JUNE 30, 2012
I’ve been hearing about The Baby for a while now, and I’m not sure why I opted to wait until I was exhausted (see previous review) and almost assuredly unable to watch it all in one sitting to check it out, because this is a movie that requires undivided attention – the ideal location would be a movie theater with people who had sworn on their life to be relatively quiet.
Now, I don’t mean that it’s a complicated movie and you can’t have any distractions or else you might miss a crucial plot point that is essential to unraveling the mystery – on the contrary there’s barely any plot at all. No, you need that sort of focus simply because this is without a doubt one of the weirdest goddamn movies ever given a theatrical release (via Scotia International, who also gave us Horror Express), and you need to ensure that there can be no doubt that what you just saw was real. I was a bit sleepy while watching, and my friend/hotel-roommate had asked me about something, and now I’m not sure – did I actually SEE a 20ish babysitter breastfeed the 30ish title character, or was my brain jumbling a bunch of stuff together?
I assure you, that scene did happen. And it wasn’t even the weirdest thing about the movie (the fact that the babysitter shows up at his birthday party later despite the fact that Baby’s family beats her senseless for “molesting” him might be, however), which tells an ostensibly straight story about a social worker who wants to rescue a mentally handicapped man from his abusive family. However the script by Abe Polsky (who also produced) seemingly goes out of its way to make this as insane as possible, tossing in incest, cattle prod abuse, an intense game of darts, Michael Pataki, a school full of disabled children (the movie’s ickiest moment, honestly), and a surprise ending in which we learn who the craziest person in the movie really is.
But special mention must be made of the film’s soundtrack, which has an appropriately schizo score that changes genre from scene to scene (the main theme is quite lovely and classy; later stuff sounds like a piano being thrown down the stairs). Also, Baby makes typical baby sounds, but they are not that of a grown man – there’s an actual baby dubbed in over him. I later learned that this was not originally the case; actor David Manzy had done his own baby impressions, but the soundtrack was lost and so a real baby was used instead, thus adding to the surreal nature of the film. I would argue that it kind of hurts the plot, since he’s clearly beyond help if at 30 his vocal chords haven’t even developed, but then I’d be trying to apply logic to The Baby, so it’s a moot point.
One legit criticism I can apply is that the pace is wonkier than anything else, which may be problematic for those who go in expecting a batshit crazy HORROR movie. Honestly apart from the babysitter being smacked around there’s nothing horror about the movie until the very end, which one can’t discuss without spoiling it (being that this movie is relatively obscure, I won’t do that). Thus, the awkward structure may be a bit much for some; there’s like 45 minutes of the social worker coming over and trying to help Baby only for the mom (Ruth Roman) or one of Baby’s sisters to thwart her, and then an endless party scene makes up another 20-30 minutes. So by the time the social worker takes action and things start to heat up, there’s only like 15 minutes left of the movie, which means they rush through the plot twist.
Also, the movie’s PG rating (!!!) confines most of what happens here off-screen, another bummer. I don’t know if they intended for a PG or just thought they were being classy by keeping things out of the camera’s range, but while it adds to the movie’s batshit existence, it doesn’t help the rushed feel of its climax. All of a sudden certain people are dead and things are revealed almost simultaneously – it’s a lot to process for a movie that for the past 90 minutes has been more or less hanging out with itself. Or maybe I was just sad that it was over, as I could easily watch this thing all day long.
The transfer on Netflix is most likely from Severin’s recent disc release, which includes interviews with director Ted Post and Manzy, who apparently teaches now and tells a story about his students discovering the film, which mortified me – the internet wasn’t around for most of my high school tenure! How many of my teachers appeared in insane 70s horror films? I may never know, because I’ve forgotten all of their names except for my freshman year English teacher, who was awesome and reminded me of Joey Pantaliano for some reason. I won’t risk cheapening my memory of that dude. Anyway, highly recommended flick! I will add it to my dream list of New Bev screenings!
What say you?