Two Cents Gets Bit by a BIG ASS SPIDER!

Two Cents is an original column akin to a book club for films. The Cinapse team will program films and contribute our best, most insightful, or most creative thoughts on each film using a maximum of 200 words each. Guest writers and fan comments are encouraged, as are suggestions for future entries to the column. Join us as we share our two cents on films we love, films we are curious about, and films we believe merit some discussion.

The Pick

Rampage sure looks like it is combining two great flavors that will taste great together. We suppose that in this example, Dwayne Johnson is the chocolate and the giant mutant animals smashing everything are the peanut butter, combining into a destruction porn Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. Or something. Look, we don’t judge your metaphors.

To help us get psyched for that colorful kaiju monster mayhem, we decided to check out the cheerily trashy Big Ass Spider! directed by Two Cents alum Mike Mendez (Tales of Halloween), 2013’s winking homage to the B-through-Z grade ‘giant mutant animals smash everything’ movies of yesteryear, so exhaustively mocked on Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Big Ass centers around down-on-his-luck exterminator Alex Mathis (Greg Grunberg) who bumbles into the middle of what turns out to be a government clean-up of a disastrous accident that resulted in the creation of a, you know, big ass spider.

The arachnid rapidly grows from little nuisance to car-smashing, building-crushing nightmare, and it’s up to Alex, his new buddy Jose (Lombardo Boyar), new crush Lieutenant Karly Brant (Clare Kramer), and military leader Major Braxton Tanner (Ray Wise) to take the big bug down before it starts breeding.

So, was Big Ass Spider! the kind of lighthearted good time its title promises, or do we need to break out the flyswatter?

Next Week’s Pick:

It’s been eight years since we’ve been treated to the profane mayhem of the Broken Lizard boys, but next week the band gets back together for the long-promised Super Troopers 2.

We’re priming the pump for that 4/20 extravaganza with Beerfest, available to stream on Netflix Instant, a movie that somehow involves everyone from Donald Sutherland, Mo’Nique, the captain from Das Boot, Will Forte, and one of the more out-of-nowhere An American Werewolf in London homages you are likely to find in a comedy film.

Would you like to be a guest in next week’s Two Cents column? Simply watch and send your under-200-word review to twocents(at) anytime before midnight on Thursday!

Our Guests


Big Ass Spider! is Arachnophobia on steroids — a surprisingly engaging film that will have you looking over your shoulder as you laugh your face off. Set in Los Angeles, a sunny day devolves into terror when a goofy exterminator gets caught in a government cover-up that involves — you guessed it — one gargantuan arachnid that’s set to take over the city. He teams up with a salty security guard to help rescue downtown L.A., with bonus points if he can keep his reluctant crush alive. Will Alex save the day, or will it spin (pun intended!) out of control?

The movie doesn’t miss a beat — it’s the perfect blend of faux gravitas, cheesy effects, and an all-in cast that delights. The secret weapon is the chemistry between protagonist Alex and his newly befriended sidekick, Jose (Where has Lombardo Boyar been all my life? He needs to be in everything!). The two make believable instant besties. The plot hits all the high notes — heck, they even managed to fit in a bikini scene. Its cult status is well-deserved; add it to your must-watch list, asap! (@JennaZine1)

Trey Lawson:

Big Ass Spider! wishes it were a late 70s/early 80s Roger Corman production. In structure and story it owes a lot to the original Piranha. Unfortunately, that comparison isn’t an entirely favorable one. Much of the charm of those older Corman productions is that although they are campy and tongue-in-cheek, they were almost always played straight. Big Ass Spider!, however, is much more in the mold of The Asylum and Syfy Original Movies, in which it feels like many of the characters (in particular the lead, played by Greg Grunberg) are very much in on the joke and winking at the camera. Thus the balance of horror to comedy gets skewed all the way toward comedy at the expense of anything resembling suspense. There are plenty of scenes featuring giant spider mayhem, but the stakes never feel particularly high because the tone belies any real sense of danger for the main characters. Back in the days of Heroes I found Greg Grunberg to be an effective, even charming actor; his character in Big Ass Spider! however exchanges charm for smarm. His performance is neither as funny enough nor sincere enough to pull me in, and by the end of the movie is suddenly and inexplicably hyper-competent merely because the plot suddenly demands it. Ray Wise is fine as the hardass general overseeing the operation — but what the hell is Ray Wise doing in this movie? Ultimately the problem with Big Ass Spider! is that it’s neither good enough nor bad enough to be entertaining, the result is an utterly forgettable movie that exists purely to fill time. If you’re planning an all-day/all-night spider movie marathon, Big Ass Spider! is the movie you schedule so everyone can take a quick nap. (@T_Lawson)

