Friday, October 9, 2009

In short: Offspring (2009)

A few years ago, a small community in Maine had to solve some trouble with a clan of wandering wild cannibal madmen who had that whole stone age tribe thing going on.

Obviously, the cops missed a few cannibals then. Now, with the hippie cavepeople freshly returned from a Canadian tribe vacation, the murders in the area start again.

The young sheriff talks his predecessor George (Art Hindle) - the man who dealt with the problem the last time - into helping him. He and the locals will truly need it.

As happy as I am for Jack Ketchum to have found people willing to adapt his books for the screen (and that even based on his own scripts), I still would have preferred not to have seen this one.

I think I will just happily ignore the question why you'd adapt the sequel to Ketchum's Off Season before anyone has seen a cinematic version of that book, for Offspring is worse enough without me straining my little brains to understand the complicated world of movie deals.

Ketchum's script for the film doesn't seem to be all that bad, the pace is sprightly, the film is short (thank you for that, Mister Ketchum, honestly) and Ketchum even does some creative things with the the viewers' expectations about which characters will live and who will die.

Unfortunately, even the best script would lose out when confronted with the awesome non-talent of the film's director Andrew van den Houten. Van den Houten is a classical point and shoot type of director, ignorant of fancy concepts like "building a mood" or "using the visual palette to heighten the film's tension". In other words, the film looks much shittier than it needed to look, with some of the least effective nature shots I've seen in a long time and surprisingly crappy lighting.

Yet even under this conditions, the film Offspring could still have the planned effect to shock and emotionally stun the viewer with the 70s horror bluntness that fits Ketchum's books usually so nicely, as long as the cannibals are impressive and the violence nasty. Alas, the cannibals, in all their caveman hippie glory, with their tittering like crazed parrots, their snarling and bug-eye making are just one thing: ridiculous and therefore never for a moment believable as an actual threat to anyone not to speak of their believability as humans. Ah, the glories of bad acting.

Ridiculous is also a fitting word for the violence. I'm not sure how van den Houten does it, but the theoretically shocking acts of violence and gore the film features are never the tiniest bit shocking, lacking the weight of reality needed to make them effective. Of course, it does not help much that these acts are committed by the clown brigade.

The film just had me giggling throughout.

So, if you are an enthusiast of unintentional humor in horror, this one's definitely for you. I have to admit I would have preferred something a little less dumb and a little more like Ketchum's books deserve.


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