'Big Ass Spider!' director Mike Mendez talks about his big ass creature feature

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Is there a better name for a film about a big ass spider than Big Ass Spider!? We think not! But director Mike Mendez (The Gravedancers) says his self-explanatory creature feature, which hits select cinemas on Oct. 18 and will also be available on VOD, was almost released under a far-less-memorable moniker.

“The producers did not want to call it Big Ass Spider!,” recalls the filmmaker. “But I was very fearful that if we called it Mega Spider or something people would just think, ‘Oh, this is just another monster b-movie.’”

The film stars J.J. Abrams favorite Greg Grunberg (Heroes) as an exterminator who teams up with Lombardo Boyar’s security guard to face off against a tiny scorpion (Only kidding! Yeah, it’s a big ass spider). Boasting decent special effects and a funny-yet-gory vibe, the result is certainly a cut-above your average Syfy creature feature (yes, Sharknado, we’re talking about you). “I made the movie I would want to see when I hear some kind of crazy title,” says Mendez.

Mendez talks more about Big Ass Spider! below.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did you come to direct Big Ass Spider!?
MIKE MENDEZ:
It was a script that I got. It was originally titled Dino Spider and my first reaction was, “Oh God, has it really come to this?” And the truth was that it had. I looked at it as an opportunity to hopefully make something entertaining that could be better than what the title promised. Thankfully, the folks at Epic Pictures were really supportive. This was kind of their first time out making a creature feature, and they wanted to aspire for better too. For everyone involved, our mantra was, “Defy expectations, we can do something more than what people expect, if we really put our heart and soul into it.”

Greg Grunberg comes across onscreen as the most affable guy in the world. Please tell me that in real life he’s a big ass d—.
No, not at all. He is a wonderful human being and a good sport to do this movie. God knows it didn’t pay well, but he set the example for everyone on set. When you’re doing a movie whose shooting title was Mega Spider, everyone had a sort of right to phone it in if they wanted to. But nobody did that, and I think Greg really set the bar for all the other actors. He was on Heroes and he was on Alias, etcetera, and everyone looked at him and was like, “Oh look, he’s taking it seriously and he’s putting his time into it,” so everyone behaved. He’s a great human being all around.

Have you had any censorship issues because of the title?
Thus far, no. It’s a very clean movie. The only bad word is in the title. I made a secret goal to make it for all ages. It’s suitable for television, yet something about it still categorizes it for all the midnight showings and festivals and stuff. Somehow we’ve managed to make a movie that kids can watch but is still edgy enough for gorehounds.

I’m not sure this is entirely suitable for young children.
I mean, I wouldn’t show it to a 5-year-old. But my nephew, who’s like 8, had a mighty good time with it.

Maybe his mind has just been warped by hanging out with you.
That’s probably the truth.

You’ve got a rogues gallery of folks doing cameos: Ray Wise, Lloyd Kaufman, Lin Shaye.
I’m generally steeped in the genre, and I’m attracted to people who make horror films. It was such a low-budget film we kind of went out to people we knew. Lin is a dear friend, and Ray Wise, I had worked with him once previously, and Lloyd Kaufman was just someone that both the producers and myself know. Lloyd’s a trooper. I was like, “Lloyd, we have this part,” and he was on a plane the next day. But it’s also fun for me to have a lot of shout-outs to fellow filmmakers and to have them in the film. We have lots of writers, producers, directors that play extras and victims all through the film.

Will the sequel be called Bigger Ass Spider!?
If there is a sequel I want to focus more on our lovable duo of leads. I don’t think a spider would really be involved. It would be Big Ass-something, but more like Big Ass Ants, or Big Ass Cockroach, or something of that nature. At least that’s kind of my idea. Who cares about the spider? It’s our leads that people are drawn to, myself included, and I want to see the adventures they go off on to.

Horror movies tend to be popular in the Latino community, but this is one of the very rare films which seems to tip a hat to that, with the casting of Lombardo Boyar.
The character was always Latino, and I’m Latino myself and [wanted] to make a lovable character. The thing is, you don’t see too many Latino leads. We get criticized every once in a while [with people] saying that it’s a stereotypical role. But the actor, Lombardo, and myself, we don’t see it that way. We wanted to make someone that was funny and someone that you like and is lovable and is kind of heroic. Thus far, when we have shown in Latin American countries at different festivals and stuff, they love it. It’s usually the white people that tell me, “That’s really racist!”

Finally, I understand you once worked with William Hung. Tell me more!
[Laughs uproariously] I’m impressed you found that. He was very nice, but that’s probably what I consider to be the low point of my career. In between directing jobs, I needed to support myself somehow, and I got hired to direct a talent competition for Microsoft executives in Atlanta. Different teams of Microsoft employees would come down for a huge convention and they have a big talent show, and the MC was William Hung. So I had to direct a talent show. Yeah, that was one of the low points of my career. Let’s hope we don’t sink below that.

You can check out the Big Ass Spider! trailer below.


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