When you have “Ass”, “Spider”, and an exclamation point in your title you are making a bold statement. The trouble with that statement, though, is that is can easily be rolled up with the “Sharknadoes” of the world. There is a difference between parody and plain old ridiculousness in the hopes of drawing in viewers. “Sharknado” is ridiculous, “Arachnaphobia” was parody. One is intentionally over the top with no real subtext or meaning beyond spectacle, the other is a loving send-up of a certain genre of film. While Big Ass Spider!, the latest from director Mike Mendez and writer Gregory Gieras, has the aspirations of the latter, its title moves dangerously close to the former.
On the surface, Big Ass Spider! is about exactly that. A really, really, really, big spider who escapes from the confines of military research to wreak havoc on the city of Los Angeles. An exterminator(Greg Grunberg), a hospital security guard(Lombardo Boyar), and an Army Lieutenant(Clare Kramer) join forces to stop this arachnid. Ridiculous right? All spectacle right? Surprisingly, not so much. Mendez and company manage to bring a strong sense of parody and cleverness to this seemingly over the top synopsis. From the opening frames of the film, and its nod to “Fight Club” Big Ass Spider! makes it clear that this is just simple spectacle, it is a loving parody of the monster film from people who understand them.
Take the allusions to “Fight Club”, “Die Hard, and “Aliens” for instance. These moments are meant as parody, which knowingly nods to the source material with equal parts admiration and humor, but they are also meant as a tribute to these types of films. The moments nodding to “Die Hard” don’t just mock they point out why those moments were so successful in the first place. Our hero crawling through a building’s vents with a lighter in hand seems both logical and ridiculous. Mendez frames these sequences in a way they are still effective, but somehow manage to be comedic as well. Perhaps its the fact that our hero is chasing a big ass spider instead of terrorists but, regardless, the film manages to walk that fine parody line of comedy and tribute.
Nowhere is that more evident than during the sequences that parody the film that Mendez and Gieras seem most inspired by, “Aliens”. From the actual design of the spider all the way down to the “Where’s Bausman?” bit that draws a direct parallel to the “Wierzbowski” sequence that no audience member heard correctly when first watching “Aliens”, Big Ass Spider! draws so much material from “Aliens” it could almost be seen as a direct parody of that film. While the nerd in me really wants to just list all the “Aliens” references in this film, suffice it to say there are a lot, and they work. While the film as a whole may not ever fire on all cylinders, never reaching hilarious status, it does do enough right that it sits well about those films that have no interest in anything beyond their own ridiculousness.
This means that, title aside, this film is a pretty clever parody of those creature feature movies we all love. While you will probably never be overwhelmed by laughter, you will giggle and smile enough for this film to be a solid way to spend eighty-minutes or so. So just do it. Sit back, relax, and enjoy a big ass spider.