Recent Reviews of The Deadly Spawn(PART 2):
random internet blog reviews
from House of Self-Indulgence:
As anyone who spent any time lurking in a basement knows, there's always something disquieting happening down there. Whether yours is finished (complete with fake wood paneling and a rarely used sex chair), in a constant state of disrepair, or dungeon-esque (if this, by the way, is the case, then your sex chair will probably get used with a greater frequently, as dungeons and sex chairs go hand and hand), these subterranean lairs are literally crawling with alien invaders. And, no, I'm not talking about little green men from Mars or your freeloading cousins fromLithuania, I'm talking about house centipedes. Holy crap, just typing their name gives me the willies. Anyway, their frightening appearance combined with the unsettling speed in which they move will upset even the most hardened of basement dwellers. Well, these non-indigenous pests, who, I've been told, are actually quite beneficial (they apparently like to eat other insects), have nothing on the disgusting things that populate the dank basement featured in The Deadly Spawn, the film where even a vegetarian luncheon turns into an ankle-biting gore-fest. You see what I just did there? Did where? Using wonky yet sound logic, I was somehow able to tie together my own fear of house centipedes with the creatures in the film I'm currently writing about. It's a new technique I've been tinkering with. In that, I try to draw from own experiences when watching a film. In this low budget, intergalactic monster in the basement flick written and directed by Douglas McKeown, I couldn't help but make the correlation between the two entities. For one thing, it's the time of year when the predacious arthropods spawn (every so often you'll see a baby house centipede skitter across the wall), and that's exactly what the toothy monstrosity in this film does, except they multiply with a reckless form of abandon.
One of the few films to disrupt the harmonic flow of my nightly existence, the early basement scenes in The Deadly Spawn were pretty effective when it came to creating an atmosphere of dread. Don't believe me? Well, check this out: My ability to penetrate dark passageways with my usual carefree confidence was severely hampered after watching this film. Part of me—the part that is clearly a whiny little baby who needs to have his diaper changed—kept half expecting to find a giant three-headed uncircumcised penis with teeth waiting to bite me around every corner.
Enough about the contents of my diaper, let's get down to business. Did you, like, see Jean Tafler's light blue knee socks? Weren't they awesome? Aw, man, why did you have to go and say that? Up until this point, you were coming off as a relatively sane person. Sure, the diaper thing was a tad off-putting, but at least you were talking about a baby's diaper instead of a grown man's diaper. A real step in the right direction, if you ask me. But then you had to mention the socks, didn't you? Why? Well, for starters, people don't come here to read about quality acting or breathtaking cinematography, they come to read long-winded soliloquies about fingerless gloves, scrunchies, pointy shoes, and, if they're lucky, an inexplicably homoerotic tangent involving a meaty set of succulent thighs encased in a pair of black silk stockings. Besides, are you telling me you didn't notice Miss Tafler's socks? Your brain must not work good if you were unable spot the subtlety of the sexy sock show being sewn byJean Tafler in The Deadly Spawn, or, either that, you're a damned fool who has completely lost his or her grip on reality.
Seriously, though, socks aside, let's head on down to the basement and find out what all the hubbub is about. Actually, you might want to stay upstairs. Not that, as we'll soon find out, it's any safer up there, it's just that everyone who goes down there seems to not come back up in one piece. On a rainy day in the middle of New Jersey, a mysterious alien creature who hitched ride on a meteorite decides to make itself at home in the creepy basement of Sam (James Brewster) and Barb (Elissa Neil). After they're both eaten (the walls and the ceiling are covered with their blood), it's up to their children, Charles (Charles George Hildebrandt), a monster enthusiast, and Pete (Tom DeFranco), a science major, to prevent their house from becoming overrun with ravenous space mutants.
The fact that we never see the parents interact with their children did lesson the impact of their deaths; I initially thought the kids were merely tenants, especially when you consider the fact that Pete seems to be pursuing a post secondary education. However, thanks to the genuine nature of the horrified look on Charles' face when he sees his mother's severed head being slowly devoured by the alien's tadpole-like offspring, the film manages to regain its emotional core. The parents go from being random victims to cherished loved ones the moment Charles sets foot in that basement. While it might seem like he's just standing there, Charlie is actually gathering information on the fiendish beast(s). Regurgitating his mother's head in order that its icky progeny can feast on her flesh, Charles notices that the creature, who is basically three large tooth-laden mouths with a wormy body, is completely blind and finds its prey (lumpy electricians and middle-aged couples in ugly bathrobes) via sound.
