Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Deadly Spawn

A giant alien toothed worm-beast thingy lands on Earth and holes itself up in some family's basement, where it eats the mother and father. The alien gives birth to nasty little baby worm-beasts and uses the corpses to nurse/feed them. Only gradually does the rest of the family realize what's going on, and soon they are fighting for their lives against the deadly spawn, especially the young son, who likes old horror movies and wears a cape around and turns out to be uniquely qualified to fight off an alien invasion.

The makers of Home Sick should take note, this is how you do a low-budget, gore heavy horror movie right. The Deadly Spawn follows a style of 80's horror films that I have a soft spot for; in love with and paying homage to old-fashioned horror and sci-fi movies while updating them with over-the-top gore and a heavy dose of irony. It reminded me somewhat of Night of the Creeps and Reanimator... not quite as funny as those, and with an even lower budget, but still made with a respectable amount of imagination and humor that helps it transcend its shortcomings.

It may look a little cheap (some of this probably more the fault of the shitty DVD transfer than the filmmaking), the acting and dialogue are not always stellar (though good enough), but the writing and directing are dynamic, interesting, playing with your expectations and trying to make the film better than it needs to be. Home Sick, by comparison, wasn't just cheap, it was uninspired; it contained too many scenes where the camera is pointed flatly at characters standing around in empty locations, trading dialogue of little interest. It only comes alive when it brings the gore, it never works to build a memorable sequence, only scattered money shots. The Deadly Spawn gives more of a shit. It too has some surprisingly graphic gore, but the gore is worked into effective, well-crafted sequences and set pieces.

Take for example my favorite part of the movie, an extended sequence where the young hero finds him self trapped in the basement with the monsters. It sets an eerie tone by having the kid walking around in the dark with only a flashlight, catching only brief glimpses of things moving. Then he finds his parents' bodies, being eaten by the spawn. It's a great gross-out payoff, but it doesn't end there. The monster pops out of the dark (it looks fake, but still awesome) and the kid notices that the little spawn are everywhere, squirming around the basement. And slowly he figures out that they can't see him, they have no eyes, they can only hear him. So he's got to figure out a way out of the basement without alerting them to his prescence, using their lack of sight to his advantage.

I mean, this is not exactly a brilliant sequence, but it's light-years beyond what you get in most cheap horror movies.

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