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Blu Ray Review: BIG ASS SPIDER!

by Jason Whyte

One of my favorites of the 2013 South By Southwest Film Festival, the recently released BIG ASS SPIDER! is a delirious, fun midnight movie that has a lot of things going for it: a fun cast, great humour, unique visual effects and a tongue firmly in cheek for all of its light, breezy 81 minutes. And now it's out on Blu Ray, DVD and digital download so you have no excuse to pass on this fun movie.

Of course, the movie is pretty easy to figure out based on looking at the cover alone. A gigantic spider has managed to escape a military lab and find its way into Los Angeles and it is up to two under-dogs, an exterminator named Alex (Grunberg) and a happy-go-lucky security guard named Jose (Lombardo Boyar in a star-making performance) to stop it. Oh, and the army, but those guys just keep getting in the way of Alex and Jose. The movie has a two-act structure that works to its advantage: the discovery of a giant growing spider in a hospital, then an extended sequence where it wreaks havoc on suburban and downtown Los Angeles. The movie gets a lot of mileage out of its two leads; Grunberg and Boyar are delightful as the under-dogs but the two totally throw the cliche off its axis; both take their jobs very seriously and with passion and these guys just want to solve the problem and get the girl, whichever comes first. They have such a chemistry together you can't help but cheer for them.

Even though the movie has a small budget and some of the effects don't compare to some of the bigger movies in release today, the visual look and style is refreshing. I loved the idea of a gigantic spider roaming a city street and the simple but effective design of the movie is awesome to see. Directed by Mike Mendez (The Gravedancers, Convent), this big-hearted movie is great fun from beginning to end and I'm hoping it earns a big cult status on home video down the road. This is also not a B-movie you watch ironically like “Sharknado” but rather a solid feature film that has has a sense of humour that earns great rewards with every new viewing.

About the Blu Ray: One thing I liked about the disc is that the movie starts almost immediately when putting the disc into the player. After a quick FBI warning the movie immediately goes to the menu and the movie starts quickly after hitting play. The 1080p HD transfer is pretty much dead-on with the SxSW screening from last March. Shot on the Red MX, the movie shows a bit of limitation here with lighting and effects work, but is totally understandable with the budget. The movie has a large amount of blue in the early section, then heavy sun-lit tones for the rest of the movie. The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 is surprisingly aggressive and strong with a good front sound stage and is a nice complement to the visuals. It's a great transfer of the movie.

On the extras front, the first one I immediately want to talk about is the SxSW Premiere featurette on the disc. This was an event I attended in Austin last year so you'll be seeing my face in the crowd, as well as other people involved with SxSW and my former boss, Scott Weinberg who hosted the Q&A with Mike Mendez, the cast and producers. The premiere was a big, drunken, profane mess and is captured very well in this six minute featurette.

The other excellent feature on the disc is a hilarious feature length audio commentary featuring director Mike Mendez and leads Greg Grunberg and Lomberto Boyar. This track is almost funnier than the movie itself; in mere minutes you can tell how much fun these three had working together as they discuss the 17 day shoot, the cast and the cameos. It's rather inspiring to see this camaraderie on the commentary track and makes you wish you'd work with them on the next one. Rounding out the disc is a few publicity interviews with the cast, and a few trailers and TV spots.

BIG ASS SPIDER! was a blast to see again and is now available on Blu Ray, DVD and digital download.

Thanks to producer Shaked Berenson at Epic Pictures for providing a copy for review.

Click HERE to read our SxSW interview with director Mike Mendez!

Jason Whyte,

Also on Twitter: @jasonwhyte and @efilmcritic

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originally posted: 01/10/14 12:22:52
last updated: 01/10/14 12:42:44
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