Kiss of the Tarantula

Or, Charlotte's Web II: Arachnid Vengeance Force
★★
☆☆☆☆
Released: 
1976
Director: 
Chris Munger
Starring: 
Suzanna Ling, Eric Mason, Herman Wallner, Linda Spatz
The Setup: 
Girl gets revenge on those who annoy her by siccing her furry friends on them.
Discussion: 

I was looking forward to this movie, but the original disc got lost in the mail, during which I time I watched Willard as a substitute. They are definitely of a class, as they both concern misfits who befriend vermin and use them to deal vengeance against their enemies. I guess these stories are about kids finding their power, and how that power derives from sources that other people consider disgusting, so it's only the loser kids who open themselves up to them. They are essentially turning their very loserhood into their power. Wow.

We open with a shot of the adult Susan, then quickly flash back to when she was about eight and was looking at a spider in the yard. Her mom catches her and kills the spider, then shakes the living shit out of her [I'm kicking myself for not getting a screen grab of her goofy face and screwy eyeballs post-shake], and tells her not to play with those icky spiders. A while later Susan is introducing a spider to her dolly, when Mom catches and castigates her again. Mom then runs downstairs to dad, who is busy embalming a body! Dad's a mortician and they live in a mausoleum with a coffin showplace on the first floor. He also stands a full foot and a half taller than mom. Apparently whatever charm mom might have seen in this situation when she married the dude has faded, and now she hates him, hates the place, and doesn't seem that keen on her daughter. Who she does like, however, is her husband's brother Walter, the local sheriff, who stops over the first time in his snug navy blue police uniform and lays atop mom and smooches her right upstairs from dad. And guess what—they're planning on killing dad! Well, not is Susan has anything to say about it.

Mom gets all fed up, calls Walter and tells him she can't stand it and wants to kill dad NOW, which Susan overhears. She goes down and grabs a tarantula out of a basement crawlspace, and places it on mom. It crawls all over her sleeping form a while, a long while, then she wakes up, sees it, and has a heart attack. Ding dong, the mom is dead, and now Susan has daddy alllll to herself, which, it seems, is how she likes it.

Okay, now we return to the present, in which Susan is supposedly in high school or college although she and her classmates are clearly 29. She lives with her dad, who seems permanently on the verge of getting romantic with his daughter, which it doesn't seem like she would mind at all. And neither would I—Dad's a seven-foot hunk of sensitive mustachioed mortician. His occupation, it seems, is the reason that Susan has no friends, as apparently everyone thinks it's just too creepy. This is ludicrous, and rendered even more so by the fact that Susan is stunningly beautiful. But anyway, those are the parameters. But what of Uncle Walter? He clearly would like to get a piece of Susan's incestuous pie, and is not very unclear about that. Walter's not too bad either, although I would have preferred it if he had continued to wear his cop uniform, rather than switching to regular old suits and ties. Dad's going out of town [mortician conference?] and Uncle Walt lets her know that if there's… anything… she needs while he's gone… Like a backrub, perhaps? A hot-oil massage? She does look a little tense.

SPOILERS > > >
Anyway, while dad's away, Susan goes upstairs and plays with her dolls [this is an adult woman we're talking about] and lets a tarantula crawl on her belly. In the trailer, there is a little additional footage I assume got cut, which shows the tarantula crawling down over her skirt-covered mons veneris. I guess if you can't have your big, hairy daddy, you might turn to a big, hairy spider. So it's Halloween, and these goons and their gals come by to steal a coffin [apparently the word that dad is out of town has spread through the community like wildfire], cause that would be, like, sweet. They break in, but Susan catches them. They are threatening to her, and end up down his her basement / spider sanctuary, where we have seen her gently caressing her spider pals earlier. One of the guys kills one of the spiders, making Susan very angry. She freaks, and they repair to the drive-in. Well so does Susan, and she's brought a cookie-tin full of her furry friends. So there are two couples who are making out in the car when Susan sneaks up, opens the door, and loads the car up with her arachnid allies. They crawl all over the necking couples—for like five minutes. This movie hails from before a time when filmmakers had discovered editing. Anyway, eventually one of the women sees a spider and freaks. This movie, like Willard, runs with the conceit that when you see a spider or rat the most common response is to begin screaming at the top of your lungs as through you are in fact on fire. No one just says "Huh, tarantula," and NO ONE seems to have gotten the news that the little beasties are not poisonous. To it's credit, the movie recognizes this, and no one is killed by a spider bite. However, this means they have to die in increasingly ridiculous ways related to the spiders. For example, you may not have realized how easy it might be for you to get your throat slit on the broken glass of a car window that has been kicked out. I really can't believe there aren't federally-mandated warning stickers on those things. What about the children? Another fellow discovers the perils of parking too close to those speaker-poles at the drive-in, as his neck is crushed by the top of his door. Sadly, an all-too-common fate. The other guy dies somehow, and one of the women is traumatized into catatonia. Then apparently Susan opens her cookie tin and all the tarantula's dutifully hop back in, because the police [led by Uncle Walt] don't find anything incriminating the next day.

