"The worst sin for an exploitation film is for it to be boring. It can insult our intelligence, batter our senses, and fail to make any sense; but it can never be boring." - Chas. Balun
Let's dispense with plot right off the bat. A meteorite that is more like a space-placenta lands in a bucolic New Jersey suburb, hatches awesome looking extraterrestrial tadpoles that grow extremely fast and soon get busy devouring life. Thirteen year old Charles is the quintessential monster movie fan who, like Corey Feldman in Friday the 13th: The Final (ha!) Chapter, quickly assesses the situation and uses his wits and otherwise totally useless movie trivia to make a stand against the gnashing teeth of doom and save humanity from total oblivion. Not exactly the stuff of doctorate theses, and it shouldn't be. The storyline and drizzling backdrops are merely a set-up for some really cool pre-CGI special effects and character development that is surprisingly understated and believable for a flick about...well...we've already dispensed with plot haven't we? Let's make another thing perfectly clear: you will laugh out loud at the screen. And not always when the creators intended. The unstoppable "eating machine" from another galaxy sorta resembles a crossbreed between Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors and that thing on the cover of Autopsy's Mental Funeral and, let's face it, it's very amusing (that's still no excuse to shout at the screen like a fuckin' idiot...so don't!). This is a low budget flick. Like, a really low budget flick. Like, an estimated total budget of $40,000 low budget flick (IMDB and Nightmare USA claim the estimated budget was $25,000 but back in 1986 splatter champion Chas. Balun claimed that the producers confided to him that the total budget was $40,000 and I'm sticking with Balun). To put that in cinematic perspective, John Carpenter's Halloween (1978) cost about $320,000. Friday the 13th part III which was released the same year cost an estimated $2,500,000 and C.H.U.D., another highly enjoyable monster flick that came along a few years later, had a budget of $1,250,000. Which brings me around to the premise of today's rant. Enjoy The Deadly Spawn for exactly what it is...an extremely satisfying labor of love created by some very creative dudes who loved monsters and horror flicks and pooled their resources to make a fiercely independent movie on their own goddamn terms despite the industry's daunting odds and political ass-kissery. This is an outrageously fun testament to what can be accomplished when unwavering passion collides with ingenuity...on weekends only of course because the crew all had regular day jobs! Consider this: director of special effects John Dods met producer Tim Hildebrandt at a sci-fi fan convention, not some bullshit Hollywood executive suite and you can bet your ass they were high-fivin' about how much Karo Syrup they'd need, not foreign distribution deals or "units" sold. They didn't even have a complete working script when they began filming. If you haven't already surmised, producer Tim Hildebrandt was he of the Brothers Hildebrandt, the immensely talented twins who carved a name for themselves back in the 80's with their fantastic artwork for Dungeons and Dragons, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, The Secret of Nimh, etc. In fact, it was Tim Hildebrandt who painted the great original promotional poster for The Deadly Spawn which can be glimpsed around town this month in preparation of Grindhouse Theater's upcoming 35mm screening. Hildebrandt not only lent his money and artistic abilities to the film, he also cast his son in the starring role (more accurately the co-starring role when you consider the awesome monsters) and provided his own home for the primary set location. So while Poltergeist (1982) was dropping 10 million dollars on highfalutin spooks, director Douglas McKeown was sticking his arm up a glorified Muppet's ass and fightin' the good fight for artistic autonomy. This was a regular family affair and it endures today as the essence of passion over fashion. In other words, poverty is the true mother of invention. Incidentally, speaking of Autopsy (and I often am), Wes Benscotter was commissioned to paint the special reissue artwork for The Deadly Spawn a few years ago and his rendition is very cool too. Anyway, don't miss this!
THE DEADLY SPAWN
August 28, 2012