Spider Baby (1967)

This movie is creepy and weird. There’s really not much of the whole Lolita thing going, despite what the film poster says. Instead, this movie is about a family suffering from a disease that causes mental degeneration to the point they become animalistic.

A chauffeur, played by Lon Chaney, takes care of three kids (and their feral aunts and uncles locked in a secret basement). Unfortunately the distant side of the family shows up with a lawyer to claim a large inheritance since no one can find a legal guardian who is old enough. What follows is completely ludicrous, as two of the kids decide they don’t want to leave the chauffeur (the third, Ralph, is nearly feral and about to join his aunts and uncles in the basement), so they decide to play ‘Spider’ and kill the flies. Guess who are the flies. In the end, only the one nice cousin survives and gets the inheritance, along with the lawyer’s hot secretary.

Sure, the movie is goofy, but it’s got some entertaining moments, especially concerning playing Spider, where Virginia ties up people and then hacks at them with knives. The biggest highlight for me is who is in it though; Lon Chaney represents the old school going back to the 1930s, while the near feral Ralph is played by Sid Haig, who horror fans might know better as Captain Spaulding from Rob Zombie’s films or as that monk-like guy I talked about in Galaxy of Terror. It’s nearly a century of horror combined in a 1960s cheapo exploitative drive-in horror.

Ralph’s appearance also reminds me of Schlitzie from Freaks, and both films have some similarities: both feature people with disabilities having to deal with outsiders trying to exploit them in some fashion. The disabled characters are portrayed as more “heroic” in Freaks than they are in Spider Baby, definitely, but there is a moral ambiguity to both films as not necessarily good people take out bad ones. Plus watching a little girl hack someone to death with knives is always entertaining.

If you really want to see it but don’t want to watch a movie, there’s a stage musical! God bless the theater and actors in need of work.

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