The Deadly Spawn (1983)
THE DEADLY SPAWN
WRITER: Screenplay by Douglas McKeown
From a Story by Ted A. Bohus, John Dods, and Douglas McKeown
DIRECTOR: Douglas McKeown
STARRING: Charles Hildebrandt as Charles
Tom De Fracno as Pete
Richard Lee Porter as Frankie
Jean Tafler as Ellen
Karen Tighe as Kathy
QUICK CUT: A strange mass falls from the stars in a rural part of the country, and the locals have to deal with a basement gobbling up everyone. Oh, and also, there's a vegetarian luncheon.
Charles - Your average horror loving kid. Smart, but quiet, and loves to play pranks on everyone, and give them a little fright. If he survives the movie, he'll probably go into special effects/makeup.
Pete - Charles' older brother, living at home while going to college, and studying to be an astronomer. Where Charles is all into horror and scifi and imagination, Pete is very rigid in his thinking, very black and white, and clearly aliens from outer space do not exist. He mocks Charles' love of horror repeatedly, as being childish and pointless, and I think we can all relate.
Frankie - Pete's friend, and a bit of a local yokel who is arguably a bit naive, but not stupid. He tends to be more like Charles, a free thinker and a bit more imaginative. Which also gets mocked by Pete.
Ellen - The love interest for Pete, studying biology in college, but also open to the possibilit of finding new things. Which, y'know, you would think Pete's being a scientist, he'd be the same. Science is about discovery, not rigid, black and white, there is nothing we don't know thinking. But I digress. Pete also teases Ellen about her believing in the possibility of aliens. Honestly, Pete's a dick.
Cathy - She who shows up in act three and doesn't really do much.
THE GUTS: Welcome back, Triskelions! Random fact time, this is the second release from Synapse Films we're looking at in a row. I don't *think* I have another DVD put out by them, so don't expect this to be a randomly themed month. And I mean, random. I did not know this was gonna happen, I didn't even know Maniac Cop was put *out* by Synapse when I wrote it down for the 1st.
Anyways, Deadly Spawn! Remember Metamorphosis? No, not that one, the other one. And remember Regenerated Man? How I said that those two movies were thematic sequels, if not exactly following the same stories or necessarily set in the same universe? And how there was one more movie in the 'trilogy', which came before both, and if I ever reviewed it, I would have basically done the entire trilogy in reverse?
DEADLY SPAWN, everyone!! Yes, the time has come to cap off the Ted A. Bohus pseudo trilogy. IN REVERSE!
We don't waste any time, as the opening of the movie has a meteor crashing to Earth and seen by a pair of campers. Their immediate reaction? "...Let's go look!" You know they dead.
After the campers get taken out, we move on to even more people who are not long for this movie. A couple planning a little trip, so they won't be missed once they're eaten. The movie takes no time to send one of them down into the basement to get duly eaten.
When Sam doesn't return, Barb goes to look for him, and meets the same fate of being devoured by shadows, splashing blood everywhere, and someone farting off camera...no wait, that's just the critters grinding around.
So, to recap, we are 14 minutes into this movie, and everyone we've met has been eaten, slashed, and had their face ripped off. Way to keep the audience off balance!
Good thing their kids' aunt and uncle are visiting, or they'd have no adult supervision whatsoever! With everyone so far dead, we meet the aunt and uncle briefly, but the real focus here are the kids, Charles and Pete. One's a kid who loves horror movies and pranks, the other is in college studying science and is very rigid in his thinking! Together they fight worms!
After breakfast, the aunt heads off to a luncheon with her mother, and Charles has a talk about horror with his psychologist uncle. Meanwhile, Pete hangs out upstairs to wait for friends to come by and provide more canon fodder.
Following the opening massacre, the character stuff is a welcome change of pace and slows things down just the right amount. It moves along nicely, with some good moments making these people decent characters.
But enough of that, it's time for the electrician to stop by just as the fuse box goes boom! Because we haven't had anyone head down into the basement for awhile.
Charles heads down to try and spook the guy, as he likes to do, but the poor electrician got electrocutionaled before we got here.
Our wannabe prankster finds the creepy crawlies, and the already half-eaten electrician. Man, these things are hungry. They've eaten like five people for breakfast. I know I'm full after TWO. That must be why they have so many teeth.
The critters are EVERYWHERE, in all shapes and sizes, and still mutating. He also finds his mom's head when the largest of the spawn barfs it up.
