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August 7, 2012

The Mike's Top 50 Horror Movies Countdown: #20 - Spider Baby

Previously on the Countdown: Number 50 - Happy Birthday to Me  Number 49 - Prince of Darkness  Number 48 - House on Haunted Hill  Number 47 - The Monster Squad  Number 46 - Hellraiser  Number 45 - The Fog  Number 44 - Creature From the Black Lagoon  Number 43 - Zombie  Number 42 - Tales from the Crypt  Number 41 - Bubba Ho-Tep  Number 40 - Phantom of the Paradise  Number 39 - Dog Soldiers Number 38 - Pontypool  Number 37 - Dark Water  Number 36 - Army of Darkness Number 35 - The Legend of Hell House  Number 34 - Poltergeist  Number 33 - The Abominable Dr. Phibes  Number 32 - The Phantom of the Opera  Number 31 - The House of the Devil   Number 30 - Evil Dead II  Number 29 - Dead of Night  Number 28 - Carnival of Souls  Number 27 - Nosferatu  Number 26 - Candyman  Number 25 - The Texas Chain Saw Massacre  Number 24 - Horror of Dracula  Number 23 - The Wicker Man  Number 22 - Suspiria  Number 21 - The Omen
Spider Baby or, The Maddest Story Ever Told
(1968, Dir. by Jack Hill.)
Why It's Here:
If The Addams Family were more murderous and cannibalistic, it would look a lot like Spider Baby.  Jack Hill's macabre tale of a reclusive family of oddities lives on as one of the least known treasures in horror history.  With a deeply sinister sense of humor and a fond farewell of a performance from horror icon Lon Chaney, Jr, the film covers plenty of ground.  But it always comes back to a place that is dark and fun, a place that perfectly fits with what I love about horror.

The Moment That Changes Everything:
The opening scene, in which comedian Mantan Moreland plays a messenger that pulls what I like to call a "Scatman Crothers", sets up the murderous side of the film perfectly.  When it's paired with later events - like a teary eyed speech from the great Mr. Chaney - it reminds us how an unpredictable a film like this can be.

It Makes a Great Double Feature With:
The film that I'd most like to pair up with Spider Baby (based on historical connections) is coming up later on this list, so I need to think a little deeper tonight.  Really, Spider Baby is one of those films that could slide into different genres, playing well against a horror comedy like Ivan Reitman's Cannibal Girls or a sleazy tale of evil like The Hills Have Eyes.  I feel that it's a slight injustice to compare the film to these examples - both are much less interesting than Spider Baby - but it's hard to nail down a place for Spider Baby when it covers so much ground as a genre-bending film.  In fact, the best thing to play alongside Spider Baby - if you're up for a little music - would be The Rocky Horror Picture Show.  Both films bring the same frantic picture of a "family" gone bad.

What It Means To Me:
Spider Baby reminds me why I'm always looking for more great horror.  This is a film that I'd never heard of until recent years, and it may have slipped through the cracks if circumstances were a little different.  There has been a lot of horror made in the century, and if you don't keep looking for the good stuff you may miss out on something great.  To me, Spider Baby is dedicated to all those crazy horror buffs out there. Crazy folks like me, who won't rest until they've uncovered all the great horror they can find.

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