September 6, 2011

Offspring (2009)

"Survivors of a feral flesh-eating clan are chowing their way through the locals. Amy Halbard and Claire Carey strive to survive their abduction by the cannibals and save their children. A subplot involving Claire's despicable husband, Steven, gives an opportunity to cleverly compare predatory civilized folk to the appetite-driven primitives."

There's usually nothing like watching the first film in a potential trilogy after the second one to really mess things up in my head. Fortunately, both Jack Ketchum's "Offspring" and "The Woman" work perfectly as standalone stories so it wasn't so much of a chore.

I intentionally skipped "Offspring" when it first appeared due to my healthy dislike of most of the crap on the "Ghost House" label but, due to having nothing else worthwhile on Netflix, I decided to finally give it a go.

Let me just tell you, before I begin my usual rambling, that both the Netflix and IMDb ratings are way out of sync with how good "Offspring" actually was. You probably already know that I barely even trust the IMDb for a plot synopsis anymore and certainly not the ratings or reviews there. In fact, on my blog, the only person whose critique of a movie counts is my own and that's the way it's always going to stay.

Even though "Offspring" seemed to be more of a crime drama than a horror story at first, it didn't stay that way. While there were certainly a load of cops in this film of various abilities, it became a reverse "Wrong Turn" (2003) or "The Hills Have Eyes" (1977) quite quickly. Here the cannibalistic feral tribe were nomads who preyed on the outskirts of rural civilisation rather than just lying in wait for victims to come to them.

I thought it was a very interesting idea and it prompted me to look up the inspiration for the story, the legends of Sawney Beane and Christie-Cleek, immediately afterwards. As much as the Scottish legends probably had about as much truth to them as this completely fictional movie update, they were quite fascinating to read.

Of course, what I liked most about "Offspring" was that it didn't pull too many punches with the violence or gore. While it was far from being the most graphic nastiness that I've ever seen, there were still enough moments to satisfy most lesser gorehounds and a surprising amount of it was done either by or to children.

I make no secret of the fact that I absolutely cannot abide kids so the more of them who I see getting shot, stabbed or eaten in a horror film, the better, especially if they all look like that little freak from "The Road Warrior" (1981) which these indeed did.

A couple of questions which were tied up for me, due to watching "The Woman" (2011) previously, were the first appearance of the titular feral leader played by Pollyanna McIntosh and the possible origin of the blind "dog-girl". Having never read any of Jack Ketchum's novels, I didn't even know that "The Woman" was a sequel to anything when I saw it. I'm awaiting an answer from Jack Ketchum (via Twitter) concerning the dog-girl which hopefully might clear things up further.

As for "Offspring" itself, there were a few flaws which some people have made too much of concerning the editing and/or pacing but I really didn't notice much wrong. Maybe I get a bit soft on the technical stuff when I'm actually interested in a story but that's actually a huge credit to the writer (Jack Ketchum) and the director (Andrew van den Houten) since, as I often quote from Aristotle, "Art is best when hidden". If I didn't notice it, then it was clearly okay.

Since I'm English, I didn't notice any of the geographical mistakes either but I'm sure there were some. It's still quite jarring for me when I remember David waking up in a hospital 200 miles away from the Yorkshire moors in "An American Werewolf in London" (1981) so it must be much the same for Americans who notice similar things. Having been all over the eastern side of America, it still all looks much the same to me but I've never been to Michigan where this was filmed nor do I even have a clue where it actually is.

I've got to say something about the acting though as it wasn't fantastic. It was borderline adequate and varied. Since I have absolutely no idea who any of them were without looking up their IMDb profiles, I'm assuming that they were mostly TV actors and not very famous ones at that. I didn't hate any of their performances but nobody really stood out apart from Pollyanna McIntosh.

Anyway, hopefully I haven't given away any spoilers as "Offspring" is probably one of the few horror movies on Netflix which I would actually recommend. It's slightly below average in some ways but still great entertainment for a rainy afternoon.

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