Since the movie is burning through characters faster than Game of Thrones, Pete's friends Frankie and Ellen show up. And as a bonus, they brought a dead spawn with them, the -ly having been removed before they got there.
Pete is intrigued, but not enough to care, since he figures it's probably just a mutant turtle or something. Ellen is way more interested in it though, and wants to dissect it and learn more. Frankie says relax.
Back in the basement, Pete is watching all the critters wandering around, some of them escaping through the open cellar window. None of them seem very interested in the kid though, so he does some testing and realises they're attracted to sound.
While Ellen gets her dissecting on, we catch up with the aunt and her luncheon. Unfortunately, she's not the only visitor who has arrived, as the worms of doom have come along for the ride. They're gonna be disappointed that the menu is vegetarian.
Frankie starts to think he's seeing things, and Mister Rational McScience gives him a hard time for believing in worms from outer space. Yeah, that's *impossible*. Boy, are YOU in the wrong movie, Pete.
Preparations continue at the luncheon, where one of the worms accidentally climbs inside a food processor and gets ground up with the fresh kale. Curiosity killed the deadly spawn.
The aunt is getting worried about the guys back home, and can't reach them. And since we are WAY before the age of cellphones, she has to call this person called 'the operator' to try and get through.
While she's on the phone, she hears a commotion and rushes back to the living room, where she finds the old ladies being devoured by the critters.
The ladies beat back the creatures and run out the door, barely escaping with their lives, but they are pretty banged up. They all pile into their car and are never seen again! Except for the aunt who sneaks back in at the very end to check on the kids.
Meanwhile, Charles is still in the basement watching, and upstairs, the kids are going to show Pete's uncle their biology project. Unfortunately, he's not seeing much of anything, because his eyes have been eaten. Also, gratuitous Alien reference as a critter chews through his chest.
They back out of the room, close the door, and write off the uncle. But once the door is closed, and the creatures are left behind, the trio turns and sees the giant momma worm. And cue the screaming.
Charles finally comes upstairs and tries to make them stop with the screaming, because he knows it's bad, no matter how much they may want to.
The older kids scurry up to Charles' room, while he sets up a a radio in the kitchen to draw the creature's attention, and maybe to electrocute it.
Oh, and look! Time for more food to show up, as another girl, Cathy, arrives. And she's followed by the slightly crispier mommaworm, coming within two inches of eating the new arrival before she can even give her name.
They try and make a run for Pete's room, and to look for Charles, but the instant they're out in the hallway, mommaworm is there, hungry, and heading towards the yelling.
Yellin' Ellen makes the most noise, shouting at everyone to look out when she doesn't make it out of Charles' room.
The creature busts in, chews off Ellen's head, and tosses her out a window. Yeah, that's right. A defenestration decapitation!
Pete climbs up on the roof to move about the house without running into the gigantic tooth and pile of slime, and along the way he finally notices his parents' car is still there. Finally someone realises they never left the basement.
Frankie and Cathy hide in the attic, and watch all the creatures outside the window that the budget doesn't allow us to see.
While staring out the window, they see Ellen's body, scream some more, and drag in Pete, who's gone into a bit of catatonic shock. And they yell at him to try and snap him out of it. Meanwhile, you just know the creatures are going, "HMM WHERE COULD THEY BE? IS IT ALL THAT NOISE??"
The hour long assault on Pete's rational, scientific mind, coupled with his parents being dead, his aunt and uncle being dead, his girlfriend lying decapitated on the front lawn, ends up being too much for him and he snaps. With more yelling.
Naturally, the creatures hear all this shouting, and come crashing in through the door. Blind as bats, but they sure hear real good.
Charles shows up, and runs to his room, grabbing some of his props and gag supplies, to fill a mask with flash powder, and rigs an fuse with a lamp cord. This seriously doesn't happen enough these days, but back in the 80s, kids in horror movies loved rigging up shit like this to go boom in the monster's face.
Once his little IED is set up, he rushes upstairs where the screaming is in full force. I mean, sure, it's natural to react that way, but these poor people would live if only...
Charles runs up there, tells them to be quiet, and gets the attention of the mommaworm with some noise and the mask.
The monster takes the bait, and Charles plugs in his bomb, after having some issues of length with the cord. But he gets the creature to come close enough (And it eats one of its own family in the process) and makes the entire thing explode in a bloody, gory mess.
