Tricks or Treats: Fantômas – “Spider Baby”


    Ah, Halloween. What’s not to love? You get to taste seasonal pleasures, gorge yourself on treats, and run amok in a costume. But pumpkin ales, candy corn, and drunken parties aside, Halloween rules supremely in the simple concept of fear. At no other time of year is being scared shitless so much damn fun. And opportunities for pants-wetting abound at every turn. You can check out the local haunted houses (our local one is now 3-D, with clowns), flip on the television and watch a Simpsons Halloween episode (the gremlin on the bus still disturbs me), or browse Netflix for classic scary movie favorites. In fact, you can’t look anywhere without being bombarded by a horror film of some sort.

    Scary movies can even be found infiltrating your favorite music. For a perfect example, all you need to do is turn the lights off and play Fantômas’ Director’s Cut on your iPod. Unlike other Fantômas albums, Director’s Cut has the Buzz Osborne, Mike Patton, Trevor Dunn, and Dave Lombardo supergroup eschewing the noise and doing eerie covers of classic films and B-movies, many of which you probably end up watching each Halloween anyway. The haunting chants of The Omen, the creepy cries of Rosemary’s Baby, and the sexual grind of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me are just a few of the cinematic tracks on this album.

    Out of all the atmospheric songs, though, “Spider Baby” is the one that has Halloween written all over it. Like the rest of the album, “Spider Baby” is taken from a film, this time the 1968 cult favorite of the same name. Directed by Jack Hill, known for his exploitation and blaxploitation films, and starring Lon Chaney Jr. (of The Wolfman fame), this horror film deals with the peculiar Merrye family, a family that suffers from an affliction that causes them to mentally, socially, and physically regress backwards. Think Benjamin Button but with murder, insanity, and good wallop of B-movie effects.


    One of the children, Virginia, is known as “Spider Baby” because of her obsession with spiders and her penchant for “stinging” people with butcher knives. She also likes to eat bugs. Her siblings like to eat cats. They have a dead skeleton of their father in their closet, which they kiss every night. There are cannibals in the basement. The Addams Family this ain’t.

    But as gruesome and warped as this film is, there is a darkly comical thread that runs throughout it. The “Monster Mash” type theme song is a pretty good example of that, all bouncy tone and silly vocals amongst a cheesy credit sequence.

    In the hands of Fantômas, though, it becomes something else. With Patton’s ghoulish laugh opening up the track, you embark on a musical journey into the magic of all that is good and creepy. Yes, the childish “ghost story” lyrics are still there:


    Screams and moans and bats and bones
    Teenage monsters in haunted homes
    The ghosts on the stair
    The vampires bite
    Better beware, there’s a full moon tonight”

    But the campiness is expertly balanced with the gritty, driving riffs of Osborne’s guitar, the pounding rolls of Dunn’s bass, and the engulfing boom of Lombardo’s epic drums. Mix in Patton’s chameleon voice that growls along to Vincent Price levels, then soars to sky-high falsettos during the chorus, and you’ve got the perfect Halloween track to get you in the mood every season.

    There wasn’t an official video for this song; however, this YouTube scary movie homage works especially well this time of year. Happy Halloween!