Movie Review: The Deadly Spawn

(1983)
Directed by Douglas McKeown
Starring Michael Robert Coleman, Charles George Hildebrandt, James Brewster, Elissa Neil,
Karen Tighe, Tom DeFranco, John Schmerling, Ethel Michelson

Back in the era of video stores, the first time you walked through the horror section and saw the big box video of Return of the Aliens Deadly Spawn, you knew you had to see that movie immediately! How could it be bad when you have this huge monster with three huge tooth-filled mouths, and blood and body parts everywhere? Granted, it was actually just The Deadly Spawn, but was changed slightly to key into the success of Alien. No matter what the title was, it was hard to walk away from that first viewing with a little slack in your jaw. For a low budget film from some guys in New Jersey, it became a very memorable ’80s monster flick for most fans.

The story starts with a meteor crashing to earth near this little small town, releasing these little aliens beasties, looking like large slugs with bigger teeth, that nest in the basement of a nearby house. Anybody that goes down into the basement becomes a tasty little meal for these inter-galactic eating machine that seems to be growing. The two boys that live there, one a 10-year old monster movie fan, and his older brother who is a science major in college, join up with their friends in an attempt to take on this creature that is devouring their family, before it takes over the whole town!

One of the things that you’ll notice right away that even though this is a low budget film, shot on 16mm, they had a lot of very talented people working on this that really set it above what it could have been. The real brain behind this film was Ted A. Bohus who worked with John Dods, the effects guy, to come up with the story and put the money together to make this project come to life. Doug McKeown was brought on to direct, since he had experience working with actors. With some heated confrontations between the three, Bohus ended up directing part of the film. But no matter what, the final product doesn’t seem to be affected and it still is more than worth your time.

Being a monster fan, when you see a creature like nothing you’ve ever seen before, that is always a highlight, and this film does that in bloody spades. I mean, we’re talking about an monster that is pretty much just mouths and teeth!!! Not only did Dods come up with this unique design, he brought it to life with very little money, and being very creative in how it was going to look and move onscreen. To the simple but highly effective way he made the little spawns sliding through the watery basement, to some great creative camera shots, like the ‘monster-mouth cam’ where we see the potential victim through the monsters mouth with all those teeth munching down, it really is something special. It appeases the gore-hounds with the amount of carnages and bloody attacks it does, as well as it’s little slimy offspring, especially when they attack a little get-together with some of the neighborhood ladies.

Bohus was good friends with famed artist Tim Hilderbrandt and asked if he wanted to be involved. Not only did he help with creating the movie poster, letting his son Charles star in the film as our young hero, but also most of the picture was filmed in their own house!

If by some odd chance you have not seen this movie yet, let alone have it in your collection, you need to correct both of those. It is highly memorable, creative, and just damn entertaining. It is a great guide for young filmmakers to see what can be done with a little bit of creativity and a lot of hard work, but it can happen.

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