The Deadly Spawn (1983)
By: Mr Intolerance on October 3, 2008  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Synapse (USA). Region 1, NTSC. 4:3. English DD 2.0 Mono. 80 minutes
The Movie
Director: Douglas McKeown
Starring: Michael Robert Coleman, Charles George Hildebrandt, James Brewster, Elissa Neil, Karen Tighe, Tome de Franco, John Schmerling, Ethel Michelson
Screenplay: Ted A Bohus
Country: USA
External Links
Purchase IMDB YouTube
How can a title like that not entice you? What, you don't want to watch a movie called "The Deadly Spawn"? What sort of girly-man are you? Possibly the kind who is a discerning movie fan, I was thinking, after watching this best-left avoided low budget 80s creature-feature. Nostalgia has certainly taken a bat to this film.

A meteor crashes in some lonely hills, a couple of equally lonely geeks are nearby to see it and die pretty horribly, if off-screen, to preserve the 50s horror-film vibe. A couple who live in splendid isolation also fall prey to the rather unfriendly visitor from beyond the stars – E.T. this is not – hell, it's even less friendly than Xtro, or the Inseminoid...

The basic idea is this: an alien has turned up, and eats people in order to get bigger and more powerful, and allow it to…well…spawn. And that's pretty much about that. It keeps chomping its way through various members of the local community, and keeps trying to find more and more folks or things to eat; you can't find a better way of describing this film.

The creature holes up in the basement of a boarding house and keeps growing, and thence feeding, and sending out more and more of its equally carnivorous and penis-shaped, lamprey-like young. This is played out against the backdrop of some rather boring relationship-talk between our heroes, and a vegetarian feast being prepared by some remarkably stuffy middle-aged women (a story arc that's never resolved satisfactorily).

When a blender is placed prominently in shot in a horror film, you know that wonderfulness will occur. That's right – the vegetarians are about to be unwittingly fed alien! But the aliens will have their revenge…

I guess that this is where the film really takes off (bear in mind that we're now nearly two thirds of the way through the film). Once the alien doom becomes practically inescapable, or at least is represented as being every-fucking-where, you can take the little critters a bit more seriously, and the film gains a bit more tension. The gore helps, by the way. The creature is particularly nasty in its eating habits, and one thing I did like about this film is that Charley, the kid brother of Pete and Franky (and who wears a cape), our two heroes, is a damn sight more intelligent than either of them, having worked out via his obsession with horror films that the creature hunts by sound. Y'see? Being an obsessive horror nerd can save your life! I knew it was all worthwhile…

I guess in that regard it works on a similar level to Silver Bullet or even Salem's Lot, that whole notion of taking the audience back to being a child through one of the protagonists. My problem was through the pacing (and in an 80 minute film, that is an issue), and the characterisation of the main roles (yeah, I know it's a low budget horror film and all, but they were still dreadful in a way that the characters in C.H.U.D., for example, or even The Evil Dead, were not). The ending is a little too quick and, although it's nice to see the kid try to save the day via his magician's kit and a rubber monster mask, a bit too pat. But the coda of the film, once all the hoo-hah has taken place? Now THAT's good film-making. I didn't see that coming AT ALL. It just knocked an extra point on to my score for this film and raised it in my estimation, because it starts off pretty damn dire, and even though there are a couple of bits I found myself being pleasantly surprised by – there was one decapitation that came totally out of left field – the film is too reliant on clichés, but doesn't really do very much with them.

I kept wanting to like this film, but it just wasn't happening. It just didn't have anything to recommend it. A low budget film can have charm (not in this case), or good performances (nope), a clever script (nah) or smart references to other films (uh-uh) – this film quite simply stank out loud. And the whole thing looks like it was shot in someone's backyard? Fo shizzle, mah nizzle. Were the special effects any chop? The monster itself – yes. For a low-budget film. But the gore was pretty ho-hum, despite being nicely diverting – the scene where the face is eaten off? Meh, could have done better myself.

Even drinking a litre of Jack Daniels couldn't help make this into a good film. God knows, I tried.
A very soft 4:3 picture indeed - VHS quality, and no mistake. Synapse apparently did use the best available source material for their trasnfer, so the film will probably never look any better.
About the same for the audio. Muffled and dull, the soundtrack really kinda sucked.
Extra Features
Two audio commentaries featuring the producer, director, cast and crew - I don't know who any of these people are – why should I listen to them?

Extensive stills galleries of behind-the-scenes photos, make-up effects and the premiere in New York City: Thanks, but I bought a movie – why do I want to look at a bunch of still photos?

A comic-style prequel with its own musical score: Meh. So I'm meant to be impressed by a bunch of badly drawn pictures with a crap synth score?

Filmmakers Biographies: Who cares? They're nobodies.

Alternate Opening Sequence: Okay, this held my interest, but it wasn't all that different to the one we see at the start of the film.

Blooper and outtake reel (no sound): No sound? No thanks.

Still photo galleries See above.

Audition tapes: What, I want to see a bunch of C-range actors before they managed to somehow shoehorn themselves on to the screen?

A Visit With The Deadly Spawn 1982: Badly shot rubbish, I was wanting to gouge my own eyes out in less than minute into this.

Yes, it's a complete package, but completeness doesn't necessarily equate to goodness.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
Well, I guess it works as a paean to the 1950s with a splatter edge, but generally speaking, The Deadly Spawn sucked. There are so many better 80s horror films out there to be watched, and so many better films, full-stop. This film's shortcomings outweighed its good point by 5 to 1. Nice idea, but poorly executed. Better luck next time, kids.

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