Judge Joel Pearce hopes his offspring will never eat anyone.
Our review of Offspring (Blu-Ray), published October 16th, 2009, is also available.
They'll lust for your life.
While Offspring has all of the pieces required to become a cult indie horror flick, it ultimately falls short. It simply never really figures out what it wants to be: a seriously grisly gorefest or a campy poke in the ribs.
Facts of the Case
In the deep, dark forests of Maine, barely human cannibal hunters roam in the darkness. Every few years, they reappear in the area to feast on human flesh. For this particular outing, they have targeted the area around the house of David (Andrew Elvis Miller, Fixing Frank) and Amy (Amy Hargreaves, El Camino). When the gruesome killings start up again, the police turn to George (Art Hindle, Paradise Falls), a former cop who understands how much blood is about to be spilled.
There are a few good things to say about Offspring. It's nicely gruesome, and the special effects are reasonably well-done given the budget of the film. I also really liked the soundtrack, which uses eerie sound effects that help build dramatic tension. Overall, it's a nice looking and sounding film, crafted with a reasonable level of quality.
Unfortunately, the experience of watching the film never lives up to its technical craftsmanship. Considering that Jack Ketchum adapted the screenplay from his own novel, one would expect the script to be solid. The dialogue is hokey, however, and the pacing of the film is a little stilted, especially considering it runs less than 80 minutes long. This awkward dialogue would have been tolerable in a cast of winking over-actors or a cast of talented thespians. Unfortunately, the cast here doesn't seem to fully understand the kind of movie they're in. They take the dialogue seriously, but fail to sell it. This is especially true of one character, who is supposed to be so evil he relishes watching his soon-to-be ex wife beaten by vicious cannibals, but performs his whole role with emotional flatness.
There are also some troubling plot holes. The cannibals are so primitive they speak in a rough protolanguage and live in caves, but are capable of pulling off complex raids against well-armed opponents with guns. They even know enough to kill the electricity and phone lines of the houses they attack. Alas, they seem to be stumped by that most puzzling modern technology—the door knob. We simply never get a clear understanding of these feral people, even though much of the running time is spent focused on them. To be fair, however, the cannibals represent the best performances of the film. They leap into their roles with the ferocity and energy that should have run through the whole production.
Ultimately, I can't imagine many people being thrilled with Offspring. It's an unpleasant film to watch, given its general lack of humor, but it also lacks the dramatic intensity required to deliver the kinds of moral and emotional jolts of more serious horror films.
Looking at the DVD release, you would think that the people at Lionsgate really believed they had a modern horror classic on their hands. We get an enthusiastic commentary track from Jack Ketchum, director Andrew van der Houten (Headspace), and cinematographer William M. Miller. It's a fun track, and they clearly love making these low-budget horror flicks. There are quite a few featurettes as well, which go into painstaking detail. On top of that, we get a printable script on the DVD. The transfer quality is excellent considering the pedigree of the film, even in darker scenes. The sound transfer is solid as well.
It's too bad this great release couldn't have been for a better movie. While Offspring had plenty of potential, it lacked the ambition to become the movie it really wanted to be. I suspect that this crew will continue making horror movies, though, and one of them is going to be great. It just hasn't arrived quite yet.
Despite good intentions and a great release, Offspring is guilty.
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