Lionsgate // 2009 // 78 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // October 16th, 2009
They'll lust for your life.
"Lock your doors."
Eleven years ago, a group of feral cannibals terrorized the town of Dead River, Maine. Many innocent people died back then. The local authorities thought the cannibals had been exterminated. They were wrong. Now, the tribe is plotting another attack, brutally murdering and eating the unsuspecting citizens of Dead River. Can the violent tribe be stopped, or is the town doomed?
I've never read one of Jack Ketchum's novels, but those who have indicate that he's written some rather engaging thrillers. Perhaps that's true, but on the basis of Offspring the man is a terrible screenwriter. The novel Offspring is actually a sequel to one of Ketchum's most famous works, the 1980 horror novel Off Season. Why not make a film version of Off Season rather than Offspring? Apparently there was some sort of rights issue, so it was determined that the sequel would be turned into a film. However, a big part of the problem is that the film feels like a sequel. This is not good. We're expected to realize that the characters in the film have a rather colorful past and that some very disturbing things have taken place in Dead River, but we aren't given any essential background info on any of this. Perhaps Ketchum was simply too close his own material and unable to recognize how the story would play for viewers who haven't read his novel.
I mentioned in my plot description that cannibals terrorized the town of Dead River years before the events of this film. We only know this because a quick montage of newspaper clippings is shown during the opening credits. Otherwise, the town's history with the cannibals is more or less unacknowledged (aside from an occasional line or two like, "Yep, this is just how it was last time"). Considering that numerous characters in the film are supposed to have encountered these fearsome humans/creatures before, how come no one has formulated a more effective method of dealing with the situation? Everybody kind of plunges in head first, taking very little caution and practically turning themselves into walking targets. For instance, one guy is attacked by the cannibals. He escapes in his car, drives for less than a mile, gets out of the car and is attacked again within the next few minutes. Seriously? If I had just been attacked by feral cannibals, I would have kept driving until I reached Nebraska.
And how about those cannibals, anyway? Where did they come from? Why did they decide to become cannibals? Just how long have they been living in the woods? What's the deal with their sense of mysticism that makes them insist that killing a baby places a curse on them? Why do they specifically attempt to cut out the heart and other organs of certain people while simply attempting to kill others as quickly as possible? Why does one character walk through the woods whipping herself with a switch? Does she feel guilty? Do these creatures have feelings? What sort of language is that they're speaking? Why are some of the murderous attacks accompanied by disturbing sexual behavior while others are not? These are just a few of the questions I asked myself while watching Offspring, and frustratingly, absolutely none of them were answered. They are what they are and we just have to accept it.
The movie may prove to be satisfying on a purely primal level for gorehounds, as it's one of the more violent and gruesome horror films I've seen recently. Intestines are pulled out, genitals are bitten by people wearing sharp aluminum fake teeth, hearts are ripped from chests and there's all sorts of stabbing, slicing, dicing, chewing, and gushing taking place around every corner. There's a pretty generous dose of nudity and sexuality thrown into the mix too, adding another layer of sensationalism to the affair. Despite all of this, Offspring is boring because it fails to make us care about the sorely underdeveloped human characters and doesn't permit us to understand the cannibals. The result is a film that feels like little more than a flimsy excuse to provide buckets of mindless (if occasionally creative and startling) violence.
The transfer is very disappointing, often looking much more like a standard-def transfer than an image worthy of Blu-ray. The level of detail suffers in particular, as there are numerous scenes which seem very soft and blurry. Background detail is a hazy blur quite frequently, while facial detail is only adequate at best. The image is slightly lacking in depth, and the darker scenes feel a little bit too murky. Flesh tones also seem a bit off at times. Audio is adequate, though the sound design is sorely lacking in consistency and complexity. The dialogue sounds decent and the creepy score by Ryan Shore (son of Howard) comes through with clarity. However, I was worried about the harsh electronic pops and stings of the score wreaking havoc on my speakers.
As with the other Ghost House Underground releases, the supplements included are reasonably generous. First up is an audio commentary with Ketchum, director/producer Andrew van den Houten and producer/cinematographer William M. Miller, all of whom seem convinced that they've made a rather wonderful film. Next up is a 20-minute making-of featurette called "Progeny: The Birth of Offspring" in which the cast and crew speak about Ketchum's brilliance and how much they love the considerable measure of gore contained within the film. "First Stolen's Bailout" (3 minutes) recounts the strange story of one of the actors getting arrested for driving with a suspended license. You also get a handful of brief webisodes spotlighting various items related to the making of the film, a photo gallery, some dumb "micro videos" and a theatrical trailer.
There are a few individual moments that really work. The first seven minutes or so are effectively eerie and unnerving. The creepy sequence in which a wealthy businessman picks up a hitchhiker is good, too. Nonetheless, these are but rubies lodged in a dried cow patty.
Those seeking only extreme violence may find Offspring up their alley, but most will find the film to be a misfire and the Blu-ray transfer to be a disappointment.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 78 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Music Video
* Image Gallery