In 2012, I visited with director Mike Mendez and actor Greg Grunberg on the set of what was then called Mega Spider. Two years later, Mega Spider is now Big Ass Spider, and the flick has run the festival circuit before landing on blu-ray and VOD on January 7th. I spoke with Mike again, and we discussed title changes, audience response, and that big ass spider.
I visited you on set, on one of your last days of shooting. Back then, the title was Mega Spider. How did you get away with changing the title? Frankly, I think Big Ass Spider is much better.
Good! A lot of begging and pleading is the short answer to that. From the first time I met with Epic Pictures, that was something I told them: I really wanted to differentiate from your average Mega Snake or Mega Piranha or Mega-whatever. There are literally like 300 movies with Mega in the title. The whole joy of this was that I wanted to move it in a different direction. They patted me on the head and said, “Aw, that’s cute.” It took a lot of pleading. I actually kind of blew a gasket towards the end because they wanted to call it Alex and Jose Versus the Giant Spider. They finally came around and agreed to Big Ass Spider! and I think we are all better for it.
Alex and Jose Versus the Giant Spider sounds like a kid’s movie.
I know! especially because this was at the end, and I had spent two years making the movie. I put so much into it. I told them, “If you call it that, fine, but don’t expect me at any screenings or to do any press.” I didn’t want to be difficult but that’s not my film! I don’t want to stand on stage and say I directed something called Alex and Jose Versus the Giant Spider. But luckily they came around and I think we have gotten a lot of attention for it.
You had been worried about going all CG with the spider, but you were impressed by the effects that the guys did for it, and now that the movie is put together and has been released, does the spider live up to those first tests you saw?
Sure. I’d love to say that the CGI is constant throughout, but there are definitely peaks and valleys. Considering what the budget was, we could have had much worse effects, so I am very thankful to have so much stuff that really works. I mean, when the CG works, it really works. I don’t think people quite appreciate how much CG is actually in there. Every bit of smoke, every crashed car is all a digital element. We really enhanced the film with a lot of digital effects and I am very happy with it. It really opened me up to a style of filmmaking that I wasn’t used to. I came from a practical effects background. I wanted to be a makeup effects artist when I was a kid, so I have always loved practical effects and I always will.
Even my husband, who is a big technical nerd but not a horror movie fan enjoyed this movie and thought the effects looked really good.
That was our mantra in every element. The acting, the way it was shot… we just wanted to defy expectations. You expect a certain something because of a lot of Syfy Channel movies, a certain type of film and production quality. We wanted to surprise people from the moment the film started.
What has the response to the film been like?
It has been amazing, really surprising. I mean, you always hope for the best, and you always hope to get a good reaction, but honestly, it has truly surpassed what any of us were expecting. For better or worse, I am used to polarizing audiences: people either love my movies or hate them. But this was a different, more even-keeled [reaction]. The saying goes, “You can’t please all the people all the time,” and that is still true, but I feel like we managed to please 80-90% of the people, and that is really amazing. I’ve never experienced that before, and I may never again.
Well there is something in it for everyone.
Yeah, it really is an all-ages movie and that was my intention. In the past, I made gory, culty movies. I wanted to make one that my nine-year-old nephew or my parents who are in their 70s, could enjoy.
And did they enjoy it?
They did. Secretly, deep down, even though there are a lot of kills and some gore, I always geared this movie to kids. Not too young of a kid, but I think if you are nine or ten, they would really enjoy this movie. So kids were really on my mind for a lot of it. What’s cool is that this is the kind of movie that could play for kids, but still get into all the midnight selections of film festivals. So we made a movie edgy enough for gorehounds but suitable for kids. How often does that happen?
Plus, I kind of think that all gorehounds are just big kids inside. I know I am!
I certainly am!
Will we see any continuing adventures of Alex and Jose?
I would love that. I really hope that, with all the positivity around the film, that will come to pass. But these are really financial decisions. Will the movie make enough money to merit a sequel? It all depends on how the blu-ray does, how it does on television. If I had it my way, there would be many more adventures for Alex and Jose.
Maybe Bigger, Assier Spider?
I don’t know. My intention, initially, was that this would be a television series, with 22 different creatures a year. Kind of a Ghostbusters for giant insects and animals.We would have big ass centipedes, big ass ants, big ass honey badgers… you name it. I think the potential exists there [for a sequel] but we will have to wait to see what the response is and if there is a market for it.
What are you working on next?
I hope to start a movie called Don’t Kill It next, but indie film is a tricky thing so we will see if it comes to pass. Don’t Kill Us is a dark action movie about a body-hopping demon.