Everyone has their personal creep-out zone. For many, the mere sight of a friendly clown sends a cold shock straight down the spine. For others, lifelike porcelain dolls might be just the trigger they need to draw their heart up firmly into their throat. For me, there’s nothing more demonic, nothing more unspeakably unsettling than an adult baby.
I’m an open-minded dude, but there’s something profoundly wrong with a fully-formed adult who can’t function in life without pretending to be a giant baby in their spare time. I can’t even begin to fathom the psychological damage at work to make a grown-up want to drink warm Simulac from a bottle and poop their pants again (and again). Oftentimes when dealing with fetishes, the fixation comes from something that brings someone a great deal of comfort, and I can understand that concept, but can anyone actually remember being a baby? Oftentimes, adult babies are like infantile drag queens — not content to just be pampered by a mommy figure, but acting out as some kind of Super Baby, seemingly determined to out-baby a real baby, complete with giant adult-sized bonnets and lots of “ga ga goo goo” talk. They’re not like babies in a maternity ward; they’re like babies in a Warner Brothers cartoon. Only, they’re adults. Weird.
So, it was with a heart full of anxiety and terror I approached The Baby, a 1973 “thriller” from director Ted Post (Hang ‘Em High, Magnum Force). To say that the film delivered on my fears is an understatement. The Baby is a repulsive slice of high camp, light on the gore and suspense, but heavy (oh, so heavy) with enough conceptually offensive material to make you lose your faith in the kindness of your fellow man. This is nasty stuff, like “run immediately to a hot shower and weep” nasty.
David Mooney is the (constantly crying) baby in question, named, cleverly, Baby; a thirty-something raised as an infant by his domineering mother (Ruth Roman, playing a human carton of cigarettes in a pantsuit) and two abusive sisters (both of whom reminded me of the sisters in Spider Baby, only more repellent). Baby is fawned over by his latest welfare case worker (Anjanette Comer), and she ends up in a bizarre battle of wills with Baby’s mother — at first out of genuine concern for Baby, then out of stubborn, brazen selfishness. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I will say this: There’s not a single likable human being in this film.
I can’t imagine a PG-rated film that’s more unpleasant than this. Besides its flippant, appallingly ignorant approach to mental handicaps, there’s murder, abuse, incest, hippies, cattle prods, nursing, and, worst of all, AN ADULT BABY. Also, a twist ending! Neat! Still, I wouldn’t call The Baby a “bad” film exactly. If its ultimate goal was to make you feel as filthy as if you’d just waded through a mile of toxic scum in 1970s polyester pants, it is unequivocally successful.
Shell shock. No one moved until the credits were well over. No one dared look each other in the eye. We had experienced something truly dirty, and the only response was to shuffle out of the theatre in shame. Sure, the ridiculous ending got some giggles, but if the rest of the film got any chuckles at all, they were of the uncomfortable “I don’t know how to react to what I’m seeing” kind. Zack Carlson warned us, but I still hold him responsible for not warning us enough.