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Film / Kiss of the Tarantula

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Kiss of the Tarantula (also known as Death Kisses and released in the UK as Shudder) is a 1976 US horror film starring Eric Mason (also known for Scream Blacula Scream), Suzanna Ling, Herman Wallner, Linda Spatz, Beverly Eddins and Patricia Landon. It was directed by Chris Munger.

The main character is Susan Bradley (played as a teen by Ling), a young, spider-obsessed girl with a habit of siccing her pet tarantulas on those who wrong her or threaten her loved ones (which, outside of the spiders, consists of her father Harry, the local mortician). The movie is basically a genderswapped Willard with spiders instead of rats. There are twin subplots involving Susan's creepy uncle, Walter (Harry's brother): Investigating the mysterious deaths of several teens and his even-more creepy stalking of Susan.

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The film received the RiffTrax treatment in 2015.


This film contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Artistic License – Medicine: None of the victims are killed by (the actually mildly poisonous) tarantula bites. They die more due to panic and shock than spider venom. (The final two deaths aren't spider-based at all.)
  • Asshole Victim: The first death is Susan's own mother, Helen, who Susan overheard plotting her father's murder.
  • The Beastmaster: Susan has an unusual amount of control over her tarantulas.
  • Buried Alive: Walter's final fate: Paralyzed and sealed in an airtight, soundproof coffin.
  • Bystander Syndrome: A VW Beetle full of dead teens - one with his head sticking out above the door frame - and no one at the drive-in called the cops or investigated?
    Bill Corbett: So everyone at the drive-in movie just ignored the car full of dead teens?
    Kevin Murphy: Yep!
    Bill: Cool town!
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  • Chekhov's Gun: The hermetically sealed glass coffin used for Nancy - the only corpse Susan wasn't responsible for.
  • Corrupt Cop: Walter discovers evidence that would seem to implicate Susan in at least two murders. He covers it up and tries to use that fact to convince Susan to be with him. Even going so far as to murder Nancy to keep her quiet.
  • Crazy Cat Lady: Susan - swapping cats for tarantulas.
  • The Dog Bites Back: After pushing Susan too far with the break-in, Susan sics her spiders on some of her tormentors.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Breaking into someone's home intending to steal from it, manhandling a young girl and threatening her with implied rape? All good clean fun. Accidentally killing one of her pet spiders in the process? That's crossing the line.
  • Evil vs. Evil: Susan (spider obsessed killer) vs. Walter (incestuous creeper, murderous corrupt cop).
  • Failed a Spot Check: Walter gets reports of several people spotting Susan at the scene of the drive-in deaths. Apparently none of those people noticed the subsequent violent freak out of said victims. At least not enough to actually try and help.
  • Fetish: Susan may have formicophilia, given that at one point she seems to have been about to have A Date with Rosie Palms by having a spider crawl on her belly before she was interrupted by a phone call.
  • Leave the Camera Running: the scenes Susan being followed through the woods and Susan lowering Walter into the sealed casket go on far FAR longer than needed.
  • Loners Are Freaks: The implied view of Susan, who actually wants friends but is shunned because she's kind of creepy.
  • Recycled Premise: This is basically Willard with spiders.
  • Red Herring: Bo, one of the drunks from earlier in the movie follows Susan through the woods for a stupidly long time... just to apologize for earlier. Subverted later when it turns out he was trying to trick Susan in to implicating herself in his friends' murders
  • Shaming the Mob: The drunks who break into the funeral home and rough up Susan are shamed into leaving when they... accidentally squash one of Susan's tarantulas.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Walter towards his own niece, Susan.
  • Villain Protagonist: Susan. She kills her own mother ten minutes into the film.
  • Villainous Incest: Invoked in a one-sided form on Walter's part. Susan finds him repulsive.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: The entire town seems to suffer violent arachnophobia.
    Mike Nelson: Luckily for her, all her victims happen to have paralyzing spider phobias!

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