March 1, 2012

Blu-ray Review: The Deadly Spawn

Like have said about so many other films in the past, why did it take me so long to see The Deadly Spawn? Considering my enjoyment of low horror and gore, of any budget level, it would seem logical to assume that I had seen this movie a long time ago. Well, I hadn't and I regret that. It isn't that I had never heard of The Deadly Spawn, it is just that the opportunity never availed itself to me. In any case, Elite Entertainment has graced us with its Blu-ray debut in nothing less than a Millennium Edition. This is my first exposure to this slice of indie-horror and I have to say it is quite a positive one. This is a cross between a 50's era creature feature and an 80's era gore fest made on a shoestring budget. It is the sort of thing that could have been terrible, and some probably think it is, but it you are anything like me you will see it differently.

The story could not be any simpler. It opens with a meteor crashing into a forest. A creature has hitched a ride on it and proceeds to eat a couple of campers who venture too close when looking to see what it is. The creature moves into a nearby basement where it snacks on anyone who dares set foot in its vicinity. As it eats, it grows and begins to spawn small, slug-like critters with toothy mouths. They start spreading through the house, chewing on whoever they come across, including a little old lady tea party. Other victims include a quartet of teenagers and a horror obsessed pre-teen (very reminiscent of Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter's Tommy Jarvis, but done a couple years earlier) who must team up if anyone has any hope of survival.

That is pretty much it, this is not a movie that you are going to watch for any sort of insight into the human condition. The Deadly Spawn is a movie that you watch for some thrills, a little blood, and a little excitement. This is a movie to have some fun with, and fun it is. I really like this movie. It is hardly the best of its kind, but there is something about the energy and life that is evident throughout the whole thing. Sure, it is a little corny and suffers from a minuscule budget, but it is also a testament to hard work and desire. These guys set out to make a monster movie and the did just that.

What is pretty surprising about the story and the acting is that despite it not being all that great, the screenplay does a pretty good job of being somewhat believable. Yes, I know that appears to be a backhanded compliment, but I do not mean it as such. When you have a movie whose star attraction are slugs with teeth, it is fairly clear that the human characters and whatever they have to say is going to take a backseat to getting to some monster mayhem.

That brings me to the creatures themselves. They are pretty impressive. They are certainly menacing and they have a great and simple design. The attacks are well executed and they are used effectively to build tension, such as when the boy stumbles across the breeding chamber in the basement. Now, combine the excellent creatures with some blood and gore effects and you have a pretty strong combination. If you are a fan of practical and do-it-yourself effects, this is a good one to watch.

Audio/Video. Presented in it's original ratio of 1.33:1 and with a Dolby Digital 2.0 audio track. Let us just say that this is a less than ideal presentation, but then to give it some perspective, this was shot on 16mm on the cheap and I suspect the source prints have not been treated all that well over the years.

The video shows plenty of damage, is soft, seems scrubbed of all fine detail, and suffers all sorts of focus issues. I believe the overall softness was done while making this disk to try and hide some of its more glaring problems, but most of the problems come right from the source (something the producer Ted A. Bohus and editor Marc Harwood do not shy away from in the commentary track).

As for the audio, well, it can be understood for the most part. It is a muffled and not terrible clear track, sometimes you have to listen pretty close to discern what is being said.

This is probably the best it has looked in a long time, but that is not saying much as it can hardly be accused of taking advantage the Blu-ray format offers.

Extras. This release has a nice selection of bonus material.
  • Introduction. This is from mastermind producer Ted A. Bohus and he does a good job of getting you ready for the feature. (1:19)
  • Commentary. This track features Ted A. Bohus and editor Marc Harwood. This is a fun and lively track that gives a lo of insight int the making of this super low budget feature. They are quite open about the problems they ran into as well as their love for the project.
  • Alternate Opening. A different version of the first scene and opening credits. (4:43)
  • Casting and Gags. Funny clips from shooing and casting sessions sourced from an old VHS tape. (34:57)
  • Bloopers and Outtakes. Interesting clips from behind the scenes on the set that reveal how some of the stuff was done. (4:56)
  • Local News Segments. This is a collection of news bits that came out around the making of the movie. (40:32)
  • Take One. This is a cable access show that features an interview with editor Marc Harwood on the making of the movie by a rather annoying host. (24:58)
  • Visit with the Deadly Spawn. This is a visit with effects guy John Dods on the making of the creature. (8:39)
  • Theatrical Trailer and TV Spot.
  • Slideshow.
  • Comic Book Preview.

Bottomline. If you like low budget horror and you haven't seen this movie, you are in for a treat. It is delightfully demented, has ideas on display that seemingly inspired bigger movies to follow, features a nice homage to Night of the Living Dead, and closes with a crazy shot just begs to be seen. Plus, this release has some nice extras on it.


Article first published as Blu-ray Review: The Deadly Spawn on Blogcritics.

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