A Book About a Film: The Merrye Syndrome

The Merrye Syndrome, a publication made for an imaginary disease from “Spider Baby”, a 1967 black comedy horror film.

For my Exploring and Developing Practice for my degree programme, I designed and published a book.

The Brief

Produce a publication that engages the reader with the film, but in a visual, conceptual and ‘lateral’ way. Watch a film and immerse yourself in its narrative. Research all aspects of the film to build up a picture of the film itself and of its creation. The film is the starting point for a deeper investigation. Transform those results into an outcome that contains both text and image. Develop a strategy or language for treating your material, how to visualize and clarify or explain to the user your way of looking at the film.

Film Synopsis

Spider Baby, a black comedy horror film written and directed by Jack Hill released in 1967, tells the story of three Merrye children under the care of their chauffeur Bruno, at their family estate.

The children suffer from “Merrye Syndrome”, a genetic affliction unique to members of their family, which causes them to mentally, socially, and physically regress down the evolutionary ladder, starting in late childhood.

Two distant relatives arrive with their lawyer and his secretary in order to examine and claim the property as rightful heirs. Bruno’s shaky control over the children deteriorates; murder, chaos and insanity ensue.

Design Strategy

I decided to create a book about the Merrye Syndrome in the form of a medical journal. Peter, the narrator of the story, begins the film by opening a book titled “Dictionary of Rare and Peculiar Diseases” and reading from the “Merrye Syndrome” chapter. The whole film can be interpreted as a re-enactment of a tragedy caused by people afflicted with the Merrye syndrome.

For my book I chose to bind it in leather hardcover, following the book “Dictionary of Rare and Peculiar Diseases” that is introduced at the beginning of the film.

For my book I chose to bind it in leather hardcover, following the book “Dictionary of Rare and Peculiar Diseases” that is introduced at the beginning of the film.

Hence it could be transcribed into a medical journal. I will uncover the story of the film by transcribing it as a medical journal about the Merrye syndrome with figures, illustrations and observations of the children’s behaviours.

At the start of my book, the reader opens up to a spread with a popup of a spider web. This is in reference to the beginning of the film’s narrative, where Virginia traps an innocent mailman with her rope web before stabbing him to death.

The contents end with a fullpage spread of Peter Howe’s daughter, which is the same shot in the lm that shows her staring uncannily at the camera.

The contents end with a fullpage spread of Peter Howe’s daughter, which is the same shot in the lm that shows her staring uncannily at the camera.

At the closing, there will be a popup of a spider. This is an homage to the end of the film where Peter Howe’s daughter seems to be transfixed by a spider, thereby ending in a cli hanger as to whether the Merrye Syndrome has been completely eradicated or not.

At the closing, there will be a popup of a spider. This is an homage to the end of the film where Peter Howe’s daughter seems to be transfixed by a spider, thereby ending in a cli hanger as to whether the Merrye Syndrome has been completely eradicated or not.