25 November 2004 | time_waster
Creepy, funny, irregular, occasionally brilliant
At one point in this movie, Virginia (Jill Banner), the "Spider Baby" of the title, grabs a spider from the table and pops it into her mouth. Her sister Elizabeth (Beverly Washburn) quips, "Spiders don't eat spiders."
"Cannibal spiders do," retorts Virginia, and this scene sums up everything good about Spider Baby: twisted, funny, and possessing an internal logic that pretty much justifies anything it does, no matter how preposterous.
Originally funded by two real estate developers and locked away for years after a bankruptcy filing, Spider Baby hit the drive-in circuit, made its modest sum of money, and faded away--almost. Somewhere down the line, it developed a cult status despite only being available on low-quality, grainy video. It is now available on DVD in a restored cut that reveals strikingly beautiful black-and-white cinematography. Low-budget it may be, but it's gorgeous to look at.
Lon Chaney Jr. stars as a butler taking care of his deceased employer's children (Washburn, Banner and Sid Haig). The siblings suffer from a hereditary disease that leaves them intellectually childlike but also makes them casual murderers, a problem compounded when distant cousins (Quinn Redeker and the stunning Carol Ohmart) arrive with designs on taking over the estate. The plot is simple and the movie is short (only 81 minutes), but it wastes no time and delivers plenty of creepy thrills, among them cannibalism, implied necrophilia, and midnight chases through the woods.
The acting is a pleasant surprise as well. The entire cast does a convincing job of bringing these oddball characters to life. There are a few missteps here and there: a couple of moments, for instance, when Redeker addresses the audience directly, and it's hard to know if the humor is intentional or not. Overall, however, the quality of each performance is pretty high. Especially touching is a scene where Chaney's character realizes there will be no good end to the situation, and his obvious affection for these mad but dangerous children actually brings a tear to the eye.
Well worth checking out if you're into horror, grim humor, or very, very odd movies.