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Spider Baby

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Jack Hill, Bart Patton

65,000 USD


United States


Comedy, Horror, Sci-Fi

Music director
Ronald Stein

Jack Hill


Spider Baby movie poster

Release date

Initial release
December 24, 1967 (Corpus Christi)

Lon Chaney Jr.
Carol Ohmart
Quinn K. Redeker
Beverly Washburn
Jill Banner
Sid Haig

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The most gruesome horror ever shown!

Spider Baby is a 1967 black horror comedy film, written and directed by Jack Hill. It stars Lon Chaney, Jr. as Bruno, the chauffeur and caretaker of three orphaned siblings who suffer from "Merrye Syndrome", a genetic condition starting in early puberty that causes them to regress mentally, socially and physically. Carol Ohmart, Quinn Redeker, Beverly Washburn, Jill Banner, Sid Haig, Mary Mitchel, Karl Schanzer and Mantan Moreland also star.


Spider Baby movie scenes

The film was released to relative obscurity, but eventually achieved cult status and a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes aggregate review site.

Spider Baby movie scenes


Spider Baby movie scenes

Three children of the Merrye family live in a decaying rural mansion with their guardian and chauffeur, Bruno (Chaney). The children suffer from "Merrye Syndrome", a genetic affliction unique to members of their family, which causes them to mentally, socially and physically regress down the evolutionary ladder, starting in late childhood. Two distant relatives arrive with their lawyer and his secretary in order to examine and claim the property as rightful heirs. Bruno's shaky control over the children deteriorates; murder, chaos and insanity ensue.

Spider Baby movie scenes

The siblings, Ralph (Haig), Virginia (Banner) and Elizabeth (Washburn), are inbred, demented and dangerous. These overgrown children exhibit playful innocence mixed with brutality and feral madness. Virginia is known as "Spider Baby" because of her obsession with spiders. She stalks and eats bugs, moving with a strange and spider-like grace. She also enjoys trapping unsuspecting victims in her rope "web", "stinging" them to death using two butcher knives. After murdering an innocent delivery man (Moreland), Virginia cuts off one of his ears, which she keeps in a match box.

Spider Baby movie scenes

Ralph is a sexually advanced but mentally deficient simpleton who moves through the house via the dumb-waiter. Unable to speak, Ralph communicates with only grunts and leers. He becomes sexually aroused with the arrival of the two visiting women.

The mysterious Aunt Clara, Aunt Martha, and Uncle Ned, who have regressed even further than the Merrye siblings, live in the cellar. The skeleton of the family's dead father is kept in a bedroom and is kissed goodnight by Virginia.

Bruno, the children's sworn and loving protector, has been able to maintain control and keep the family secrets hidden. But when the snooping, greedy cousin Emily (Ohmart) and her brother Peter (Redeker) arrive to take possession of the property, the bizarre behavior of the Merrye clan is revealed.

Peter, Emily, their lawyer Schlocker (Schanzer) and his assistant Ann Morris (Mitchel) insist on staying at the house. Dinner is served after Ralph happily kills a cat for the main course. The revolting meal includes insects, mushrooms and a garden salad made of weeds.

Bruno leaves on an errand. Despite warning the children to "behave", events spiral downhill as the Merrye kids run merrily amok. Virginia and Elizabeth murder Schlocker and dump his body into the basement, where the demented beastly relatives apparently eat him. The basement dwellers are unleashed. Meanwhile, Emily models some black lingerie as Ralph peeks in. After being chased and then raped by Ralph, Emily becomes sexually aggressive and murderous.

Bruno returns and realizes that he has lost control of the children and of their secret unsavory lives. He lights a bundle of dynamite, blowing himself, the house and the children to bits. This seems to kill all carriers of "Merrye Syndrome".

Smug surviving cousin Peter, who managed to escape the house with Ann, is recounting the story as the movie comes to a close. Addressing the audience, he explains that, as the sole remaining heir, he inherited the Merryes' vast family fortune, married Ann and wrote a book on the strange "Merrye Syndrome" phenomenon. He adds that his particular branch of the family was distant enough to be immune to the syndrome. However, the camera cuts to Peter's young daughter, who eerily resembles Virginia, admiring a spider in its web.

Stage adaptations

A musical version of Spider Baby played small community theaters, looking for a wider audience. It opened at the Empty Space theater in Bakersfield, California, on Halloween 2004. In October 2007, it opened in Brookings, Oregon at the local Grange Hall, and in Orlando, Florida at the Black Orchid Theater.

In 2009, the musical toured with stops in Fresno, Los Angeles, Bakersfield, Tehachapi and San Francisco. A 2010 tour a multi-city tour had stops in Las Vegas, Nevada; Toronto, Ontario; and Los Angeles.

In 2012 it played in San Diego, California at the 10th Avenue Arts Centre as part of Gamercon and Terror at the 10th, respectively.

The soundtrack for the musical version was the final project at Buck Owens' recording studio in Bakersfield.

In music

The film's theme song has been covered at least twice: By the band Fantômas on their film-score covers album The Director's Cut, and by crossover thrash band The Accüsed on 1988's Martha Splatterhead's Maddest Stories Ever Told as "The Maddest Story Ever Told."


In 2007, independent film producer Tony DiDio began preparing a remake of the film, featuring original director Hill as executive producer, and Jeff Broadstreet as director.

Broadstreet stated in an interview, "We’re going to stick very closely to the basic story of the original film, and at the same time dig deeper into the backstory of the inbred Merrye family". The new script by Robert Valding "expands on the themes of unconditional love, and also the story elements of cannibalism and the mutant relatives in the basement".

The film was expected to have a budget of $3–5 million and was set for release in 2008 but stalled in production.

Official website

In 2009, Spider Baby writer/director Hill and END Films launched the "official Spider Baby website," featuring historical information about the film, director/cast biographies, video clips and photo galleries.

Preservation and archival status

In 2012, the film was preserved by the Academy Film Archive, using the original camera negative. A new fine grain master positive, new duplicate negative and new prints were created, as well as analog and digital soundtrack masters.

DVD release

In 1999, a DVD of the film's original laserdisc transfer was released, including a cast and crew reunion and a commentary track by Hill. In 2007, Dark Sky Films released a version featuring Hill's director's cut, a new commentary with co-star Haig and multiple documentaries on the making of the film.

In 2015, British home video distributor Arrow Films released a director-approved Blu-ray/DVD combo special edition of the film.


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