Deadly Spawn, The | Varied Celluloid

Deadly Spawn, The

Posted by Josh Samford On August - 6 - 2008
Originally written by Prof. Aglaophotis


Plot Outline: Its night time when a meteorite descends to Earth, falling close by to a campsite in a forest. The two men settling in the tent discover the crash site and decide to take some shots of meteorite, only for the contents of the meteorite to open up and rip both of the men to shreds. The scene changes to a large house on a hill where the family there is only beginning to awake to the horrors that await them. There’s Mom, Dad, the oldest son Pete, who is organizing a study group with his friends for their test, uncle Herb who is visiting with his wife Millie in order to analyze his youngest nephew for his Psychology meet, and then there is the youngest of the family Charles who is shoulders deep into classic monster movies. As the rain falls, the monster from the crash sneaks into the basement and awaits anyone who enters in order to greet them with a fanged demise. However, as everyone plans their individual agendas, Charles stumbles into the alien, discovering its little plot of human indulgence and plans to stop it before it goes berserk and discovers that there’s a house full of people waiting to be devoured. There’s only one slight problem to all of this; the monster continually reproduces as it travels, so the house is also invaded by smaller, worm-like versions of the multi-mouthed alien. How far will the alien and its spawn go for flesh and how much time will Charles have left to stop the monster and save the family and friends in his house?


  

The Review
It’s frequent to have an alien film about extraterrestrials that come down to Earth for a bite-to-eat and directors and audiences alike can sit back and enjoy most of these types of eat-em-ups, but it has been awhile since I’ve seen one of these movies that really stick out in my mind… until now. The Alien’s Deadly Spawn takes one of those typical ideologies of combining an alien monster and a child protagonist both in one movie and tears it up with the articulated gnashing jaws of the amazingly groovy creature and gore effects coupled with a credible string of circumstances and acting. It does carry its own small assortment of clichés, the highest of them being the science versus some-other-authority theme, but all of which are defied, presented infinitesimally or originally in comparison to the effort driven into the crafting of the movie. Even without the special effects that soon took over the cinema world here after, Deadly Spawn delivers enough tension and well presented crafting in just about every scene that it’s hard to take the negative aspects or mistakes harshly, making such moments just as permitted as the visuals and acting in general.

The cinematography in general is somewhat fair; the camera work is divided up in quality depending on who is on screen. If the title monster is on screen, the camera work adds to the atmosphere (coming off often as stunning to say in the least), but if the actual characters are on screen, then the cinematography runs from fair to blasé. When there are moments of dialogue between the minor/secondary characters, we’re are given at least two or three angles to observe the conversations with, but when the main character and the monster/s (or both) are on screen we’re given more angular treats in contrast to their individual shots. The perfect example of this is when they first meet: there is something absolutely energizing about Charles’ first encounter with the title monster; the expression on Charles’ face contrasting with the monster’s mouths as its spawn tears off the remains of Charles’ mother at his feet all combined in different shots is bizarrely effective upon first viewing, almost as if you can relate to Charles’ silent reaction. Though some of the acting may appear bland at times (the opening sequence mostly), it’s nowhere near bad, nor does it come off as pretentious. I say this is due to the feeling that rises from the movie once you see the teenagers struggling to survive and you witness the reactions of characters realizing who they were related to get eaten and the end result contrasts sharply with most alien monster movies where teenagers run in groups of six, have their friends get killed and aside from succinct fits of anger or mourning, they never react in such a way that lasts until the credits roll; it’s a cruel wake up call for the viewers and I really loved it. Even with the establishing example of the cinematography focusing on the main characters/creatures being the most memorable, it’s easy to say that Charles Hildebrandt’s only role as the child protagonist is very well delivered, displaying the protagonist as an easily agreeable and level headed kind of kid in action and dialogue. The actor Tom DeFranco as Pete was very well presented as he actually had to perform his own wet-roof climbing stunts for one scene without assistance in such a way that makes us believe that he’s afraid and desperate, struggling to escape alive. The sound actually came off as half and half in the movie as we got some nice cloth and flesh-ripping noises for the first three kills and the aliens themselves made great raspy breathing/gurgling noises that added to the scenes, but there are very common generic noises mixed into this as well as the first kill and shadowy appearance of the raspy growling alien is paired with far off dog barks and howls that you can hear off of any low budget movie noise effect. The music came off in the same manner, as there were some nice tunes in the movie that emitted the feelings implied in the majority of scenes, but the other half of the music in the movie came off a little silly (yet comfortingly satirical) with the use of a theremin every now and then or, in one instance, a song came on a little too late as the peaceful piano tune of the reoccurring everyday song was abruptly stopped by the basement/alien song, a minute before a character walked into the basement in the next scene for when it was required. Though few, the actually orchestrated songs fit into the scenes pretty well from a brief romance moment to the settling almost ambivalent ‘everyday’ theme (that, as I mentioned, has its reoccurrences in the movie). Though the props and location are very humdrum, they are just as equally fitting for the setting, so there are no qualms there (any classic horror fan is going to love Charles’ room and anyone with a good eye is going to love the antiques lying around the two shown houses). The title monster is very effective in design and regardless of its grade material, appears very creepy in the majority of scenes as it reveals three of its gaping maws at the actors and drools on every occasion with thin droplets of saliva. The alien monster is very well moved and the use of blood and other liquids covering the main monster made it look even more alive. The spawn themselves that the big alien monster produces are very well made and through 85% of the movie are used with great motion and very little technical effects exposed as they literally slither and crawl around the scenes. Though you can see moments of latex here or there for the most part the little creatures were made pretty damn well. We even get to see one of them dissected and though the organs look a little too simple, they do come off as ‘beyond this Earth’, so that’s a plus. The gore effects were also strongly made for what the budget was. Most of the gore involved some nice face skinning, tugging, body swimming, hand severing and decapitation. The only element that was missing was some well chewed/sprawled intestinal tracks from one death (which was replaced by chewing spawn babies).