Well not only is Uncle Walt in charge of the case, but since dad's the town mortician, the bodies are brought to Susan's house! She sure is at the center of the community. She buries the spider the goon killed with said goon, in one of her vengeful jags. Swinging back into her remorseful side [she alternates between the two] she goes to visit the catatonic girl in the hospital, saying she's sorry and she didn't mean to hurt them, which I can't but think she's being a tad bit disingenuous about. Anyway, she's overheard by visiting vixen Nancy, who promptly goes to the other dude who was involved in the spider-killing but was not at the drive-in [none of these characters are really introduced, they just show up and start doing their thing], and he promises to get to the bottom of it. He follows her through the woods for MINUTES [certain sequences here are extended as long as humanly possible—feel free to fast-forward] and asks her out. Susan apparently suspects nothing odd about one of the guys who previously tormented her suddenly being all romantic, so she accepts.

He takes her—to the drive in! She's uncomfortable, but he tries to get some play. Failing that, he starts to interrogate her about what happened to his friends. Failing that, he tries once more to get poon. In here Susan has told him that she likes happy endings and things fresh and new. I'm sure the guy was glad to hear about the 'happy endings' part. But he doesn't get one as she eventually storms off. That Sunday he has to work, which apparently involves him climbing in a narrow little vent in an empty warehouse for some undefined reason. Now apparently Susan has been apprised of his unscheduled weekend work schedule, as she shows up and dumps a bunch of tarantulas in the vent with him. But this time Uncle Walter finds a fuzzy spider leg on his corpse. He keeps it to himself.

Now my favorite part! The catatonic girl from the original attack has finally started to come to, embrace life, and all-round snap out of it. Soon she'll be able to talk, and then she can spill the whole beans about what happened that fateful night! She gets a nice bouquet of flowers, but when she leans in close to breathe their delicate floral essence she sees a spider [a little one this time] amongst them—AND MENTALLY SNAPS!!! She has now been driven permanently over the brink of sanity! Okay, people mentally snapping is pretty much sure-fire entertainment under any circumstances, but when you add the sheen of a vengeful weirdo DRIVING someone to psychological collapse, you've got an A+ from me. Okay, say buh-bye tarantulas, because from here on out the story is pretty much all incest, all the time.

Now if you were Uncle Walt and had begun to collect hard evidence that your niece was behind the mysterious rash of killings going on about town, you might alert the law [oh wait, in this case you ARE the law], or, alternately, you might use it as a way to leverage your way into her virginal womanhood. Uncle Walt chooses the latter option, holding Susan uncomfortably close and telling her "We're family… we have to take care of each other." Unfortunately this whole thing is witnessed by the peeping Nancy, necessitating a chase—still incredibly long while fast-forwarding at 8X speed—and then Walt kills her! She is found in the morning, face-down in a puddle, the old black hobo. Pretty much every town has an old black hobo, right?

So naturally Nancy's corpse is brought to Susan's house, and is downstairs when Uncle Walt stops by to finally have his way with Susan. He comes in and tells her that he killed Nancy, so it's all covered up, and he did it for her, and at last they can finally be together. I don't know what this dude's issue is, as he has gotten nothing but static from Susan since day one, but still he persists. He's about to force her when she shoves him down the stairs and paralyzes him from the waist down! Well, I guess THAT sausage is going to stay resolutely un-hidden. He says "Help me!" and she calmly says "No." Then we get much more of an education in the mechanics of moving dead bodies than we ever wanted, as Susan removes Nancy's body, puts the still-alive Uncle Walt under it, and arranges Nancy on top of him—seemingly in REAL TIME. Shit goes on FOR EVER. Amazingly, a full-sized male corpse can fit right under another corpse in a coffin without anyone being able to tell. That's just inefficient use of space. Anyway, presumably Uncle Walter is buried alive the next day. The last thing that happens is Dad comes home, finds Susan happily reading in bed, and says a tender goodnight to her. The end!
< < < SPOILERS END

It totally blew, but I nevertheless kind of enjoyed it. I just liked the weirdness of it all and all the various intrigues and sick perverted secrets. Plus teen revenge is always compelling, and tarantulas are kind of cool, too. I think the subtext is that, well, it's called Kiss of the Tarantula, but the only real kissing that goes on is with Uncle Walt, who is sort of a metaphorical creepy spider… The other thing is that it's a kind of unspoken thing that who Susan really wants to be with is her Dad, and she does kill her mom right off in the classic Elektra complex. There is nothing but tenderness and love between her and her big dad, and at the end she does end up with him. It's all pretty tepid, which I don't mind, but the problem was that, as I mentioned, there is 45 minutes of story here stretched to feature-length—and that is even with having the courtesy to end at 80 minutes. Certain scenes like the chases or anything in which spiders are crawling on someone, just go on and on. So fast-forwarding is strongly advised.

On the disc is a trailer for this film, which features an amusingly ominous voice-over, as well as amusing trailers for Don't Open the Door, the B&W City of the Dead, and Horrors of the Black Museum, which, we are told, is presented in hypno-vision, which will make you actually experience what you see on screen. This trailer is introduced by this bespectacled 50s doctor who describes the revolutionary process, hooks up a lovely assistant to a machine, then is never seen again! It's a good little collection of grindhouse trailers, and if you do end up renting this disc, definitely be sure to check them out.

Should you watch it: 

Totally unnecessary, but if it sounds amusing to you, go for it.