KISS OF THE TARANTULA
Cinema-Vu
1976
PG

  • John Bradley operates and lives in a mortuary along with his wife, Martha, and daughter, Susan, who collects tarantula spiders and has always been ostracized by her friends because…well, she’s a bit strange. When Susan discovers that mommy dearest is plotting to have dear old dad killed by her secret lover, who is also dad’s brother, she places a tarantula in mommy’s bed while she sleeps. Abruptly awakened by the spider, mom dies of a heart attack. This bizarre little episode apparently puts sweet little Susan over the top. Later as a teenager, Susan uses her pet tarantulas in acts of revenge against her terrified classmates, who have been tormenting her for way too long. And innocent looking Susan doesn’t stop there, making good plot use of her father’s mortuary and her creepy little playmates!

Back when I was 6 years of age, one of my uncles — who is only ten years older than I am — told me that if any kind of spider bit me, regardless of what the size of type, it would kill me. And then he promptly shoved me into a spider web. I remember screaming before blacking out. Good times. Of course, that left me with a low-grade arachnophobia throughout my life.

Of course, over the years, I’ve managed to study up on these nightmare fuel of nature, gaining an understanding of what ones I should actually bug out over (pun intended). It still doesn’t mean that, despite many of the species of arachnids falling squarely in the “harmless” spectrum, I’m gonna be making pets of these things. Or allowing them to live if they invade my bubble.

Which bring sus to this mid-1970s low budget “horror” movie, Kiss Of The Tarantula. this is yet another nature-based movie that, like the Shatner-riffic Kingdom Of The Spiders that would come a year later, uses tarantulas for the visual freak-outs.

So, what we have with Kiss Of The Tarantula is a reworking of the plot from the 1971 movie Willard, only gender-swapped and substituting spiders for the rats. And so, let’s get the pedantic stuff out of the way: Them spiders wouldn’t kill anyone, even if they wanted to. It’s just that they’re the go-to critters Hollywood uses to up the ookie factor. Knowing that the worst thing a tarantula bite can do is give a painful bee-like sting and some muscle and skin irritation, the over-the-top reactions from the victims in this movie, followed by their melodramatic deaths, just stretches the suspension of disbelief. Even if you argue that they died from panic and shock, I would question the credulity of that. Otherwise, the entire community must suffer from high-grade arachnophobia.

Once you get past that, what’s left with Kiss Of The Tarantula is a slipshod exploitation flick that seems slapped together with a micro budget and features a creepy incestuous uncle angle that really didn’t add to the movie, other than an ick factor that didn’t involve the spiders. The story is dull, the tension and conflict unbelievably hackneyed, and acting that can be likened to nails on a chalk board. You’ll be shaking your head in disbelief, and not in a good way. Hard pass.