Oh, The Humanity! The Deadly Spawn

Movies don’t get much cheaper than this. Shot for about $19,000 back in 1980 and 1981, mostly on the weekends with the co-executive Tim Hildebrandt’s house used as one of the main locations, The Deadly Spawn is a Bad Taste-esque horror flick though slightly less surreal or outrageous as Peter Jackson’s marvellous directorial debut and a lot less tongue in cheek. But there are a lot of laughs here, even if most of the time they’re unintentional ones.

Set in a small New English town where a meteor’s recently hit, three college students get together to revise for there exams but soon end up fending off an alien invasion. As you do. All three of the students are hideously bad actors, the dialogue’s of the most mundane standard, but strangely the film seems all the more real for this. It has a sort of reality tv feel, though certainly this is due to the lack of budget than any intentional reason, as is the lack of gore at the beginning of the film. But if you fast forward through the first thirty minutes (and trust me, you won’t miss much) soon blood is splattering many a wall, and the film becomes a lot more enjoyable.

Producer Ted Bohus claims that he came up with the idea for The Deadly Spawn in 1979 after reading an article in National Geographic magazine about seed pods that were found in the Arctic but this is clearly a massive lie as it’s obviously a tacky cash in on the success of Ridley Scott’s Alien. Indeed it was later re-released under the title of “Return of the Aliens” to exploit anyone who didn’t pay any attention to the press the film received and went in to the cinema unaware that it had nothing to do with Scott’s classic film. And if that did happen to anyone I imagine they must have been outraged as it’s the complete opposite of Alien, completely lacking in tension, decent acting and genuinely scary moments.

The little aliens that we first see in the film are like a cross between a tadpole and a penis, which as you may imagine is slightly odd, whilst the large aliens bare a surprisingly strong resemblance to Audrey 2 from Little Shop of Horrors. In general they look extremely cheap, but they’re usually (but not always) lit carefully to maximise the effect, though it has to be admitted that they’re onscreen far too much to ever be truly frightening. But some of the deaths are damn fun, ultra gross if not in the slightest bit realistic, and it’s this that makes the film worth watching if you like your horror films to elicit laughs.

So yeah, technically this is an appalling film – The script’s mostly terrible, the acting truly horrendous (bar that of a Frasier-esque Uncle who’s supposed to be looking after the kids, but who sadly gets killed off way too soon), but the film’s made with a sense of fun, and, most importantly with this type of genre fare, the gore’s inventively shot and mostly pretty comical, and it’s all rather unpredictable as to who lives and who dies. Oh, and its got a really badly animated shock ending which reminds of Tremors (one of my favourite trashy horror flicks, and one which deserves a place in Cult Classics rather than Oh, The Humanity) and really begs for a sequel, but alas due to the film flopping it was never made, and director Douglas McKeown didn’t get to make another film. Though given the one that he did manage to create I’m not necessarily sure if that’s a bad thing.

The Deadly Spawn is never going to be anyone’s favourite film, or even make their top 1000, but if you’ve a soft spot for movies that are so awful that they’re almost good and enjoy mocking the cinema that you watch then despite all of it’s flaws it may just be worthy of your time.

Alex Finch.

Related Links:
The film can be watched in full on youtube here.
An Interview with director Douglas McKeown.

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