A low-budget 1975 Sci-Fi Horror film directed by Bill Rebane which dares to show that, yes, there are rednecks living well north of the Mason-Dixon line, and no, covering up a Volkswagen with fake fur and sticking legs on it does not make a convincing giant spider.
A meteorite crashes in Merrill, Wisconsin, leaving behind an ominous "wormhole" in the impact crater and a bunch of geodes scattered across a really unappealing farmer's property. Between belittling his alcoholic wife Ev, visiting the local prostitute, and threatening to spank his wife's teenage sister, Dan Kester attempts to sell the extraterrestrial rocks to his equally unappealing cousin Billy, but is miffed when the jeweler informs him that they don't have much value. Dan is distracted from these monetary woes when it turns out that the "geodes" are actually eggs, which hatch to release first a swarm of tarantulas, then badly-made, dog-sized spider puppets, and finally the Volkswagenspinne.
While the assorted arachnids do their best to clean up northern Wisconsin's gene pool, a pair of scientists wander around ineffectually before airdropping a device that manages to close the wormhole and melt the spider-car. There are a couple of B-plots, including a fire-and-brimstone preacher's revival, a missing motorcyclist, and a young couple's quest to find a place to make out, but that's about it.
The movie was filmed primarily on location in the towns of Merrill and Tomahawk, while the spider's rampage at a fair was shot during a Gleason Heritage Days event in Rebane's hometown of Gleason, Wisconsin. The cast is populated by famous has-beens including Alan Hale Jr. as a dumpy sheriff, Barbara Hale as a lady scientist in a pantsuit, and Steve Brodie as a morbidly obese NASA scientist. Robert Easton, who not only starred as Dan Kester but cowrote the screenplay — aside from being a 60-year acting veteran by the time of his death — was famous for his ability to do two hundred convincing regional accents. He became known as "The Man of a Thousand Voices" and was the best Hollywood dialect coach.note One might wonder why Bill Rebane was able to hire them for his B-Movie — the simple reason was that all of those actors were born-and-bred Wisconsinites who knew Rebane very well, and used the film as a way to visit their families.
That said, it was one of the top grossing films of 1975. With a budget of $300,000, the film has grossed over $15 million in domestic box office since its release.
Bill Rebane has decided to turn The Giant Spider Invasion into a stage musical, and why not? He hopes it'll have legs.
- Actor on Board: Robert Easton, who played Dan Kester, also co-wrote the script. Apparently it had a very serious tone until he added jokes.
- Actually, I Am Him: In a painfully unfunny bit of humor, Dr. Vance is surprised to learn that Dr. Langer is of the feminine persuasion.
- Actor Allusion: One of Alan Hale's first lines as the sheriff is "Hey, little buddy!"
- The Alcoholic: Ev evidently subsists entirely upon liquor and bitterness.
- Aliens in Cardiff: We can only assume the alien spiders didn't land in Wisconsin on purpose.
- Artistic License – Biology: Spiders do not actually eat their victims, especially not swallowing them whole. Instead, they drain their victims dry. Then again, these are alien spiders.
- Artistic License – Space: A black hole in a meteor lets the spiders into our dimension! Our only hope is to bombard it with science! Believe it or not, not only would a black hole probably not be a portal to the spider dimension, it would just kinda compress everything within the local area, which would be dangerous enough. And you can't just feed it until it's full. A small black hole will dissipate after time, however, as micro-black holes do in colliders, unable to sustain themselves.note
- Asshole Victim:
- Dan is an adulterer, hits on his underage sister-in-law, and verbally abuses his family. He becomes one of the spider's victims.
- Cousin Billy also sees little problem with coming on to Dan's younger sister-in-law. He becomes one of the first victims of the spiders.
- As the Good Book Says...: Though he plays no point in the plot besides an excuse for Dan Kester to visit a whore, the hellfire-flinging preacher is a recurring character who even gets to rant over the closing credits.
- Attack of the Town Festival: The titular menace attacks during the town festival and kills a bunch of people, which prompts the town to whip itself into a bloodthirsty frenzy and go after the spider... getting even more people killed.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: After the sheriff tells a caller to use the phone book to call someone else, he looks directly into the camera and says, "That's funny. I wonder why she hung up on me?"
- Covers Always Lie: Applies to movie posters too: The poster promises at least two giant spiders attacking what seems to be a reasonably sized city, not one giant spider wandering through redneck country.
- Fanservice: Gratuitous shots of Ev and Terry in their undergarments. Terry even gets a topless scene in the un-MST'd film. Helga has a scene early with a see-through robe and no bra; unfortunately, it also coincides with...
- Fan Disservice: We also get to see gratuitous shots of Dan Kester in his dirty, stained long underwear. Also, safe to say no one wanted to see Alan Hale Jr. with the top buttons of his shirt undone.
- Giant Spider: The titular monster is a fur-covered Volkswagen pretending to be a giant spider.
