The Giant Spider Invasion (1975)

Sometimes the only way I know you're alive is when I hear you flush the toilet!
-Ev Kester

You're so dumb you wouldn't know rabbit turds from Rice Krispies!
-Dan Kester

You may recall that in my review of Texas Chain Saw Massacre we discussed the Deep South stereotype. That is, how according to Hollywood movies and TV shows everyone in the rural southeastern United States is a toothless hick, a neo-Confederate soldier, a wealthy cotton farmer, an incestuous slob, or a serial killer.

Well, this trope is not necessarily exclusive to the Deep South. Any rural location can be used as a backdrop for this dirtier part of Americana: an isolated farmland in Illinois, a cabin in the Rocky Mountains, even something cleaner like a backwards Midwestern suburban town can serve as the nesting grounds of these tropes. Pretty much anyplace as far away from modern urban civilization as possible works. As a matter of fact, Ed Gein, the real-life murderer that Leatherface from TCSM among others was based on, lived in Wisconsin.

Speaking of Wisconsin, this is where our movie, Bill Rebane's 1975 feature The Giant Spider Invasion, takes place, though looking at it you'd think it was in the Hazzard County ghetto. The film is at its heart a creature feature about an army of spiders from outer space that kill people and break things, but most of it sheds more interest on the disgusting exploits of its trailer trash cast. Think of it as Kingdom of the Spiders with a lower budget, lower standards, lower everything.

Many of you like me remember this movie from Mystery Science Theater 3000 during its years on the Sci Fi Channel (or PsyPhie or whatever they call themselves now), and this was the episode which made me desperately want to shower every time I watched it.

Well, either this one or Hobgoblins. I can't remember exactly.

The movie has multiple subplots, but none of them are very interesting and you'll be rooting for the spiders anyway, so let's just run down the cast of characters:
  • Dutch (Bill Williams), a hick who runs the town's only restaurant where waitress/prostitute Helga (Christiane Schmidtmer) works at.
  • Sherrif Jones (Alan Hale from Gilligan's Island), the law 'round these parts. He spends most of the movie answering the phone in his office, sitting in Dutch's eatery and thinking he is funnier than he actually is.
  • Dan and Ev Kester (Robert Easton and so-called "special guest star" Leslie Parrish), a disgusting ma-and-pa couple who occupy the screen for a good portion of the movie. Dan is a dirt farmer and an estranged husband who goes out every night to Helga's trailer for some good old fashioned adultery while Ev lounges around the house all hours of the day drowning herself in legalized moonshine.
  • Terry (Diane Lee Hart), Ev's young sister whom everyone wants to have wild untamed sex with.
  • Dave (Kevin Brodie), the only person in this town with any practice or knowledge of hygiene and moral fiber. He's dating Terry, and Dan doesn't like it--partly because he doesn't seem to trust him, but mostly because he wants to have wild untamed sex with Terry himself.
  • A hellfire-and-brimstone preacher who pops in and out of the movie for no real reason.

It's as if Britney Spears married Grizzly Adams' little brother.

Interspersed between scenes with these characters, a meteor hurls toward Earth and lands in the Kesters' backyard with some borderline psychedelic special effects and quite a lot of wind. Nearby, a motorcyclist falls off his bike (which inexplicably blows up) and wanders into the woods until something eats him.

The impact causes all sorts of electric disturbance, including bringing down an army plane, which arouses the suspicion (good lord, did I just use that word? *shiver*) of bepantsuited scientist Dr. Langer (Barbara Hale). NASA sends another scientist, the sexist Dr. Vance (Steve Brodie) to assist her in her study of this strange phenomena. These two are apparently the main couple of the film, which is odd since they both appear to be in their fifties. Through some elaborate scientific babble and lab equipment and adding machines and stuff, the scientists eventually conclude that the meteor fell through a black hole and opened up an interdimensional portal that all these spiders have been coming through. However that works.

The next morning, Dan and Ev finally inspect the impact site (Dan apparently was too tired from his...ahem...evening activities to take a look immediately after the meteor hit) and find a lot of dead cows lying around with their bodies horribly mutilated. As Dan schemes to chop up the meat and sell it to Dutch's cafe like he always does, they finally reach the crater and find several small rocks lying around which turn out to have sparkly diamonds inside them, which has the Kesters seeing dollar signs while unbeknown to them, a spider hatches out of one of them...

