Monday, October 19, 2009
I had highly anticipated seeing Offspring, another film adapted from a Jack Ketchum novel with the script actually being written by Ketchum (he also makes a small cameo appearance in the film). The other two recent films that were adapted from Ketchum’s work, The Lost and The Girl Next Door, were both disturbing and extreme, so I was really looking forward to what they did with Offspring. Unfortunately, I was left luke-warm with this film and feel it is the weakest Ketchum adaptation to screen to date.
Offspring has a relatively straight-forward plot…a small New England town and its rural-dwelling residents are terrorized by a group of feral cannibals that are descendants from a lighthouse keeper that went missing with his family in the 1800’s. They’ve been living in the wild on the coast of northern New England and Canada and eating human flesh ever since.
This being a Ketchum-based story you can expect all the usual nasty and uncomfortable violence aimed at women and children, and this film has it in spades. Babies and children get slaughtered, women get brutalized and most of the men end up as gory slabs of meat. There’s lots of gore and blood on display, but it’s never so over-the-top that it becomes memorable. In fact, the only real gory bits that were memorable included the opening scene where a drunken mother stumbles back to her home after a night out to find her babysitter and baby butchered by the group of the feral kids and another scene where a captive woman is “eaten out” in a horrifying way. Maybe I’m just jaded, but while the violence was non-stop it didn’t really resonate with me.
Obviously, this film has its moments of shocking violence (we are dealing with feral cannibals here), made even more disturbing when it’s aimed at or perpetrated by children, but this dark tone is (unintentionally) lightened by the ridiculous look of the cannibal family. From their bushy hair to their ridiculous rags that made them look more like they were emulating the Lost Boys from Disney’s Peter Pan rather than frightening flesh-eating kids. Big points off for making the villains more silly than scary.
Despite the silliness of the costumes, there was one actress whose commanding presence was very frightening, and that was Pollyanna McIntosh. She played the matriarch of the cannibals and her snarling commands and brutal force were probably the scariest of the entire film. It was definitely nice to see such a vicious female villain for once! While the other actors all did a decent job, McIntosh was the real standout. I also appreciated that the female victims were actually resourceful and fought back against their cannibalistic captors instead of just weeping in a corner.
Director Andrew van den Houten did a great job evoking that atmosphere of the isolated and deserted New England coastline. There were a lot of aerial shots of the rocky coastline and desolate forests to show just how a freaky-looking cannibal family and its decedents could survive without detection. I also thought the evocative and sparse score, by Ryan Shore, was absolutely stunning and really made the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. If anything in the film created a foreboding atmosphere, it was Shore’s score.
Sadly, there aren’t many scares in the film, just a lot of gory cannibal scenes that quickly get repetitive. Sure, Ketchum throws in an estranged asshole husband into the mix and the ineffectual police, but the real focus is always on the cannibals vs. the innocent family. It just wasn’t enough for a full-length movie and the premise starts to feel stretched thin towards the end. The “psychos-in-the-woods” bit has been done to death, and this is just a slight variation on the Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Wrong Turn, etc. formula. There just isn’t enough originality and uniqueness to the story considering all the past and present inbred/hillbilly/backwoods cannibal movies.
Offspring has its flaws and definitely isn’t for those seeking something completely unique. Rather, it is recommended for Ketchum fans who want to see his work adapted to the screen and to those that would like to see taboos of children killing/children getting killed broken. Regular horror fans may be bored at the repetitive nature of the film and gorehounds will be disappointed by lack of memorable kills (though there are plenty of blood and body parts flung around).
Order it on Amazon!