We then wrap up with a montage of the town going around killing the wormlings, burning them, stabbing them, what have you. Well, I guess that wraps things up!
So, Pete and Charles survived, as did their aunt, and two out of Pete's three friends. They may be a bit traumatised, scarred for life both physically and mentally, but I say that qualifies as a happy ending as the cop cars and ambulances drive off into the sunset!
No wait, because we can't have nice things, the movie does one last scene with some cops checking around the house one final time, when the gigantest of the deadly spawn bursts out of the mountain behind them.
Video: This movie has one WEIRD aspect ratio. If you look closely at the screencaps, you'll see not just black bars on the top and bottom, or on the sides, but a box ALL the way around. And this 'windowboxing' IS INTENTIONAL. I could've trimmed it away, but felt like leaving the images as is. That said, things look okay. Everything is clear, and sharp enough, the blood is nice and red, and you're never left squinting at bad image quality. But it is very much an early 80s no budget indie flick.
Audio: A solid 2.0 mix from the mono track, or something like that. It was a bit on the quiet side, but sounded nicely, and the worms were nice and icky.
Sound Bite: "What is with the basement this morning??" THE BASEMENT HUNGERS.
Body Count: It starts off dropping bodies left and right, then calms down to focus on an actual cast of characters. Still, we're left with a solid pile by the end.
1 - 90 seconds in brings us our first corpse as an unlucky camper goes squeak.
2 - Followed almost immediately by his fellow camper.
3 - Sam gets eaten in his own basement.
4 - And his wife Barb joins him for brunch.
5 - The basement of doom claims another victim, the electrician.
6 - The uncle gets eaten off camera by the spawn.
7 - Ellen gets decapitated then her corpse huffed out the nearest window.
Best Corpse: I really like the uncle's body. The worms chewing throughout his entire form, and the fact it's in a well lit room is bonus horror.
Blood Type - B+: As can be gathered by the caps, there's blood everywhere in this movie. And the effects are AMAZING. Let's consider the budget on this movie is a drop in the bucket, and LOOK what they did with the spawn, from the very cool tiny ones, to the HUGE momma spawnworm. Things bite, get stabbed, decapitated, set on fire, explode...amazing.
Sex Appeal: Tiny hints of breasts here and there.
Drink Up! every time Pete insists people are silly for bothering with fantastical ideas.
Video Nasties: It's a bit longer than usual, but enjoy the final fight in the attic, and Charles' exploding head.
Movie Review: This is, undeniably, a cheaply made, low budget movie. No noticeable actors, very few locations, and a pretty straightforward story. What this movie DOES have, is aliens. Those effects on the Deadly Spawn are amazing for what this movie is. I may mock the Bohus movies, and in many cases rightly so, but the effects are always forward thinking, and aside from Regenerated Man which tried to do CGI too soon, they look great. Keeping in mind the level this movie is at, it's pretty good. There's a story there, there's a little bit of commentary on fantasy vs. reality vs. science, and rigid thinking vs. open mindedness. Deadly Spawn doesn't do a whole lot with those themes, but it plays with them enough for this sort of thing. It's not a great movie by any stretch. The acting actually manages to be capable in many cases. The story is a bit of a retread, of who knows how many movies, but in the middle of the slasher rise, a throwback to 50s monster invasion movies is great, and it plays well within that genre. Very enjoyable, if far from a great movie. Three out of five soy meatballs.
Entertainment Value: On the effects and creatures alone, this movie is most entertaining. The story is a bit basic, but it's fun, and allows for a lot of silliness. The plot being so all over the place with character after character being introduced and immediately killed off is a bit of a problem plot wise, making the movie take too long to REALLY get going with out cast, but I can't deny the fun it is to guess...is THIS the star...nope, he's worm food. This is definitely worthy of its cult status, is wildly entertaining from the cheesy movie front, to the blood and gore side of things, and just a lot of good, clean fun...well, not so clean if you're a basement wall, but I digress. Easily the best of the three Ted Bohus movies I've reviewed, but it set a very high standard. Four out of five dissected spaceworms.
Oh, and yes, Charles Hildebrandt? He's related to the famous scifi/comic painters, Tim and Greg. Who, incidentally, lent a hand and paintbrush to the movie. I couldn't leave that little factoid just sitting there with zero mention the entire review.