Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Microreview [film]: The Baby

The Meat:

The Baby is the kind of movie where after each take, you get the feeling everybody involved hung their heads a little and whispered under their breath "How the hell did I wind up here?" Lead actress Anjanette Comer had worked with Marlon Brando, composer Gerald Fried was probably wondering if Stanley Kubrick would ever take him back after scoring that guy's first four movies, and the colossal Ruth Roman, who had worked with Jimmy Stewart, Kirk Douglas, and Alfred Hitchcock, probably had to drive past her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame to get to the set each day. Director Ted Post (who directed one of my favorite Twilight Zone episodes) probably didn't give too much of a damn, since this was only one of about 11 directing gigs he had from 1971-1973, actress Marianna Hill probably got the taste out of her mouth playing Fredo's wife in The Godfather, Part II, but during the making of this bad-boy (pun intended), I'm pretty sure everybody involved felt like there were in the blackest night of career disintegration. Here's why:

The Baby is about a social worker, Ann, grieving the loss of her husband and throwing herself back into her work with a vengeance. She takes on a particularly challenging case regarding the Wadsworth family -- a domineering mother, two busty daughters, and son Baby, a twenty-something-year-old man who is apparently mentally handicapped and still lives as a baby. You know, crib, diapers, sucking at a reluctant babysitter's tit, the whole thing. Ann doesn't believe that Baby's really handicapped, but that "negative reinforcement" from the crazy mom is responsible for his arrested development. She's not privy to one sister poking him repeatedly with a cattle prod for attempting to speak or stand, or the other sister climbing naked into the crib with him while he sleeps, but Ann appears to be onto something. Suffice to say, drinks will be drugged, multiple women hog-tied, throats slashed, and people will be ambushed with hatchets and meat cleavers. Which is I'm sure exactly where you saw this whole thing going, right?

The film's poster and reputation suggest a depraved horror movie, possibly in the lunatic matriarch sub-genre along with Tallulah Bankhead's nutty Mrs. Trefoile in Die! Die! My Darling, and user reviews suggest a twisted psychodrama with a shock ending along the lines of Sleepaway Camp, but this movie isn't really either of those things. It tries to be a little of each, and throws in a hint of possible inbred frolicking, but that's dropped as quickly as a nonsensical reversal of roles (who's really crazy here?) is picked up. I don't really want to spoil the ending in case you see it, but, seriously, just don't bother seeing it.

The Math

Objective Quality: 3/10

Bonuses: +1 for the cello-based score, which was inappropriately evocative of Bergman

Penalties: -1 for the series of twist endings, none of which make sense; -1 for the start/stop nature of the various transgressions/depravities trotted out in the movie

Cult Movie Coefficient: 2/10. Just bad.

[See explanation of our non-inflated scores here.]