First thing I’m going to say about this flick, “Every bit as good as it was when I watched it as a kid!” But more on my thoughts after a brief synopsis…
The Deadly Spawn is a 1983 horror film directed by Douglas McKeown and starring Charles George Hildebrandt.
It follows the story of a crash-landed alien that finds refuge in the basement of a house and grows to monstrous proportions, eating those unlucky enough to venture down. A handful of teenagers try to survive the onslaught of the creature and its vile young.
The film begins somewhat like THE BLOB (taking a cue from classic sci-fi monster flicks from the 50’s, something we see throughout the flick as the story goes on) with a meteor crashing to earth in what seems like the middle of nowhere. Two guys out camping see the meteor crash, and, of course, they have to check it out. One guy stays behind while the other goes back for the flashlight. The guy getting the flashlight hears a scream and comes rushing out of the tent…only to find his DOOM! Heh. Keep an eye out for a continuity flub with the tent guy’s shirt, one minute it’s one color, and the next, it’s black…or some other color I can’t make out, the transfer’s a little dark, but more on that a little later.
Then we’re introduced to a couple, the only nudity in the flick and it’s a middle-age woman, booooo. Anyway, the hot water’s out so the guy goes downstairs to the basement to check it out where we find…THE DEADLY SPAWN, more particularly the MAMMA spawn and her spawnettes. The MAMMA spawn is a huge, red mass of tendrils and great, huge mouths filled with teeth. The guy’s wife, wondering what’s taking the guy so long in the basement goes down to check on him, and THAT’s when we get a really awesome scene. While she’s looking around, she fails to notice the massive amount of blood everywhere and, when her back is turned, her husband’s hand reaches out to her and she turns to find…well, I’m not going to give it all away, but it’s freaking awesome, including half a face getting ripped away. Friggin’ sweet!
Then we find another couple waking up in the SAME HOUSE to a scream, and I was confused at first about why these people were in the same house and if they heard the scream from the earlier chick downstairs. Turns out to be the TV of their nephew, Charles, watching a monster flick. Turns out their nephew is a huge fan of horror/sci-fi flicks (a character we can really relate to). Friday the 13th 4, The Final Chapter came to mind, with the monster movie fanatic (played by Corey Feldman) in that one. As with that flick, this kid had plenty of horror masks and costumes he’d made himself.
Turns out there are about a billion people living in this house right now. The two that went down into the basement were the mother and father characters, and the other, still living couple, is the monster-kid’s aunt and uncle (the uncle, a psychologist, whom later questions monster-kid Charles’ horror “fantasies”), there’s also the older brother Pete, a highschool kid with an obsession for science far outweighing Charles’ love of monster flicks.
Moving on, the aunt, Millie, leaves the house to go to a vegetarian get-together at her mother’s house. While gone, an electrician (monster fodder) shows up to take care of some wiring or something (it’s never really explained) and makes his way to the basement using a cellar entrance outside. Needless to say, he wanders around until…THE DEADLY SPAWN! attack. While that’s going on, head-shrinker uncle Herb decides to use Charles as a study for a paper he plans to speak on regarding child psychology at a conference he’s in town for.
After the questioning (which I believe was the screenwriter’s jab at critics who believe horror movies corrupt and generally fucks up the minds of America’s youth), Charles decides to go upstairs and put on one of his costumes to frighten uncle Herb when he notices the basement door ajar. Because this is a horror movie, of course he goes downstairs to check things out. Meanwhile, Pete has invited a few of his friends over to study biology and other subjects of science for an upcoming test, Ellen (another science fiend), Kathy, and Frankie (reminding me of Shelley from Friday 3, as this guy plays the stupid joker).
Ellen and Frankie came across what (unbeknownst to them) one of THE DEADLY SPAWNETTES and Ellen decides to disect it, finding a mass of internal organs that don’t fit in with any biology of the creatures of this world. Pete waves it off as a prank, of course, though Frankie believes it and goes off about houseflies from Jupiter, not convincing Pete, obviously. Meanwhile, Charles has come across MAMMA SPAWN and her SPAWNETTES and has noticed that they’re crawling about everywhere, digging into the walls and floor. He also notices that the SPAWN react upon sound alone to locate it’s prey…so he’s stuck down there for a while.
Then the movie kicks into gear with the Old-Lady veggie party being invaded by a flock of SPAWNETTES that begin tearing into the grannies. Aunt Millie has to help beat them off and get the Blue-Hairs to her car, screaming all the way. Back at the house of 1000 relatives, Pete and his pals have too found themselves under attack by the SPAWNETTES.
I’m not going to go on with the rest as I recommend everyone go out and rent or buy this movie as it’s a fun, old-time horror/monster flick you just don’t see anymore. You won’t be disappointed, that’s a BACKWOODS HORROR guarantee!
I remember seeing this flick as a kid of about 4 or 5 and remember absolutely loving it. Of course, at that age, I was intensely frightened, but couldn’t stop watching. I actually have, at my parents’ house, one of my school notebooks with my poorly sketched version of the MAMMA SPAWN. These days, I still have a great love for THE DEADLY SPAWN, though no longer do I find myself having to resist covering my eyes (except for when the middle-aged boobies show up).
I must admit that, when I watched it last week with Owen (from THE BACKWOODS HORRORSHOW), I found myself getting more of the humour of the flick that I obviously missed as a child. That, in addition to a cool monster and buckets of blood and gore, puts this flick on my top-list of must-see horror flicks. I also loved the character of Charles and found, like many horror fans who watch this movie, I’m sure, that I saw much of myself in him. I can relate to a closet full of masks and costumes (I always kept my halloween costumes, and would beg for some even when it was ‘out of season’), and, instead of FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND mags scattered everywhere, I had FANGORIA. And of course my walls were plastered with horror movie posters as his were. To have a character like that be the protagonist in a monster/horror movie makes this an instant hit with anyone reading this site I’m sure.
This is most assuredly the cleanest transfer of this film I’ve ever seen (used to, as I’ve been, to old and worn VHS copies). This was also commented upon in the humourous and insightful commentary track I listened to the other day before falling asleep. Does anyone else do that? Fall asleep to commentary tracks of your favourite movies, I mean…it’s better than booze and sleeping pills. Not that it’s ever boring, it’s just, calming. Anyway, moving on.
The special features included an old theater for the trailer where the movie went by the flick’s other title: RETURN OF THE ALIENS: THE DEADLY SPAWN. There was the commentary I featured, a “comic semi-prequel” leading up to the beginning of the movie, an alternate opening (of which I couldn’t tell much of a difference), filmmaker Biographies (from which I learned that Tim Sullivan of 2001 MANIACS fame worked on the flick as a production assistant), and a neat little shot-on-video “behind the scenes” short showing a bit of the work of the makeup/special effects artist John Dods.
My final verdict…Pick It Up Today! Also, I’d like to thank SYNAPSE FILMS for sending Backwoods Horror this flick for review. Look for a future review of HOME SICK, which they were also so kind to send. Thanks Guys, and keep up the good work getting flicks out on DVD that may have never been seen otherwise (and for taking a serious interest in the genre and presenting these films in such beautiful transfers and giving them the special editions they deserve)
4 out of 5 skulls