Toronto After Dark: Big Ass Spider (2013) – Mike Mendez

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The second night of Toronto After Dark got its Bug Night under way in a huge way last night with the arachnophobe’s nightmare Big Ass Spider starring Greg Grunberg.

Grunberg is Alex Mathis, an exterminator called in on his day off and into a delightful homage to the atomic creature features of the 1950s, as a giant spider, created by the government gets loose in Los Angeles.

Joining Alex is Jose (Lombardo Boyar), from hospital security, the site of the first outbreak, and Lt. Karly Brant (Clare Kramer), who is there under the command of Maj. Braxton Tanner (Ray Wise).

This one wrapped me up in its web, and I didn’t stop grinning through the entire length of the film, from its power ballad opening, to the final ‘sting’ midway through the credits. Grunberg and Boyar are perfect together as comic foils, they play wonderfully together, and its readily apparent that they are both having a lot of fun. Kramer is fun as Mathis’ crush, and Wise is tonally perfect for a military man reciting the expected Go ‘Merica rhetoric while chewing scenery lightly.

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One could take issue with the cg work of not only the spider, which quadruples in size every 4 hours, and even some of the destruction it wrought, whether personal, residential or business but that’s kind of the point, it’s embracing its cinematic history (as illustrated when the spider’s origins are given), winking at the audience, and inviting you along for the ride.

There’s some fun jumps early in the film, before the arachnid grows to big to hide, while its prowling the hospital that would undoubtedly unnerve anyone scared of spiders, but amazingly, the children are always spared…

As the spider grows in size, so does the sheer enjoyment of the film. This is a film to be enjoyed in a theatre, with a group of friends, a giant bag of popcorn, and the desire for sheer cinematic enjoyment. This is a creature feature that put me in mind of Them! although, there are nice nods to Aliens as well as countless other creature features.

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Grunberg has always easily portrayed the everyman, and it is this ease that helps guide us into fun mentality that the film is couched in.

This isn’t going to be an Oscar winner, this is a blatant homage to the Saturday matinees of yesteryear, lovingly made, filled with great laughs, some nice jumps and the charming pairing of Grunberg and Boyar.

Both nights so far have had highly enjoyable early screenings, and the festival seems to be going very well, though I would be hard pressed to pick a crowd favorite so far…

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What are you watching After Dark?

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