Friday, October 16, 2009


Based on a fairly literal reading of the horror novel by Jack Ketchum, Offspring is something unusual in film: It is the sequel to another movie that hasn’t yet been made. Even more amazing, this doesn’t work against it.
Offspring the novel was a sequel to Ketchum’s acclaimed book Off Season. The filmmakers were unable to secure rights to the first book, so they shot the second instead (Off Season is now reportedly in development). This leads to a lot of comments about events which occurred “eleven years ago”, but the story is so straightforward, it doesn’t really matter, although there may be some viewers unaware of the film’s backstory who will be looking for the first, nonexistent movie.

For years, the northern east coast, from Maine up into Canada, had been plagued by a tribe of primitive cannibals who lived in the caves along the coast. Since they moved sporadically, and the area in which they lived is fairly isolated, it too a long time for people to realize the disappearances along the coast were the work of the tribe’s hunting party. Eventually, some cops and locals who figured out what was happening managed to blow up the caves in which they were sheltered, wiping them out.

But there were survivors (not really, but it was needed for the sequel), and, over the course of time, they have built the group back up, using infants kidnapped from massacred families. In this film, they return to the site of their near extermination and stage bloody raids against the locals. Fortunately, one of the cops who stopped them the first time (now retired) is still in the area, and he is recruited by local law enforcement on an expedition to stop them again.

There is an interwoven subplot about an abusive husband, which serves to contrast the “naturalistic” evil of the tribe to the more “civilized” evil of the husband. I thought it was mostly filler, though.

Although a lot of people will be turned off by the excessive amount of gore and violence from start to finish in the movie (when an early scene shows someone holding a plastic bag of baby parts, you know there will be few limits), but I thought it was pretty effective. It’s a short film, which works in its favor, and although Art Hindle playing the retired cop is the only recognizable face in the cast, the acting is solid, particularly Tommy Nelson, who plays the juvenile lead without making him annoying.

There were a couple of touches I especially liked. First of all, most of the murderous savage cannibals are children, but once the outsiders confront them, there is little hesitation to use lethal force. I don’t know about you, but if I were attacked by a screaming primitive, knife-wielding child who I had just interrupted eating one of my friends, I would pull the trigger. Also, the police quickly accept what they are facing. This spares us the oft-repeated stereotype of the Amazingly Stupid Cops who ignore the One Guy Who Is Right. You know the type, where standing over the dismembered victims of the cannibal/zombie/werewolf, the One Guy Who Is Right says it must be the work of cannibals/zombies/werewolves, and the Amazingly Stupid Cops reply, no, it was probably the flu.

In places, it isn’t an easy movie to watch at times due to the violence, but I thought Offspring was an entertaining little gorefest, and if you like this sort of stuff, you probably will, too. Look for author Jack Ketchum (acting under his real name, Dallas Mayr) in a cameo as a paramedic.

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