title of a bad SyFy movie, doesn’t it? Not that I would be discouraged in any way from watching it if that’s what it turned uot to be, of course. After all, I sat through such SyFy gems as “Ice Spiders,” “Camel Spiders,” and “Arachnoquake,” and truth be told, I’ll probably end up watching the upcoming “Lavalantula” as well (because if someone is going to name their movie “Lavalantula,” they deserve at least one viewer). So, even if “Big Ass Spider!” were nothing more than just another SyFy produced stinker, I’d give it a shot. But that’s not what this is at all. Instead, “Big Ass Spider!” is more like what we would get if SyFy made a movie and actually gave a crap about how it turned out.
In fact, SyFy should study this film to see just what someone can accomplish even if they only have a few dollars to spend. A lot of the credit for “Big Ass Spider’s” good use of limited funds has to go to B-movie master Mike Mendez, a director whose last two films, “The Convent” and “The Gravedancers,” were fairly well received by aficionados of low budget fright flicks. In an interview with The Examiner, Mendez explains, “[Big Ass Spider!] was the smallest budget & shortest schedule I've ever had. Yet it was the most ambitious and largest in scale. It was also my first film shot in a digital format, I'd only done films on 35 previously. It was the first time I ever relied so much on CG effects, and was also the first time I made a PG-13 movie. I was surprised at how natural it all felt.”
If you need evidence of Mendez’s skill behind the camera, look no further than the excellent slow motion reveal of “Big Ass Spider!’s” opening sequence in which our hero Alex emerges from a flaming wreck amidst a screaming horde of fleeing bystanders while the titular creature destroys a nearby skyscraper. The camerawork is great and the CGI, while it won’t be up for any Academy Awards any time soon, is far above anything offered up by SyFy. In other words, the movie doesn’t look like it was slapped together on someone’s laptop.
Mendez doesn’t get all the credit for “Big Ass Spider!’s” success, though. Greg Grunberg and Lombardo Boyer as the unlikely heroes Alex and Jose make a highly watchable duo. Everybody else in the film (with the possible exception of the ever reliable Lin Shaye as one of Alex’s crotchety customers) stays firmly in B-movie acting territory, but the performances from the two leads really elevate the proceedings. In fact, I’d happily watch Alex and Jose pal around in a whole series of adventures, traveling around the globe squashing the threats of various giant bugs. In other words, yes, I’d like a sequel, which is not something you’re likely to hear about similar SyFy movies. Nobody who is in the least bit sane is clamoring for “Ice Spiders 2.”
Perhaps what I like the most about “Big Ass Spider!,” though, is that it’s not a mean movie. Oh sure, the spider itself gorily kills dozens and dozens of people, impaling them, eating them, melting off their faces with acidic venom… you know, the usual mayhem. But the non-rampaging spider parts of the film are just kind of nice, especially when the characters of Alex and Jose are onscreen. In most any other film, these two would have been played as complete idiots who continuously screw up and only get the job done by accident. Here, it’s a little more subtle. Both the guys are indeed awkward bumblers in a way (there’s a definite Fred & Barney quality to them), but they’re also shown to have a real blue-collar competence that all the other characters come to respect by the time the credits roll. Well, almost everyone. The scientist who accidentally created the spider isn’t too fond of the pair, but if B-movies have taught us anything it’s that all scientists are utterly insane, so his opinion doesn’t count anyway.
You know, I’d like to think Alex and Jose would have made fine apostles as they seem to be the kind of guys Jesus had in mind when he started filling out his roster. Remember, Jesus didn’t choose any kings, senators, temple priests, scholars or anybody else in ancient Jerusalem’s upper class to be among the twelve. The apostles were all from the lower strata of society which consisted mainly of laborers, craftsmen and small merchants. Simon Peter, Andrew, James, John, probably Philip, and possibly Thomas and Bartholomew all took part in their respective family’s fishing businesses; Matthew was a low level tax collector; some traditions hold that Jude and James the Lesser may have been farmers or tradesmen. As for Simon the zealot and Judas Iscariot, who knows, maybe they were fishermen too. Whatever it was they did to earn a shekel, we can probably rest assured they weren’t living the easy life when Jesus found them.
Dr. Ian Elmer, Lecturer in Biblical Studies at St Paul's Theological College in Australia, believes there’s good reason Jesus chose men with such occupations. “The job of a fisherman in Jesus' day was difficult. Fishermen worked year-round in the heat of summer and the cold of winter, often at night… It is possible, therefore, that Jesus called fishermen to his retinue not only because the imagery evoked by their occupation mirrored their vocation, but also because they were a hardy group of skilled workers and personable salespeople, whose occupation brought them into contact with a wide range of potential customers from all walks of life… From the point of view of the mission-field the conditions of fishing are not at all inappropriate. Seeking people to follow Jesus would take the same care, dedication, and skill used in fishing (Matt 10:5-15; 40-42). The disciples learned that they must seek all kinds of people to follow Jesus; although, as every fisher knows, some would ‘get away’ (Matt 10:14-15). Like Peter and Andrew… Christians are very ordinary, down-to-earth people. The gifts they bring to their Christian vocation are all-too-often the skills inherent to their everyday experiences and occupations. And, similarly, the people to whom they are called to minister are found in their own homes and workplaces.”
Oh sure, God loves and has work for the upper classes too. I mean, he did eventually get around to calling St. Paul to flesh out the details of the New Covenant so the Church could confront its philosophical enemies in the arenas of academia. But in a lot of cases, the experts just aren’t what’s needed. Just as in “Big Ass Spider!,” where the military and scientists proved ineffectual and had to rely on an exterminator and a rent-a-cop to save the day, so it is a lot of the time with God’s work. It’s the construction workers, the janitors, the firefighters, the cashiers, the plumbers, all those laborers who interact with others on a day to day basis, it’s their witness which so often brings Christ into the world. That’s how it was with the apostles and that’s how it still is today. As St. Thomas Aquinas once put it, ‘The Apostles were simple men, unlettered and commonplace… yet they destroyed all the enemies of Christ."
Oh, that upcoming “Lavalantula” movie, it just so happens to be directed by a guy you may have heard of by the name of Mike Mendez. Okay, so it’s not “Big Ass Spider 2!,” but it’s close enough.