What do a messy divorce and a clan of flesh eating cannibals have in common? Well, in both cases someone gets their heart eaten out. They also share plot points in Offspring. Lionsgate brings back their popular Ghost House Underground series from last October. The series title likely borrows a bit from the old Grind House Theater that Quentin Tarantino brought back to fashion in the last couple of years. I assume it is intended to denote a horror film that skirts the art house scene. So, how does Offspring fit into that mold?
If you’re looking for a plot, you really shouldn’t look at this one too closely. It’s more of a set up and then let the cannibal carnage begin. After a quick scare shot we’re introduced to a young family who live in a relatively isolated house in Dead River County, Maine. A friend has arrived with her young son on the run from an abusive husband who was about to get served his divorce papers today. Of course, he’s not taking it lying down, and phones to say he’s on his way. Mom’s got a restraining order, so the solution here is an easy one. Call the local cops. Unfortunately the local police already have their hands full. Another family has just been massacred. It seems an old trouble has returned to Dead River County. Enter former Sheriff George Chandler (Art Hindle). (To make things more complicated, the character’s name was apparently changed from George Peters. So, if you look up the character on the IMDb, that’s what you’ll get.) Chandler was Sheriff 11 years ago when he faced a nomadic clan of cannibals that rained down some serious carnage in the small county. He took care of ‘bidness and thought he sent them all to cannibal heaven. Now it seems there were survivors who had worked their way up to Canada and have returned for dessert. What remains of the clan are mostly young children and barely adults. Play ball.
The film is based on the rather cult favorite novel of the same name by writer Ketchum who also penned the film’s screenplay. The original novel was actually a sequel to a book called The Off Season. I can only assume, because I haven’t read either work, that the first book deals with Chandler’s encounter with the clan 11 years earlier. Still, it was decided to skip that story and go direct to the fun with kiddies version. To Ketchum’s credit, the film stands alone just fine, and you don’t feel like you came in on the second act. They do a pretty good job of making you feel like you’re up to speed. Of course, the real reason it doesn’t matter is because this film ends up being more amusing than frightening.
I suppose it almost has to border on comical given the material presented here. If you are at all sensitive to young children in peril, you really need to stay away from this one big time. Kids no more than 7 or 8 years old get hatchets in their backs and their brains blown out. Not that they don’t give as good as they get. These little rug rats do plenty of slashin’ and flesh eating. Mm mm good. The scenes never really achieve the creepy sensation you got when you saw the little girl chewin’ on some local’s leg bone in George Romero’s Night Of The Living Dead. Perhaps it’s a good thing, but I never got to the point where I could take any of this all that seriously. The cannibals themselves are half naked and appear to speak Klingon, as far as I can tell. They are hungry, but it begs the question. If these cannibals are so starved for human flesh, why do they leave a lot of it behind before going on to the next one? In the end you’ll be thankful that it’s really a comedy. I just wish that it’s what they had intended all along.
The Offspring is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC/Mpeg-4 codec. I’m sorry to report that this is a terribly disappointing high definition image. I’ve seen DVD prints that looked a lot better. Now, most of that is part of the intended effect of the film itself. Too often the image is almost out of focus. I hope that was on purpose. Like the previous entry I reviewed in this series, it looks like a bad 16mm transfer. Contrast is almost nonexistent and serves to only further diminish the image. Colors just aren’t there as almost the entire film runs in low lighting and fast cuts. Hitchcock once said that it’s not what you see that scares you, but rather what you don’t see. I don’t know for certain, mind you, but I don’t think he meant make your image impossible to really see and you’ll scare the hell out of your audience. If you really want to see this one, the DVD is likely just as good.
The DTS-HD Master Audio track is pretty much useless. Dialog is mostly a lot of grunts and groans. What is spoken is often lost in the mix. There is a subtle score, but it does nothing to fill out what is in reality a very dull audio presentation.
There is an audio commentary with Director Andrew van den Houten, D.P. Bill Miller, and writer Jack Ketchum. They talk about the selection of the second novel and not the first for the film. A lot of inside info can be found here.
All of the features are in SD
Progeny – The Birth Of Offspring: (20:48) This is a pretty inclusive feature. You’ll see plenty of shooting footage. Nearly everyone on the cast and crew offers up some tidbit or another. There’s set construction and plenty of blood f/x to see.
First Stolen’s Bail Out: (3:04) I’m not sure why they chose to talk about this one. One of the cannibal actors got busted on the way to the set for driving on a suspended license. They have to simultaneously send a crew to try and bail him out while at the same time prepare a crew member to take his place on that night’s shooting.
Webisodes: There are 8, ranging from 1 to 3 minutes. These were production diary features that were originally offered on the net. There is no play all option.
I can’t wait for the Offspring Christmas With The Cannibals special coming to a network near you this Holiday season. Such a delightful family. Wonderful table manners. They’re so cute you could just eat them up, if they don’t eat you first, that is. Look. It’s all a romp and shouldn’t be taken too seriously. If you’re sensitive, by all means stay away. If you just want to have fun, check it out. This is not the kind of film you make to win awards or to get people thinking. “You do this kind of thing to get noticed.”