"Any news on that Gilligan's Island reunion special?"

Unaware that their whole house is slowly being infested with decidedly non-giant spiders, Dan freaks out when he finds human remains (the motorcyclist we saw earlier) while digging for more rocks, which scares the crap out of him knowing that local authorities will come looking for the body and might find his recent diamond crop. He decides to go to his cousin Billy (Paul Bentzen), who runs a rock shop in town, to have his diamonds appraised...AFTER his nightly conjugal visit. (Whatever happened to priorities?) During the night, Ev, who in Dan's words has been "hittin' the BOOZE again," is chased out of the house by a spider in her sock drawer and into a random cabin, where the titular giant spider eats her.

Uggggghh, Billy. Disgusting, unprincipled simpleton Billy. He looks even less clean than Dan, and I may be scratching the surface here. Fortunately he doesn't last long, because as soon after he tries to put the moves on Terry (ha ha, it's funny because they're related and rednecks like to inbreed and stuff!) he's driving off in his car where the giant spider runs him off the road into a gas station, which explodes before he can completely smash through the window and escape. Dan, after hearing that his so-called diamonds aren't worth the space rock they landed in, goes out digging for more when the giant spider eats him too. Then the spider army goes after Terry, nearly bringing the whole house down on top of her, until Dave arrives to take her to safety.

The last twenty minutes of the movie are a whirlwind of activity. The giant spider attacks a fair in Gleason. Dutch gathers his fellow rednecks and declares an unruly mob on the spider, which the sheriff is unable to quiet down. Dr. Langer and Dr. Vance run around the very dimly lit Wisconsin countryside and roll down a hill at first glance of the spider, Dr. Langer screaming like a banshee the whole while. Some guy loads something into a helicopter as part of the doctors' plan to seal off the portal. The giant spider heads back to town and dispatches Dutch and his mob before retreating to the Kester farmland. Alan Hale's stunt double is eaten trying to fend it off. Whatever was in that helicopter is dropped and explodes, which probably closes the gateway, I don't know, I suppose it does because then the giant spider starts bubbling over in a disgusting display and the superfluous preacher closes us out as the credits roll.

"A Buick with spider legs! Run!!"

Confusing movie, confusing visuals, confusing storyline. So the giant spider dies at the end, but what about all those little spiders still running around everywhere? Do they all melt into small puddles of ice cream and mashed potato soup? For that matter, what's with the title? The Giant Spider Invasion sort of implies that Earth is invaded by giant spiders, and yet there's only ONE giant spider, whereas the spiders that do any invading at all are normal-sized. That's not really a threat, as Terry demonstrates toward the end by taking one of them out with an iron. Maybe if they were brown recluses or black widows or one of those carnivorous arachnids from Kingdom of the Spiders, but still when you take size into consideration they would still be at a gross disadvantage. But the number one worst thing about this movie are the characters. Its redneck cast is the closest thing it has to comedy relief, and they're just not funny. They're just repulsive (or in Alan Hale's case, annoying as crap) to the point where you start counting down the minutes to when they get killed off, and the doctors are uninteresting characters as well. You don't care about anybody or anything in it.

In summation, The Giant Spider Invasion is...disgusting. Just flat-out, uncompromisingly disgusting. I've already used that word several times in this review, but I keep coming back to it, because the movie is, well, disgusting. The plot, the cinematography, and again, the characters...it's all a disgusting mess.

Maybe it was this MST3K episode that made me want to shower after watching it. But then again, the sex-starved kids from Hobgoblins were pretty distasteful to watch themselves...

I'm surprised they didn't all die from the noxious fumes in that house.

    (Incidentally, would you believe that this movie has fans? Fans so devoted they've started up a website where you can buy it on DVD?)

    1 comment:

    Gatomon41 said...

    Oh Wisconsin, my beautiful home tarnished by decrepit movies. Anyways, another pithy and funny review of a movie I really don't want to see. Nice :)