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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 (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.

The film received the RiffTrax treatment in 2015.


This film contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Abusive Parents: From her very first onscreen appearance, Helen is a shrieking harpy who yells at Susan for playing with spiders (not out of fear for Susan's safety, but because she finds spiders to be gross), including killing one of her pet spiders and demanding that she be whipped for being angry at Helen stomping her pet. When talking with her husband, she outright admits that she hates Susan for being a Creepy Child. Averted in the case of Susan's father, however, who is portrayed as an okay guy, if a bit clueless.
  • A Family Affair: Helen was carrying on an affair with Walter, her husband's brother, and the two of them plotted to murder the husband so they could be together. Their plan is foiled in the opening act when Susan catches wind of them and murders her mother. Unfortunately, Walter's affections then transfer to Susan.
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  • 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.
    • Walter. For anyone else, being Buried Alive would seem like a very cruel fate. Walter spends the entire movie being a slimy, murderous, incestuous creep, and arguably co-facilitated Susan's twisted psyche (along with her mother) at the beginning of the story. His Cruel and Unusual Death was well-earned.
  • 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!
  • Chekhov's Gun: The hermetically sealed glass coffin used for Nancy - the only corpse Susan wasn't responsible for.
  • Corrupt Cop: Walter, a cop, 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.
  • Creepy Uncle / Incest-ant Admirer: Walter, whose interest in Susan is extremely inappropriate.
  • The Dog Bites Back: After pushing Susan too far with the break-in, Susan siccs 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.
    • Susan only targets people she has a personal grudge with, and is appalled when Walter admits to killing Nancy to keep her quiet.
  • 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.
  • Incest-ant Admirer: Walter openly lusts after Susan (his paternal niece). She finds him off-putting, at best.
  • It's All About Me: Walter kills Nancy because he's concerned about the effect that her accusations will have on his own reputation.
  • 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.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Susan's reaction to the drive-in deaths, as she only wanted to scare them. Nancy catching her apologizing to the catatonic survivor of the incident in the hospital ends up making the whole matter much, much worse.
  • Oh, Crap!: A notable one from Nancy, when it hits her that the man she's counting on to stop Susan is even more deranged than she is.
  • 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.
  • Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist: Averted. The cop trying to solve the murders is even worse than the killer herself.
  • Villain Protagonist: Susan. She kills her own mother ten minutes into the film, but it's to protect her innocent father. Susan consistently takes a Pay Evil unto Evil approach, and since her main antagonist is even worse than she is, she comes across as A Lighter Shade of Black.
  • 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!