- Glowing Eyes of Doom: The giant spider's eyes are actually the taillights of the Volkswagen from which it's built.
- I Ate WHAT?!: When Ev realizes an alien spider got blended into her Bloody Mary, she freaks out and spits the drink everywhere.
- I Need a Freaking Drink: Ev justifies hittin' the booze again by saying it's the only way she can cope with the filthy state of her home. Because obviously cleaning is too much to expect.
- Jerkass: Dan Kester. Terry remarks that he drove Ev to drink. Probably the only person in the movie who actually likes him is the town hooker, and that's likely because he's a frequent customer.
- Left Hanging: The two scientists manage to bumble their way into killing the giant spider using science. As it melts into goo, they wonder if this will happen again. Of course the answer is it will, since all of the tiny spiders are still out there, and presumably have the power to grow big as well, and they never actually closed the wormhole that brought them here either. Also, the town is still in a state of anarchy and outrage, especially now that the sheriff is dead, not that he was all that great at keeping the peace anyway.
- Left Your Lifesaver Behind: Doctor Vance forgets the flares and needs to run back to the car and get them.
- Male Gaze: We're treated to a zoom-in on Terry's cleavage when she talks about how she's an adult, and another when the camera zooms in on her panty-clad butt for no reason after she shoos Billy out the door in the un-MST'd version.
- MockGuffin: The diamonds found in the geodes that the spiders come out of. Ev and Dan Kester think that the diamonds will make them rich. Cousin Billy says that they aren't worth much; but then again he also shows interest, implying that he might have been lying about their true value. In any case, they don't factor into the plot other than having Dan go out and gather more of them to get killed by the mother spider.
- Mrs. Robinson: Ev not-so-subtly hits on Dave, saying if she were younger, she'd "jump" him. Judging by the tone of her voice and seductive posture, it's not a prerequisite anyway.
- Nuclear Mutant: A couple of early scenes with Drs. Vance and Langer imply that radiation causes the spiders' abnormal size, since the meteor crash coincided with (and probably caused) the disappearance of a B-52 carrying a nuclear weapon. On the other hand, this tidbit isn't mentioned after the first twenty minutes or so, which leads us to believe that these alien spiders naturally grow to huge sizes.
- Obfuscating Stupidity: The sheriff loves to be a Troll. He actually gets Dr. Vance to describe what the function of Geiger counters are, listening with false rapt attention. Dr. Langer stops Vance from making a complete fool of himself by stating the sheriff is aware of what radioactivity is.
- Our Wormholes Are Different: They're full of spiders, for one thing.
- Parrot Exposition: "What's that? Repeat what you say to provide exposition?"
- Preacher Man: There are brief moments when a local revival is shown, and the preacher's sermon also briefly plays right before the end credits.
- The '70s: And HOW. Especially disturbing when Alan Hale Jr. sports a mod haircut, making him look like Gertrude Stein.
- She's All Grown Up: After Ev gets eaten and Dan and Terry don't know or worry where she is, Kester remarks that maybe he should have married Terry, who quickly reminds him that she was only 11 at the time. Dan remarks she's not 11 anymore, while checking her out. She replies, along with a closeup on her cleavage:Terry: Now I'm 35-24-35.
- Shown Their Work: Small geodes aren't worth much. Baseball sized geodes value at most $10, usually as low as $4.
- Sole Survivor: Almost the entire Kester family gets killed. (And There Was Much Rejoicing) The only Kester who doesn't die is Terry (and there was even more rejoicing), and even then she sits the last third of the movie out due to being put into a coma (no rejoicing there).
- Spit Take: Ev's reaction when she finally does taste the Bloody Mary with a blended spider as a surprise ingredient.
- Stalling the Sip: In one of the film's nearly effective scenes, a tarantula sneaks into Ev's morning booze while she's blending it, creating a few tense seconds as she and Dan pass the spider-smoothie back and forth before Ev tastes it.
- Stealth Pun: Combined with Shout-Out. Vance asks Langer if "your local sheriff will support us," a gag on the western movie Support Your Local Sheriff.
- Take That!: The sheriff remarks that the spider "makes that shark from Jaws look like a goldfish!"
- Talking to Plants: Dr. Vance does this to his office plants.
- Technobabble: Whenever Vance and Langer try to figure out where the spiders are coming from.
- Too Dumb to Live: The Sheriff at the end of the movie runs out of bullets shooting fruitlessly at the spider. Instead of fleeing like a sensible person, he throws his gun at the spider... then pulls off his gun belt and tries whipping the spider with it. Two guesses what happens to him next, and the first one is replaced with "remember Too Dumb to Live is a death trope".
- Troll: The Sheriff seems to be one. He feigns ignorance on Geiger counters and is fully prepared (with an impish grin on his face) to listen to Dr. Vance explain radiation (and possibly all of physics) 'til Jenny tells him that the Sheriff is pulling his leg.
- We Have Forgotten the Phlebotinum: An excuse to have the heroes backtrack to discover some hatched geodes.