The Horror Honeys: So Shocking It Will Sliver Your Liver!

So Shocking It Will Sliver Your Liver!

A Hexmas Traditions Review from Revenge Honey Linnie

Spider Baby or, The Maddest Story Ever Told (1967)

"Just because something isn't good... doesn't mean it's bad."

If you've had the pleasure of seeing Jack Hill's Spider Baby, you can probably guess why it's my second favorite horror movie of all time...

But it's more than just the stabby-stabbiness of the movie in general: Spider Baby is one of those horror films that is filled to the brim with originality, weirdness, black and white gore, and some of the most fantastic characters you'll ever meet. So walk with me through the glorious madness that is Spider Baby.

The Story: The Merrye siblings are... different. Elizabeth, Virginia, and Ralph all suffer from a genetic disease that causes them to regress to a state of primal dementia. Beginning at age 10, the illness starts to kick in and only gets worse as they get older, until they are left as nothing but giant, aggressive, murderous beings with the minds of toddlers. Ralph suffers the worst, while the girls are only just entering the earliest phases of the disease. After their father's death, the kids are left in the devoted care of their loving chauffeur, Bruno. But even Bruno can't protect them when greedy distant relatives arrive with the intention of kicking the kids out of their family home. The question is... just who will survive a night in the Merrye parlor?

I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I have a raging girl crush on Virginia Merrye (Jill Banner). For a film that isn't terribly well-known, I have Spider Baby memorabilia all over my room, including the poster to the left, and paintings of Virginia and Ralph (played by genre legend Sid Haig in his first screen performance). On the surface, there is nothing likable about Ralph, Virginia, and Elizabeth (Beverly Washburn), other than their love for each other and the sheer giddy joy they feel when they murder. And maybe that is precisely why I love them. Because of their illness, they have no idea that what they do is wrong; only that Bruno tells them it is. Their biggest fear is only that Bruno won't love them anymore. So what would YOU do if right and wrong didn't even exist in your mind?

Spider Baby was also one of the last on-screen performances of Lon Chaney Jr. as Bruno. I absolutely adore Bruno, because he's obviously the moral center of the film, but his moral center revolves squarely around protecting the kids. His is the character with the most layers, as even when he strives to do the right thing, he is doing the right thing in relation to living within the Merrye's world. As the sworn protector of giant children who murder and taunt and play killing games for fun, "the right thing" becomes relative. You can see this dichotomy in the stressed furrow of Chaney's glorious eyebrows. He adores the Merrye family with all his heart (and you eventually discover that a few more of the Merrye clan reside within the family home), and Bruno will make the painfully difficult decisions to protect them. No matter what.

I am also a massive fan of Sid Haig in this movie. As we see him now, the word "adorable" isn't the first to spring to mind (not my mind anyway). But I find Haig absolutely adorable as Ralph. He is the most far-gone of the siblings, therefor, the most childlike, and he gives a brilliant performance. All awkward long legs and goofy smiles, you can't help but love Ralph, even when he's creeping on his distant cousin as she flounces around her room in a nighty.

I also believe that Virginia and Elizabeth should be better known in the annals of women in horror. Even with their illness, the sisters are powerful, funny, protective, brave, and outside of their allegiance to Bruno and each other, completely incapable of being manipulated. I love watching them size up their greedy cousins who, even with their limited world view, they absolutely don't trust. Virginia especially is sexually dynamic, and I am CRAZY for her continued use of knives as extensions of her hands when she plays, "spider." Traditionally in horror films, men use knives as proof of their masculinity. The bigger the knife, the better. But in Virginia's able hands, the knives prove that even a tiny girl can wield considerable power over those who threaten her. Virginia is the spider baby of the title, and she's a dangerous predator to be sure.

There is so much to love about Spider Baby, from the wonderfully kitsch opening titles (below) to the layered characterization, that it has become a favorite all-year-round. But this one definitely get's a little extra love at Hexmas!

Revenge Honey Rating: 5 Mutated Cannibal Children out of 5