The Deadly Spawn (1983)

Written and directed by Douglas McKeown, The Deadly Spawn had only one purpose… To feed on human flesh!

Made for approximately $25,000.00 and released in 1983 The Deadly Spawn is an exercise in low-budget excess. Conceived by producers Ted Bohus and Tim Hildebrandt this 16mm cult classic emerged, drenched in blood, during the horror video boom of the 1980′s as an effort to pay tribute to the alien sub-genre of 1950′s science fiction.

A large meteor crash landing to Earth in small-town America is witnessed by two campers nearby. After the duo stumble across to the crash site they soon become eviscerated spawn-fodder after their investigation goes horribly wrong. It’s not until the next morning, during a seemingly never-ending rainstorm, that Sam (James Brewster) and his wife Barbara (Elissa Neil) discover they have taken in an uninvited otherworldly murderer via an open window in the basement of their farmhouse. The very same deadly spawn that had feasted on human flesh the previous night…

Sam and Barbara, now the latest victims of the hungry, and quite frankly pissed off alien phallus that remains hidden in the basement, are merely leftovers for the spawn offspring that have developed and are spreading out in search of blood.

The last hope of the farmhouse now relies upon Sam and Barbara’s b-movie fixated son Charles (Charles George Hildebrandt), and his study obsessed scientist brother Pete (Tom DeFranco), who remain oblivious to the horror that awaits them down in the basement. Can these two brothers unite and stop the alien-terror from devouring an assortment of occupants in this small America town? Unlikely!

Filmed on location in New Jersey, Douglas McKeown‘s The Deadly Spawn seemingly plays out as serious science-fiction, but undoubtedly has it’s tongue placed firmly in cheek, emphasized strongly by the amount of splattering gore that is tossed around. Severely underrated, The Deadly Spawn almost suffered obscurity when it was unfairly retitled as Return of the Alien’s Deadly Spawn. Under this title the movie was re-released alongside a plethora of otherworldly exploitative slices of cinema which attempted to cash in on the success of Ridley Scott’s 1979 science fiction/horror masterpiece Alien. What made The Deadly Spawn stand out above the crowd during this time however was it’s clever use of practical special effects.

Special make-up effects artist John Dods worked extensively with his dedicated team to design and create the monster-mechanicals that helped secure The Deadly Spawn cult status. Abandoning the typical “man-in-a-suit” design usually employed on a tight budget, John Dods opted to take a different direction ultimately resulting in a mixture of animatronics and puppetry that ensured Dods’ professional breakthrough into the industry.

Unfortunately impatience can grow due to the inconsistent pacing that has plagued certain sections of the The Deadly Spawn, and you may find yourself becoming distracted as occupants of the farmhouse continue with “business-as-usual”; oblivious to the horror below. Stick with it though because the writing can become unpredictable at times, ignoring the rules set by other more well known movies in the horror and science-fiction genres.

The Deadly Spawn may take it’s time preparing you for the final act but through the ingenious use of John Dods special make-up and monster effects, Douglas McKeown respectable direction (for what has become his only feature film) and admirable acting from an enthusiastic cast, this low-budgeted exploitative epic has spawned a dedicated cult following, and deservedly so. They’re here and they are HUNGRY!

Rating: ★★★★★★★★☆☆

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