I have never been a massive fan of monster movies, sure I enjoy the classics, but when it gets to old 80s creature flicks I have to be persuaded to really consider them worth my time. The same is true for the whole ‘Mega octopus vs …’ and ‘Sharknado’ trend of them being humorously bad. I just don’t find them all that amusing, just bad.
There is one movie however in the collection which debunks this trend and that is Douglas McKeown’s ‘The Deadly Spawn’, a deliciously gory alien creature feature from 1983.
Most horror fans will be aware of this movie, and if you haven’t, you should – it is true cult horror at its best! Low budget done right. It is a fairly common place for the creature in such movies to feature box art to lure you in, and the retro 80s box art on this title is hook enough, but what is even more impressive, is that the ambitious creature design is actually realised in this movie, and to great exposure!
The plot of ‘The Deadly Spawn’ is pretty much as you would expect, and to be honest, if you’ve seen ‘Critters’ - same thing. A meteorite lands on the edge of a rural town in the US, and they have one thing on their mind – FOOD! First they trough a group of nearby campers, then they seek refuge in the basement of the nearby town house. Within the town there are an oddball assortment of characters who we are introduced to, and of course, once they discover their ravenous visitor, they must find a way to end it before they all become dinner.
For such a low budget movie (which incidentally went on to make millions) the plot does a good job of providing ample sustenance to the creature, and for us that means it keeps pretty good pace with a moderate flow of on screen gore. Despite its limitations the characters are well developed, and whilst I wouldn’t say that the dialogue goes beyond padding, the actors deliver some fairly likable performances. With a limited cast the movies doesn’t feel particularly restricted, and the town actually feels like a town!
As I hinted at in the opener this movies excels for a number of reasons, but if I had to pick its greatest appeal it would be the creature design. The main creature looks huge, and whilst it does look a bit like a giant toothy phallus, its multiple rows of teeth coupled with a slimy outer skin is both menacing and gross-out to say the least. If the big creature wasn’t enough – I mean there are only so many times people can wander unwittingly into a dark basement - the violence is also carried out by smaller, slug like miniature versions – presumably the big one’s babies. The creature effects are great, although clearly puppets, they look just the right side of dodgy, and certainly if there is a man in the suit, you cannot really tell! Kudos too for the monster being in the movie almost as much as the human cast, and ambitious creature attacks persist scene after scene.
To really seal the deal ‘The Deadly Spawn’ delivers gore by the bucket load. The Arrow UK reviewed here is rated a modest 15 certificate, but believe me when I say the gore is enough to rival even the most notorious slasher movies – my guess is the fantasy nature helps to appease the BBFC liberals. The blood effects look really nice, vibrant and gooey. The prosthetic limbs look a bit prop like, but the latex fake skin effects look great as the creature tears faces and limbs apart. I was massively impressed to say the least at the diversity of deaths and there is even an Alien chest-bursting homage to top it off!
Overall this movie can be found at a bargain price all over the place, and you have either Arrow’s release in the UK or Synapse in the US which both offer uncut versions with admirable transfers – albeit it in 4:3 ratio, and if you’re a fan of digital versions then check out: http://www.movieandmusicnetwork.com . If you are a fan of monster movies this movie is a must, like-wise if you enjoy gory sci-fi horror!