Oblivious to the space monster learning symposium that's taking place in the basement, Aunt Millie (Ethel Michelson) is busy upstairs preparing to attend a vegetarian luncheon at her mother's house. Even though the bulkiness of her salmon-coloured dressing gown undermines the exquisite shape of her womanly girth at every turn, Aunt Millie still manages to turn heads. On the surface, she seems like your typical kooky Aunt (unlike the rest of the family, she respects Charles' morbid hobby), but underneath that wholesome facade lies a woman, a sensual woman, one with needs. Since it's obvious to anyone with a half a brain and a pocket full of unauthorized gumption that Uncle Herb (John Schmerling) is not fulfilling these needs, I feel that it's my duty to rub my consecrated tentacle juice all over her various nooks and crannies until she quivers with irregular ecstasy.
Speaking irregular ecstasy, just the mere thought of being in a threesome with Aunt Millie from The Deadly Spawn and Aunt Martha from Sleepaway Camp is enough to make your average orgasm seem like a colossal waste of time.
Meanwhile, back at the house, Pete's friends, Ellen (Jean Tafler) and Frankie (Richard Lee Porter), come over to study, and Charles, well, he's still in the basement, observing the creatures (who are multiplying rapidly). This is the point in the film where Pete's scientific method goes up against Charles' more fact-based technique. You see, Pete tries to confront the problem from an analytical point-of-view (he outright dismisses the notion that the dead baby spawn Ellen and Frankie found on the way over to his house could be from outer space), while Charles, whose way ahead of Pete in terms of spawn knowledge, takes a more hands approach to figuring out what makes the nasty critters who currently call their basement home tick.Trying his best not to stare at Ellen's knees (the way they gingerly poked out from underneath her tartan skirt was enough to drive even the most rational of men insane with lust-filled desire), Pete's got romance on his mind as well.
While Charles is collecting intelligence, you'll notice that one of the basement windows is open, and that some of babies are using it as an exit. Where could they be going? If you were a newborn space slug with a voracious appetite, where would you go? You have no idea? Well, I know where I would go, I'd follow Aunt Millie to that vegetarian luncheon. You'll notice as Aunt Millie is admiring her mother's new porcelain giraffe ("I've never seen this giraffe before," she coos with a hint of jealousy), that she's wearing a no frills white shirt. But when her guests arrive she is clearly wearing one with lots of frills (in fact, it was only three or four frills away from becoming a full-on puffy shirt). Anyway, as her guests (an odd collection of old biddies and tupperware junkies) are about to start consuming their vegetarian meals, the spawn strike. Since they're still relatively small compared to their massive mother, it's the feet and ankles of the vegetarian luncheon attendees that bear the brunt of the spawn's assault.
I don't exactly remember who invited her ("meanwhile, back at the house"), but Kathy (Karen Tighe) shows up just as all hell is about to break loose in the upstairs portion of the house (the college age youngsters take refuge in Charles' B-movie poster adorned bedroom). At first, I was a tad dismissive of this Kathy person. I mean, for one thing, she wasn't even wearing pastel-coloured knee socks. Oh, sure, she could have been sporting a pair underneath her drab trousers. But unless I can see your knee socks, you will not be credited as a knee sock wearer. At any rate, Kathy manages to get in my good graces when she utters the line, "what the fuck was that?" after seeing the three-headed uncircumcised penis monster for the very first time. Her reaction was totally justified, as the main creature in The Deadly Spawn is probably one of the most fearsome movie monsters I have ever seen.
After a shocking death, the action moves to the attic, and Charles finally gets to utilize the knowledge he's been gleaming for the past eighty or so minutes. Blood spattered light bulbs, torrential rain, cannibalism, fire pokers used as weapons, egg plant preparation, the word "misshapen" is used, a human head is devoured, a salmon bathrobe is worn, and, no, I'm not just randomly listing things I saw in this movie. What I'm awkwardly trying to do is make a point pertaining to the amount of amazing stuff that takes place in The Deadly Spawn, as it's a veritable cornucopia of awesomeness.
A FILM REVIEW BLOG
The Deadly Spawn, along with The Quatermass Xperiment, is one of the coolest monster movies ever made, and I say this for several different reasons. For starters, its only eighty minutes long. It definitely doesn't wear out its welcome. The film goes about at an engaging, yet not rushed, pace, the characters are likable and fun to watch, the monster itself is actually scary and extremely dangerous, and the film is completely scary and shocking. The visual effects are minimal, yet a lot of the time they are effective in a strange way. The film starts off with a meteor hitting earth and a monster comes out and devours a couple of nearby campers. Afterward, a family wakes up in their home early in the morning during a nasty rainstorm. The entire sequence is incredibly realistic in a way that a lot of films aren't. We see the entire process of the family awakening and their tired expressions. I don't think I've ever seen a more realistic wake-up scene in a film. Then slowly things start not going as planned. The bloodthirsty alien monster has ended up in the family basement. It isn't long before the monster starts to eat everyone who comes into contact with it. The family itself consists of a mother, a father, and two boys. Visiting the household are their aunt and uncle. The older brother, Pete, invites a couple of classmates over for scientific experiments to pass the time and to maybe get a little bit more ahead of the curb in his high school class. Pete's younger brother Charles is obsessed with horror movies and likes to dress up as monsters and do magic tricks. Soon the monster in the basement becomes an enormous problem and the situation grows increasingly desperate as they all try to figure out a strategy.
