A meteor crashes to earth and unleashes a man-eating life form that is able to grow bigger and spawn more of it’s ilk after eating each subsequent kill. After making quick work of two inquisitive campers, the deadly spawn take refuge in the basement of a nearby farmhouse. This farmhouse is occupied by Sam (James Brewster) and Barb (Elissa Neil), their son the science major, Pete (Tom DeFranco), and his younger brother, the horror movie loving Charles (Charles George Hildebrandt). Rounding out the household is Aunt Millie (Ethel Michelson) and Uncle Herb (John Schmerling) who are in town visiting. The family soon finds out they have other, unwanted guests, and end up trapped in the house by the spawn that quickly grew to monstrous proportions, feeding on people who just could not stay out of the basement.

Owing a lot to The Blob and Alien, Deadly Spawn (later renamed to Return of the Aliens: Deadly Spawn to cash in on a proposed sequel to 1979’s Alien) was shot on a true definition of a shoe-string budget of around $18,000. This low-budget sci-fi\horror film was a true labor of love of three guys, producer Ted A. Bohus , Tim Hildebrandt, and special effects creator John Dods, who all got together intent on making a monster movie. Shot over the course of two years and sometimes only on weekends, Deadly Spawn was shot on location and mostly in the home of Tim Hildebrandt and the basement of John Dods. A good bit of the actors and extras are friends and family while the rest answered an ad in the back of a magazine. In fact, the majority of the actors were not even getting paid for their work in the film. Going the more unconventional route of shooting without a working script, most scenes were written down the day of they were being shot, allowing for some innovative decisions and a greater ability to adapt to varying changes during the long, sporadic filming.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usWhile the dialog does have a few stalls, overall it is surprisingly well done. Especially keeping in mind that these actors were all amateur and had never spent any time in front of a camera before (and after) this film. The conversations held between some of the characters in a few scenes were believable and helped maintain the feeling that these people actually had true relationships with each other and were not just reciting a memorized script. This is also helped by fairly good performances by all the actors involved. The teens behaved fairly realistically even when facing the prosthetic antagonists near the end of the film. The youngest cast member ( and the son of Tim Hildebrandt), Charles George Hildebrandt, doesn’t ever come across as annoying and aside from some spotty editing in a basement encounter with the spawn, an encounter that would have the majority of us wetting our pants in abject horror, handles his role as good as can be expected. One favorite of fans of the film is the character of Bunny (Judith Mayes), the gorilla loving, elderly vegan whose vegetarian party, as well as her famous green sauce, is spoiled by some uninvited guests.

Douglas McKeown creates a few scenes of suspense, especially when dealing with the claustrophobic confines of the basement and the house in general. The action scenes are performed competently enough, especially when dealing with any of the death scenes and the final showdown in the attic. The creators were also helped with the length of filming as they constantly had to adapt to variables that would come up, in particular, cast members having to leave the project for paying gigs. This leads to Deadly Spawn breaking away from the standard formula usually set in horror films by keeping you on your toes guessing just who will live or who will expire at the business end of a full-grown spawn.

Speaking of dying, you can tell where a majority of the meager budget was spent. The gore and creature effects by John Dods range from passable to superb. The larger creatures are done to great effect, the three headed creatures stood at 6-feet and had many, many rows of teeth. They are formidable and memorable. The quality of these effects transfer to the damage done to the spawn’s hapless victims as well. Severed limbs, decapitations, a memorable face-munching scene and the head of a victim being torn apart until just the skull remained. Great stuff here. The only place the effects falter are with the smaller spawn. Most of the time they are done well, especially when the are squiggling across the floor, but in other scenes it is not the look of the spawn that hurt (even though they look a LOT like the more well-known, chest-busting creature in Alien) just the execution. In one of the more memorable scenes, a group of elderly woman are accosted by a slew of the smaller spawn whose great look are ruined by the low-budget way they are used.

Deadly Spawn does have it’s fair share of faults aside from a few spotty effects, as it is impossible to hide the extremely low-budget all of the time. There are continuity issues, some horrible editing in certain key scenes, and the soundtrack ranges from bad to God-awful. Lastly, it was shot on 16mm. Not that this alone is a bad thing, but there is only so much visual quality you can get from 16mm. But if you are a fan of ’80s films, you cannot go wrong with this one even with all of its shortcomings. While there are a slew of Alien rip-offs that came out directly after it’s initial release, there were some good ones. Deadly Spawn is one of them whose only restraint was not on the creative side of the fence, as the actors and gory effects are well done the majority of the time. It was simply the lack of finances that kept dome of the vision from being fully realized.

Over the years, the film has garnered a cult following and the love from these fans and the perseverance of its creators have kept this entertaining monster fest going even after subsequent, sub-par releases on VHS and DVD. However, in 2004, Synapse Films finally did the film justice by releasing a spectacular version of the film. Be sure to check it out and see why Deadly Spawn remains on the list of horror movie aficionado’s favorite horror films. It is short, to the point and without much time being wasted on things the viewer didn’t come to see when watching a movie about flesh-eating aliens. An enjoyably gory, B-movie lover’s treat.

[rating:4/5]

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