I love JACK KETCHUM, he scares the hell out me and once opened, you’d need a crowbar to pry one of his books out of my hands. OFFSPRING, scripted by KETCHUM himself, is based upon the literary sequel to his inaugural terrorizer OFF SEASON. If you’re wondering why we’re being presented with an adaptation of a sequel before its predecessor, as with many movie head scratchers, it involves a behind the scenes legal issue of some sort. No matter, OFFSPRING works just as well as a standalone story. In fact, the skeletal plot shadows the original tale closely. Basically you have a group of civilized folks battling off a tribe of attacking feral cannibals. An ex-cop is brought in to aid the police and a bloody climax takes place in the cave dwelling of the snarly savages.
On the page KETCHUM can convince you of anything, but OFFSPRING, as a film, has a much steeper hill to climb. Even though I have to admit to being vaguely freaked during some scenes (particularly during the first major attack on the film’s happy family) there’s a great deal here that fails to persuade. I like to think of myself as pretty adept at forgiving a film its budgetary restrictions, but the cave here looks borrowed from SIGMUND AND THE SEA MONSTERS and unfortunately (thanks to Aunt John’s tutelage) I now know a bad wig when I see one. Trust me, the wild marauders depicted are truly disturbing in their actions but, much like in the case of the now dated original THE HILLS HAVE EYES, it’s difficult to always take the grunting, blackened-toothed actors in loin clothes seriously.
Lovers of raw, depraved cinema may find scraps to gnaw on here and I appreciate the sparse approach, especially in terms of the films soundtrack. Still, the lack of credibility remains a major roadblock. The reality is, bringing KETCHUM’s vicious vision unadulterated to the screen is probably not only impossible but also illegal. Where say, THE GIRL NEXT DOOR made up for its cinematic limitations by concentrating on tone and performances, OFFSPRING, by nature, hasn’t quite the same option. Director ANDREW VAN DEN HOUTEN (HEADSPACE) can’t really be faulted for going straight for the jugular but without a believably solid rack to hang his entrails on, it’s an empty gesture. OFFSPRING has disturbing moments for sure (how else can you describe an infant thrown like a football?), but mostly it just feels routinely (and too often, humorously)…off.