Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Deadly Spawn (1983)

It's rare that you find a micro-budget movie that's not only has a cult following, but is actually worthy of the praise it's received. Lord knows I've had to sit through so many cult favorite micro-budget movies-"Meat Market", "Darkness", "The Shatter Dead", etc.-that failed to win me over for a myriad of reasons. So while it's not perfect, it's refreshing to watch a movie like "The Deadly Spawn", which has so much heart, enthusiasm and love put into it, and get's so much right, I can't help but watch it with a big smile plastered on my face.

The plot couldn't be more basic-a meteorite crashes onto Earth. Inside of it are alien creatures with big mouths, lots of teeth, and a desire to eat, and they are loose inside of a house. Now, it's up to a group of teens and horror/science fiction obsessed boy Charles (Charles George Hildebrandt) to stop this menace before it's too late.

As I said, it's pretty basic stuff. Made for $25,000 and a love for 50's alien invasion movies, and featuring plenty of 80's splatter, "The Deadly Spawn" does have it's flaws. For starters, none of the performances here are good, though that's a given in movies like this. However, you also have plenty of stretches of what I like to call "talk instead of dialog", or moments in which people just prattle on about nothing in particular for a while. Maybe if the conversations were better written, I would be more forgiving.

And here's where I get forgiving-"The Deadly Spawn", while not an all time classic in horror, is definitely a classic in the world of micro-budget movies. Here, while the actors aren't good, at least the characters they play actually feel like people instead of one dimensional stereotypes. Speaking of one dimensional, director Douglas McKeown (in his only directorial effort) knows that this is basic stuff, and thankfully doesn't try to try and give it all a "bigger meaning" or something like this. This is a monster movie and nothing more, and he proves himself to be a capable director who can move things at a good clip and not bog it down too much. Oh, and the synthesizer heavy score by Paul Cornell, Michael Perilstein and Kenneth Walker is great, perfectly fitting the mood of the whole thing and is pretty damn catchy to boot. Fans of late 70's/early-to-mid-80's horror movie scores will lap it up.

Oh, and then there's the best thing about the movie-the effects. It's obvious that the monsters are the stars here, and they look great-and not just for a movie made for a quarter of $100,000. The toothy beasts-from the 7-8 foot tall monster in the basement that escape upstairs to the tadpole like baby aliens-are all the definition of low budget ingenuity (and were created by future X-Files make-up effects man John Dods), and look like they could belong in a bigger budgeted movie. As for the gore effects-those are plentiful too, with heads getting bitten off, faces being ripped up and more happening with pure, unapologetic abandon.

For fans of 80's horror, "The Deadly Spawn" is a must see that offers enough gore, monsters and fun for a night with friends and a six-pack. Not a perfect movie, but a lot of fun, which is what you want from a monster movie like this.

Rating: 7.5/10

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