Friday, September 9, 2011

The Deadly Spawn (Douglas McKeown, 1983)

As anyone who spent any time lurking in a basement knows, there's always something disquieting happening down there. Whether yours is finished (complete with fake wood paneling and a rarely used sex chair), in a constant state of disrepair, or dungeon-esque (if this, by the way, is the case, then your sex chair will probably get used with a greater frequently, as dungeons and sex chairs go hand and hand), these subterranean lairs are literally crawling with alien invaders. And, no, I'm not talking about little green men from Mars or your freeloading cousins from Lithuania, I'm talking about house centipedes. Holy crap, just typing their name gives me the willies. Anyway, their frightening appearance combined with the unsettling speed in which they move will upset even the most hardened of basement dwellers. Well, these non-indigenous pests, who, I've been told, are actually quite beneficial (they apparently like to eat other insects), have nothing on the disgusting things that populate the dank basement featured in The Deadly Spawn, the film where even a vegetarian luncheon turns into an ankle-biting gore-fest. You see what I just did there? Did where? Using wonky yet sound logic, I was somehow able to tie together my own fear of house centipedes with the creatures in the film I'm currently writing about. It's a new technique I've been tinkering with. In that, I try to draw from own experiences when watching a film. In this low budget, intergalactic monster in the basement flick written and directed by Douglas McKeown, I couldn't help but make the correlation between the two entities. For one thing, it's the time of year when the predacious arthropods spawn (every so often you'll see a baby house centipede skitter across the wall), and that's exactly what the toothy monstrosity in this film does, except they multiply with a reckless form of abandon.

One of the few films to disrupt the harmonic flow of my nightly existence, the early basement scenes in The Deadly Spawn were pretty effective when it came to creating an atmosphere of dread. Don't believe me? Well, check this out: My ability to penetrate dark passageways with my usual carefree confidence was severely hampered after watching this film. Part of me—the part that is clearly a whiny little baby who needs to have his diaper changed—kept half expecting to find a giant three-headed uncircumcised penis with teeth waiting to bite me around every corner.

Enough about the contents of my diaper, let's get down to business. Did you, like, see Jean Tafler's light blue knee socks? Weren't they awesome? Aw, man, why did you have to go and say that? Up until this point, you were coming off as a relatively sane person. Sure, the diaper thing was a tad off-putting, but at least you were talking about a baby's diaper instead of a grown man's diaper. A real step in the right direction, if you ask me. But then you had to mention the socks, didn't you? Why? Well, for starters, people don't come here to read about quality acting or breathtaking cinematography, they come to read long-winded soliloquies about fingerless gloves, scrunchies, pointy shoes, and, if they're lucky, an inexplicably homoerotic tangent involving a meaty set of succulent thighs encased in a pair of black silk stockings. Besides, are you telling me you didn't notice Miss Tafler's socks? Your brain must not work good if you were unable spot the subtlety of the sexy sock show being sewn by Jean Tafler in The Deadly Spawn, or, either that, you're a damned fool who has completely lost his or her grip on reality.

Seriously, though, socks aside, let's head on down to the basement and find out what all the hubbub is about. Actually, you might want to stay upstairs. Not that, as we'll soon find out, it's any safer up there, it's just that everyone who goes down there seems to not come back up in one piece. On a rainy day in the middle of New Jersey, a mysterious alien creature who hitched ride on a meteorite decides to make itself at home in the creepy basement of Sam (James Brewster) and Barb (Elissa Neil). After they're both eaten (the walls and the ceiling are covered with their blood), it's up to their children, Charles (Charles George Hildebrandt), a monster enthusiast, and Pete (Tom DeFranco), a science major, to prevent their house from becoming overrun with ravenous space mutants.

The fact that we never see the parents interact with their children did lesson the impact of their deaths; I initially thought the kids were merely tenants, especially when you consider the fact that Pete seems to be pursuing a post secondary education. However, thanks to the genuine nature of the horrified look on Charles' face when he sees his mother's severed head being slowly devoured by the alien's tadpole-like offspring, the film manages to regain its emotional core. The parents go from being random victims to cherished loved ones the moment Charles sets foot in that basement. While it might seem like he's just standing there, Charlie is actually gathering information on the fiendish beast(s). Regurgitating his mother's head in order that its icky progeny can feast on her flesh, Charles notices that the creature, who is basically three large tooth-laden mouths with a wormy body, is completely blind and finds its prey (lumpy electricians and middle-aged couples in ugly bathrobes) via sound.

Oblivious to the space monster learning symposium that's taking place in the basement, Aunt Millie (Ethel Michelson) is busy upstairs preparing to attend a vegetarian luncheon at her mother's house. Even though the bulkiness of her salmon-coloured dressing gown undermines the exquisite shape of her womanly girth at every turn, Aunt Millie still manages to turn heads. On the surface, she seems like your typical kooky Aunt (unlike the rest of the family, she respects Charles' morbid hobby), but underneath that wholesome facade lies a woman, a sensual woman, one with needs. Since it's obvious to anyone with a half a brain and a pocket full of unauthorized gumption that Uncle Herb (John Schmerling) is not fulfilling these needs, I feel that it's my duty to rub my consecrated tentacle juice all over her various nooks and crannies until she quivers with irregular ecstasy.