Brendan Agnew (The Norman Nerd):

Big Ass Spider! has precisely two things going for it: a lean 80 minute runtime to spread a handful of monster set pieces over, and character actor delight Ray Wise — and it somehow manages to waste both of these almost entirely.

There are worse pitches than “a schlubby exterminator gets caught up in a kaiju spider scenario,” but B.A.S. deftly combines a surprisingly large dose of the backwards sensibility of genre movies of yore (the gender as racial stereotypes feel about 20 years older than the movie actually is) with none of the genuine enthusiasm or effort that made earlier B monster junk so enjoyable. It’s got a wholly unearned glib streak to go with a somewhat jarring mean streak, and no one involved seems interested in anchoring this in anything beyond “haha, our movie has ‘BIG ASS’ in the title!”

There are a handful of times when the movie threatens to actually BE fun instead of just poke fun, but there’s not enough skill behind the camera or earnestness in front of it to come close to even the Eight Legged Freaks of the world. Which is a bummer. This is exactly the kinda movie I would have a blast with, if it weren’t so smug about its own lack of ambition.(@BLCAgnew)

The Team

Justin Harlan:

I believe it was the great philosopher Elbert Hubbard who said, “Don’t take life too seriously. You will never get out of it alive!”

Big Ass Spider follows this mantra. It’s cheesy. It knows it’s cheesy. It doesn’t care. It is having a blast and it invites you along for the ride.

I, for one, accepted the invitation. I’m happy I did because I watched it a day ago and it’s still making me smile. What a great ride this film is! (@ThePaintedMan)

Brendan Foley:

It fucking sucks, and the fact that everyone in the movie, and indeed, the movie itself, all seem to know that it fucking sucks, does nothing to mitigate said sucking. I settled in for Big Ass Spider! expecting/hoping to see a cheery and playful riff on this particular subgenre. Something in the Eight Legged Freaks/Mars Attacks! ballpark. That’s it. That’s the bar they needed to clear. It’s about as low as you can conceivably set a bar. And they still failed to clear it.

Besides the truly appalling racist and sexist material (all of which wold have felt bizarrely out of place in a film 20 years older than this one) there’s just the simple fact that this movie is no fun. Because it is constantly winking and mugging over how stupid this all is, it’s impossible to either laugh alongside it or to get genuinely caught up in anything going on. It’s like a comedian who will not stop laughing at their own joke, and when you finally figure out just what exactly they were saying, it turns out the joke wasn’t even all that funny to begin with.

Ray Wise, bless him, seems to be giving it the old college try, but everything around Wise sucks so much that you just end feeling bad for poor ol’ Mr. Palmer. He deserves better. Everything else is shoddy and lazy, with the exception of a couple kill scenes that are so pornographically detailed that they stop the movie dead in its tracks.

In conclusion: Ugh. (@theTrueBrendanF)

Austin Vashaw:

This turned out to be a really divisive movie, and I definitely come down on the “pro” side, even if it’s not something I’m likely to watch again. Big Ass Spider! is a comedy first, and pretty successful one at that. It’s cheesy, but in a fun way that’s all about having a blast. The production looks cheap — especially the plentiful CGI bugs — but a pretty funny script keeps things fun. My take is very close to Jenna’s — sidekick Jose is the movie’ secret weapon and his dialogue and camaraderie add the right balance to what could have been just another Syfy/Asylumesque cheapie. And you know that elevator scene that was the only good part of the 2014 Ninja Turtles movie? Now I know where they cribbed it from. (@VforVashaw)

Watch it on Amazon Prime:

Next week’s pick:

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