Spider Baby Reviews
A strange hillbilly horror film that moves along at a nice measured pace, slowly revealing the oddball nature of the Merrye family and why they live in such remote seclusion.
Well worth a look.
Lon Chaney Jr. headlines as Bruno, the caretaker of the infamous Merrye mansion, where, rumor has it, deadly secrets hide and murder runs amok. As this is a low-budget shocker, the rumors are true: the Merrye family carries an unfortunate genetic sequence that causes their brains to decompose around the age of ten, after which they begin to morph into murderous monsters who, when not killing, act like tiny tots. Bruno, strange but sweet, is in charge of caring for the long-dead Merrye father's children, Virginia (Jill Banner), Elizabeth (Beverly Washburn), and Ralph (Sid Haig), all of whom sharing an infantile mental state combined with Leatherface madness.
Bruno wisely likes to keep them locked up to ensure that they don't harm the public, but his safety net is suddenly ripped open when the mailman (whom Virginia stabs to death) brings news that distant cousins, Emily (Carol Ohmart) and Peter (Quinn K. Redeker), are planning on stopping by to collect any money left over in the family estate. Unsuspecting and blinded by their own greed, the guests invite themselves to stay the night, leading to a ghastly sequence of events set to the darkness of the witching hour.
"Spider Baby" is above average in terms of premise and execution - it is vaguely astute (it appears to know full well just how ridiculous that Chaney "sings" the song that hovers above the opening credits) and attempts to be as off-kilter as a horror comedy can be - but I cannot say that it is a completely successful film. As is the case with most of Hill's films ("Coffy," "Switchblade Sisters"), discerning drollery is not as prevalent as it thinks it is; it remains slight as it attempts to jump to the high peaks of Russ Meyer levity. But Chaney is a lovable bear, and the actors portraying his quasi-adopted children are similarly genially peculiar. "Spider Baby" is as good as someone seeking a low-budget horror comedy might expect it to be; let's just hope expectations are low and experience enhancing supplements are involved.
I love the bizarreness in this B-movie, the plot was simply shockingly good (pun intended), I loved the campiness and the tongue in cheek humour. The underlying themes were so dark and taboo, but they were handled in such way that left you amused. Jack Hill was a genius.
Lon Chaney Jr gave one of his most memorable late performances as Bruno, their guardian and protector, who has managed to cover up their crimes until two distant relatives lay claim to their house. When they insist on moving in, Bruno has his fingers crossed that the children will behave towards their guests.
Jack Hill's first solo feature is a film which features an interesting twist on the psychotic killer theme, a somewhat original idea for it's time and an excellent (but largely unknown), cast. It's an entertaining piece of exploitation cinema, in which if given the budget and a better production this would have been a lot better than what it is.
Jill Banner's great as the titular character and Lon Chaney Jr manages to squeeze genuine pathos out of his role. The Arrow Blu looks really nice too.