Spider Baby

cast: Lon Chaney Jr, Carol Ohmart, Jill Banner, Beverly Washburn, and Sid Haig

writer and director: Jack Hill

81 minutes (unrated) 1964
Image DVD Region 2 VHS retail

RATING: 9/10
reviewed by Amy C. Adair

“…victims of Merrye Syndrome may even regress beyond the prenatal level,
reverting to a pre-human condition of savagery and cannibalism.”

From the onslaught of its bizarre theme song by Lon Chaney Jr, Spider Baby (aka: Cannibal Orgy; The Maddest Story Ever Told; The Liver Eaters, re-released 1996) weirds audiences the world over. It is the story of the Merrye family who has a strange hereditary disease, which makes them, from the age of 10, mature backwards. When they get to a certain point, they revert to a pre-human state and cannot help themselves from acts such as murder and cannibalism. This movie is definitely low budget, but still scares.
Seventeen-year-old Jill Banner’s portrayal of Virginia is one of the creepiest things about this movie, along with her sister Elizabeth (Beverly Washburn) and her large, bald, and rapidly decaying brother, Ralph (Sid Haig). Virginia lures unsuspecting people into her ‘web’ for the purpose of playing ‘spider’ with them (in one spider scene, she chops off a mailman’s ear with one of her knives). Lon Chaney Jr plays the Merrye children’s long-suffering caretaker and chauffer. When this creepy cast of characters gets word that a long-lost relative wants to come for a visit, they try to give some semblance of normalcy, but to no avail. The results of this visit may prove deadly for the interlopers.
Aside from slightly cheesy sets and not-so-special effects, this movie is a freak show lover’s dream. It’s weird, wild, and hard to look away from.
DVD Extras: audio commentary by Jack Hill, newly discovered eight minutes of footage, footage from the cast and crew reunion at the Nuart Theater in Los Angeles, and director and cast filmographies.