This was one of the films that got me so interested in filmmaking and in the process of it. To me, it showed that film could evoke all sorts of feelings that we've all experienced at one point or another. To me, this film brought a lot of early memories to mind. I saw The Deadly Spawn when I was pretty young, and I always thought it was scary and awesome. I still think it is an incredible achievement for what it is. When I was really little, I used to wake up about an hour early in the morning before school to watch television. I watched everything from Bobby's World to X-Men. I also watched Grave of the Fireflies when I woke up even earlier and switched to another channel, and that traumatized me. I'll save that story for another day, however. There would be times when it would be raining, as I would be doing this over and over again in New England back in 1996 through 1998 and would end up doing this during the springtime when it would be at it's rainiest and most damp. The early scenes in this film where the family was waking up and turning the lights on totally evoked that feeling for me and still does. I'm sure everyone can remember a time in which they were awake in the morning with the lights on, and they'd look outside and it would be dark out and there would be so much reflection appearing on the windows and it would feel weird because it would be happening and it wouldn't be nighttime. Also, when I was younger, I loved horror movies. It wasn't a lifestyle like it was for little Charles in this film, but him and I definitely exhibited the same kind of perverse creativity. I totally saw myself in him, and because of this and because of the fact that he's basically the main character and one of the major heroes, I kind of have always idolized this kid. I certainly did when I was little, and now as an adult I still do because he represents everything that I was when I was his age. I hope to one day meet actor Charles George Hildebrandt just so that I can shake his hand for being such a hero to me for playing that role. That kid is just so friggin' cool and is my favorite child character in a horror film.
The Deadly Spawn is also just a lot of fun to watch. People shouldn't be afraid to laugh, because this film is also really quite cheesy. There is no attempt made for the story to be entirely convincing, and I'm glad. This is a throwback to classic monsters on the loose drive-in films of the 50s and 60s. People who loved The Blob will absolutely adore this film. The film, to be honest, feels a lot more real than The Blob did, but that doesn't make it any more cheesy and fun. All of the effects in this film are done completely practically, and even the effects that look like shit still look better than any CGI made today. Honestly, this is the kind of film that the Sci-Fi (SyFy) channel was made for. The Deadly Spawn is basically just pure horror, gore, and shock much like Hellbound: Hellraiser 2, Darkness, or Phantasm. It's a shot-on-video picture that isn't shot-on-video. One of the best aspects of it is the way everything just blows up and comes together. There's nothing more satisfying to me than watching people discover that the outcast was right. The idea of a sane man in an insane world is prevalent here. The film also features characters who die very suddenly and with no warning. We don't entirely know for sure who is going to die, and that's really what horror should be all about. True horror should shock us, scare us, and make us fear the unknown. This film pulls it off better than most films of it's kind. It manages to bring the same kind of atmosphere that Alien did, despite the fact that it takes place on land.
The best thing about this film, however, is that it never once pretends to be more than it is. The film manages to pull together it's own little world with it's own set of rules and logic, and it never once comes across as far-fetched. It does come across cheap, sure, but so what? Just because a film is cheaply made doesn't mean it isn't worthy of our respect. Some of the acting may be bad, but why does that have to be a problem if they're clearly having fun just being in it? This film is just as good as The Evil Dead in evoking fear, blowing our minds with hideous imagery, and making us laugh as hard as we possibly can. Most of all, it is simply one of the most entertaining horror films ever made. It also features a really scary set-piece with a really scary monster in a dark and dingy cellar that is leaky, creaky, and probably full of rats and cockroaches. Charles treads into this darkness with absolutely no fear. His mental and physical constitution has been strengthened and enhanced by watching disturbing horror movies like this one. Even when he watches a loved one die in horribly painful and grotesque fashion right in front of his face, he still descends and makes big and bold choices. This is one of the few films of it's kind that is both a celebration and a representation of what horror is and what horror should be about. Shock, horror, gore, intelligence, suspense, atmosphere, intensity, humor, and most of all heart.
INTERVIEW with the director
From Dr. Gore's Funhouse: