Progeny (1998)

Brian Yuzna is a force to be reckoned with when dealing with genre films, he started off his career producing flicks for Stuart Gordon mainly and somewhere along he decided to take over directorial duties. This, in my humble opinion, was a mistake. This little-seen flick mixes it metaphors like a bull in a whorehouse, though the themes are fairly solid. It takes an interesting idea, that of a man driven insane by the notion that the unborn baby growing within his loving wife is not his, and attempts to twist it by morphing it into a pulsating body horror come sci-fi thrill ride. Needless to say, it fails on most counts.

Arnold Vosloo (who defines wooden in the first two Mummy flicks) plays a doctor who, while getting jiggy with his wife, is abducted by aliens who then inseminate his life partner with their intergalactic seed. Talk about coitus interruptus! The movie follows his descent into insanity as he tries to figure out what happened, while dropping expositive dialogue only when it serves the next plot point. As I said, the premise is solid and you have to do a stellar disservice to your audience in order for a film based around that set of circumstances to be ignored by the bulk of genre fans, let alone mainstream horror fans. And Yuzna perpetrates every heinous directorial crime in the book. Firstly, the sci-fi set pieces stand out a mile. Each sequence involving wishy washy alien creatures is entirely at odds with the tone of the intervening scenes; these tonal shifts yank you out of the moment constantly. Also, the aliens seem to shape shift from scene to scene which certainly put me in the mind that the containing shots are hoyed straight from the stock footage file. All the camera shots seem static and boring, which really puts a dampener on any of the exciting stuff that occasionally flashes across the screen. Plus the whole thing is at least twenty minutes overlong.

Progeny did have a few glittering moments of joy, Don Calfa’s cameo made me do a squee of joy. Especially as his brief scene was shared with Brad Dourif’s UFO obsessed sociologist. Some of the gore was pretty real looking, though there was never enough of it to satisfy gore hounds. When this was a movie about a man going nuts over whether he was actually the baby’s daddy, it actually touched on some interesting ground as I am certain a lot of would-be fathers have those niggling doubts. It also would have positively benefitted from a touch of ambiguity as to whether it was little green men or all part of Vosloo’s skewed psyche.

If I was to say this was a botched abortion of a movie, would that count as a spoiler? I think it might. Either way, some promising scenes and a decent turn from Dourif makes Progeny just about watchable, although the laborious slog through the last half hour and constant strutting out of plot points for the sake of moving things forward may well set your teeth on edge.

Rating: ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆

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