Let’s admit it: A giant spider provides much more of a chill than the thought of Godzilla or even King Kong stomping through towns and buildings. That’s because the thought of being chased by a giant, hairy spider and being chewed up by one is the worst possible nightmare. But are we willing to see something like that on the big screen again, perhaps in a campy way? With the very indie production of “Big Ass Spider!” out, there seems to be room for bringing back the possibilities of what kind of havoc a giant spider can wreak.
The question is whether there’s anything really new that can be brought to the giant spider genre. This film seems more of a campy nod to what we’ve seen before while still being done with a straight face. In fact, it’s falling in line with other films coming out that go back to the worst possible concepts for horror while injecting them with some level of believability. All you need to see is the unbelievable seriousness behind TV’s “Sharknado” to see what kind of renaissance these films are going through.
Remember that old phrase “It’s so bad, it’s good?” It seems that the passing of time has made the old horror schlock fests of the 1950s become more entertaining than anything else in the horror genre. With Twitter handy to share instant feelings about this trend, people get some catharsis releasing all that pent up sarcasm out of their system.
You could say Twitter would be a great adjunct to “Big Ass Spider!” if not for the fact that this is a theatrical movie. It a sign that we might be willing to see big screen takes about oversized spiders and other creatures tearing metropolises apart. After all, we have “Godzilla” being rebooted soon, and this might be a prelude to more.
Back when the first movie about a giant spider hit theaters (“Tarantula” in 1955), it was a definite allegory for the menaces of the Cold War. All those films about invaders from our own backyard and outer space were a part of the zeitgeist of America at the time that somehow managed to bring a little more plausibility by the 1970s. In that decade, we started seeing insect invasion movies with the insects in their real size. Yet, they still managed to do just as much or more damage working in droves.
A memorable example from the 1970s was “Kingdom of the Spiders”, which could arguably be a concept as plausible as Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds.” This could be the eeriest spider movie ever made when you consider the offending tarantulas wrapped their victims in giant webs. Plus, seeing William Shatner doing his Shatnerisms with tarantulas crawling all over him is still worth a catch in its rare airings.
After 9/11, Hollywood dipped their toe back into doing a giant spider movie with “Eight Legged Freaks”, despite being a comedy. It was notable, though, that movies about invaders were coming back to help us cope with growing fears about outside threats. “Big Ass Spider!” mixes that up by making their spider an alien spider to take away any lame explanation about one of Earth’s arachnids growing abnormally large.
If this film becomes a cult favorite, you’ll be seeing plenty more giant insect movies with deliberately sub-par production values for the added entertainment value. A generation that grew up with “Mystery Science Theater 3000” has turned these films into an industry that are done deliberately bad for a business reason when they don’t have to be.
Yes, had someone gone back in time to give a digital video camera with all its professional features to someone like Ed Wood, the phrase “Z-grade horror film” wouldn’t have ever existed.