I will admit something about the Deadly Spawn that I originally assessed from the commentary and analyzed a little upon some brief movie theme recognition; it seemed odd that Charles’ parents wanted their son to be psychologically analyzed for his love of old fashioned horror movies, but then I made the discovery of this being a social factor that is actually very scrutinized in movies that are filmed in New Jersey. Whether this all really was intentional or not, it was effective in the end; I guess there’s always a state that the residents will find something in the state to criticize and the suburban life where the human imagination is estranged left quite an impression on me. Also something unique about the movie that I got from it was the fact that the alien spawn didn’t just eat flesh, but just about anything else they could munch as well; vegetables, paneling and electrical cords served as the appetizers for the cute and curious little spawn. With that in mind, Deadly Spawn immediately emits a theme of mass consumption that relates to human behavior. Between this however lie a few details that appear oddly flat upon further examination. For example, through out the entire movie, Charles and Pete never actually do any psychological bonding with each other considering the circumstances; sure there is evidence of sibling rivalry through the two misunderstanding each other and the two of them are fortuitously separated from each other throughout the movie, but having a number of siblings myself, it’s hard to understand why the two never tried to support each other when they had the chance. The only character that had the chance to do this was Aunt Millie during the luncheon attack. Also, the character Pete seemed a little too harsh on being the rationalist in the situation, to the point that you knew that he was going to be contradicted in the movie (it helps knowing that not all nerds stray from looking dashing, but if there was a point of pretentiousness I could point out in this character, it would have to be his over-using the word science in rational phrases against the imagination and devising bad last minute plans). Many have said that other scenes in the movie are rather drawn out, but the only scene that I even found remotely boring was the parent’s morning opening scene. The luncheon scene was just a cinematic exercise in suspending our belief (I think all grandmothers reach a point in their lives that they dwell too much on the cute collectibles they gather around the house [and who couldn’t appreciate a cute, wormy lil’ spawn monster familiarizing itself with common kitchen appliances in search for grub]). There are also a few continuity problems at hand that, if you’re not paying much attention to them are somewhat permissible, such as the character Frankie gets his hair length to shorten in various scenes, from poofy to matted down and back again (yes, it is explained as to why that is on the DVD).

Regardless of such trivial qualities, The Deadly Spawn is a movie that stands firmly on its own feet and powerfully proclaims ‘boo-yah’ to those who are lucky enough to observe it. In a way, Deadly Spawn brings a tear in my heart because it’s getting harder and harder to find a movie like this nowadays; a sci-fi horror movie that’s simultaneously gory and gripping, that drags us in with familiar themes that are presented with an original thought in mind. It’s the kind of film that demonstrates the masterful independence and originality in sci-fi horror film making through inspirations and low budget circumstances in every perspective. The movie has the power to create and break all of the clichés the audience is familiar with, expressing the true power that the makers of the film, whether out of original intentions or not, developed a greatly effective film that is inspiring and provocative in its own ways to this day. The Deadly Spawn is a deliciously rich and entertaining movie that would be hard to pass up because it’s everything you’ve seen before and something new all at once; one can only learn from experience, so if you ever get the chance, give it a watch and prepare for a comfortably turbulent ride!


The DVD
Synapse films released a great copy of Deadly Spawn in its lucid 1.33:1 Windowboxed transfer, making every scene visible, colors stand out cleanly and revealing all of the details on screen with. The audio commentary is certainly quite entertaining to listen to as it reveals a lot about the production of the movie, what every individual experienced and various little stories revolving around its making, though it is kind of odd how the commentary was separated from the director Douglas Mckeown with the John Dods, Charles & George Hildebrandt on one option and producer/writer Ted Bohus on the other, though listening to Bohus’ commentary there might have been some strenuous events that occurred between the crew that might have separated the commentary (or not, it’s just my impression), but all in all, the separation presents different learning experiences between the five men in the crew that are entertaining and actually somewhat valuable in their own ways. Other special features include various behind the scenes stills, a silent ‘blooper’ reel of the crew fooling around, a satirical interview with special effects main man John Dods, a black and white casting tape of actors who auditioned for various human roles in the film, a somewhat unique prequel idea contemplating the title creature’s origin in comic book format (I am quite thankful that it isn’t adapted into movie format as there are too many prequels [much less remakes] coming out in our time) and a rather unfitting revamped set of opening title and credits in the extra menu. Despite the mentioned ups and downs, a movie such as this really deserves the behind the scenes features that reveals the crafting of the title monster and it’s young and it’s great to see all of the features compiled on to one disc.


The Conclusion
THIS is bloody Sci-fi entertainment at its finest, folks. You’d be nuts to pass a great offer like this up!



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