Speaking irregular ecstasy, just the mere thought of being in a threesome with Aunt Millie from The Deadly Spawn and Aunt Martha from Sleepaway Camp is enough to make your average orgasm seem like a colossal waste of time.

Meanwhile, back at the house, Pete's friends, Ellen (Jean Tafler) and Frankie (Richard Lee Porter), come over to study, and Charles, well, he's still in the basement, observing the creatures (who are multiplying rapidly). This is the point in the film where Pete's scientific method goes up against Charles' more fact-based technique. You see, Pete tries to confront the problem from an analytical point-of-view (he outright dismisses the notion that the dead baby spawn Ellen and Frankie found on the way over to his house could be from outer space), while Charles, whose way ahead of Pete in terms of spawn knowledge, takes a more hands approach to figuring out what makes the nasty critters who currently call their basement home tick.

Trying his best not to stare at Ellen's knees (the way they gingerly poked out from underneath her tartan skirt was enough to drive even the most rational of men insane with lust-filled desire), Pete's got romance on his mind as well.

While Charles is collecting intelligence, you'll notice that one of the basement windows is open, and that some of babies are using it as an exit. Where could they be going? If you were a newborn space slug with a voracious appetite, where would you go? You have no idea? Well, I know where I would go, I'd follow Aunt Millie to that vegetarian luncheon. You'll notice as Aunt Millie is admiring her mother's new porcelain giraffe ("I've never seen this giraffe before," she coos with a hint of jealousy), that she's wearing a no frills white shirt. But when her guests arrive she is clearly wearing one with lots of frills (in fact, it was only three or four frills away from becoming a full-on puffy shirt). Anyway, as her guests (an odd collection of old biddies and tupperware junkies) are about to start consuming their vegetarian meals, the spawn strike. Since they're still relatively small compared to their massive mother, it's the feet and ankles of the vegetarian luncheon attendees that bear the brunt of the spawn's assault.

I don't exactly remember who invited her ("meanwhile, back at the house"), but Kathy (Karen Tighe) shows up just as all hell is about to break loose in the upstairs portion of the house (the college age youngsters take refuge in Charles' B-movie poster adorned bedroom). At first, I was a tad dismissive of this Kathy person. I mean, for one thing, she wasn't even wearing pastel-coloured knee socks. Oh, sure, she could have been sporting a pair underneath her drab trousers. But unless I can see your knee socks, you will not be credited as a knee sock wearer. At any rate, Kathy manages to get in my good graces when she utters the line, "what the fuck was that?" after seeing the three-headed uncircumcised penis monster for the very first time. Her reaction was totally justified, as the main creature in The Deadly Spawn is probably one of the most fearsome movie monsters I have ever seen.

After a shocking death, the action moves to the attic, and Charles finally gets to utilize the knowledge he's been gleaming for the past eighty or so minutes. Blood spattered light bulbs, torrential rain, cannibalism, fire pokers used as weapons, egg plant preparation, the word "misshapen" is used, a human head is devoured, a salmon bathrobe is worn, and, no, I'm not just randomly listing things I saw in this movie. What I'm awkwardly trying to do is make a point pertaining to the amount of amazing stuff that takes place in The Deadly Spawn, as it's a veritable cornucopia of awesomeness.

video uploaded by sideshowcarny


  1. You what's amazing about the internet? I had no idea there was a movie about an uncircumcised penis monster until just now...and it's now obligatory that I see it. That counts as a public service, my friend. If there are indeed penis monsters in my basement, this movie will teach me how to defeat them.

  2. This looks absolutely mind-blowing....
    THANK you for making me aware of this motion picture!

  3. @Dusty McGowan: At first, I described the monster as just a "giant three-headed penis with teeth," but the more I looked at it the more I realized the tips of all three of its heads were actually uncircumcised.

    Interesting, a penis monster defeating how-to guide masquerading as a cheesy sci-fi horror flick.

    @Andrew: No problem. :)

  4. Man, this is a blast from the past. More then anything I love the special effects in this film!

  5. I can't help but relate to your sentiments on house centipedes while reading this. I had just had my morning terrorized by bugs messing with me and my girlfriend while in bed. Your reviews helped me take my now bug-paranoid mind at ease.

    If I could throw some movies your way might I recommend Maquis, the Granny & the Plug Lady. I believe some of those are on YouTube.

    1. In bed?!? Ahhh!

      I came across one recently lurking in a bath towel.

      Thanks for the recommendations.

    2. Hey, I just got finished looking up your recommendations, and all I have to say is... Nice! These look awesome. :)

  6. Unexpectedly wonderful movie! Still recall it fondly many years later... but thanks for the reminder about the knee socks.

    1. And thank you for reminding me of my reminder about the knee socks.

  7. I am about a decade late, but I just found this wonderful blog, and, like the times when I was 8 years old in the car with my parents at 10pm on a Saturday night, begging them to pull into the parking lot of Tiny Tots toy kingdom just so I could pull on their front door because, maybe, even though it's 10pm, you never know - I'll comment here anyway thinking someone will turn the lights on and come out ..

    I love DEADLY SPAWN, and I live within walking distance of the house in the film - formerly owned by Tinothy Hildebrandt .. As of 03/14/2022, the house is for sale ... Since Timothy passed years back, the home was owned by a gentleman who, rumor has it, committed suicide in the house .. After that, there was a total, and tasteful, renovation, and it is now up for sale once again ...