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Francis Ford Coppola
A frustrated and talentless artist finds acclaim for a plaster covered dead cat that is mistaken as a skillful statuette. Soon the desire for more praise leads to an increasingly deadly series of works.
In a dilapidated rural mansion, the last generation of the degenerate, inbred Merrye family lives with the inherited curse of a disease that causes them to mentally regress from the age of 10 or so on as they physically develop. The family chauffeur looks out for them and covers up their indiscretions. Trouble comes when greedy distant relatives and their lawyer arrive to dispossess the family of its home. Written by
D.A. Kellough <firstname.lastname@example.org>
From the moment the beginning credits role, you know that you're going to be in for one mental ride! The opening credits themselves are captivating due to the music and the voice over that plays over them, and the film never loses this eerie verve that it creates with the credits. Spider Baby is a captivating and fascinating trek through mental illness from beginning to end and it's quality certainly isn't justified by it's reputation. It's amazing how great and influential films such as this one can become lost and not often spoken of, while other, far lesser films, have gone on to meet wide acclaim. The influence that this film has had can be felt on many films, but most obviously the 70's exploitation classic - The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. The film has the added title 'The Maddest Story Ever Told', and while that may not quite be the case - this is indeed one very demented tale.
The story follows a family of inbreeds that have been afflicted by a genetic disorder known as 'Merrye syndrome', named after the family in which the disorder developed. This malady causes it's victims to enter a state of age regression that starts at the age of ten and continues throughout the remainder of the person's life, rendering them with the intelligence of a child. The final generation of the family has been entrusted to the care of the family chauffeur (Lon Chaney Jnr), and all is well for these odd people until a greedy branch of the family decides that they want to relieve the family of it's home. Mental illness has always, and will always be, a fascinating subject for horror movies as it probes into the unknown and Spider Baby makes best use of that fact.
The film works because it's extremely macabre throughout, and although we hardly see any gore at all - we always know that something bad is just around the corner, and the film features many nasty happenings, from one of the "children" playing 'spider'; a game which involves her wrapping her victim up in rope and proceeding to 'sting' them with a pair of kitchen knives, to the rotted corpse of the family father still lying in it's bed. The cast of characters are superbly odd, and this helps to create the morbid atmosphere that the film revels in. The two girls are the central focus of the film, and they make for two deliciously creepy leads. Their childlike tendencies make them macabre in a way that few horror villains have ever captured. Lon Chaney Jnr's chauffeur is another great piece of characterisation, which is portrayed by way of a great performance. He brings just the right amount of sorrow and love to his character, and provides the backbone of the movie. The black humour is rife within the film and this, and the setting - a rickety old farmhouse - only further helps to instill the morbidity into the viewer's mind. All in all; a very good and underrated horror movie that any and all horror fans would do well to catch if given the chance!
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