The Deadly Spawn is that rare success story, a fanboy movie that does much that is right while avoiding the pitfalls that have snared other, similar endeavors.
The plot itself is monster movie simplicity: a meteor crashes to Earth, unleashing a toothy alien eating machine which, along with a seemingly unlimited number of its progeny, preceeds to chew its way - messily - through the cast. Where Deadly Spawn does things right is the way in which it goes to pains to ensure that no groan-inducing "idiot moments" occur - moments when characters lose all semblance of intelligence in order to advance the plot. This alone should endear it to horror fans, let alone the high quality of the special effects.
Depending on who you talk to, Deadly Spawn cost $20,000 to $32,000 to make over the course of one or two years. All that money is on the screen. The quality of the acting ranges from adequate to quite good, never embarassing. It's almost remarkable that it has taken this long for the movie to make the leap to the digital realm, as it has a large fan following. Over at The Bad Movie Report, for instance.
Deadly Spawn was shot in 16mm, and there is nothing anybody is ever going to be able to do about that. Synapse has window-boxed the picture slightly at 1.33:1, giving you the entire movie frame. This is certainly the best the image has ever looked, and it beats the previous VHS issues of the movie all hollow, though occasional damage and color fluctuation from the cheap film stock still surface.
It's surprising how many extras there are for this movie, running the gamut from the priceless to the puzzling.
Start with the theatrical trailer, which was quite a surprise to me, as I wasn't aware Deadly Spawn ever played in hardtops. The Blooper and Outtake Reel is a bit misleading - though silent, it provides many interesting looks behind-the-scenes of filming.
Photo Gallery is divided into six sections: Advertising and Promotion, Behind the Scenes, Cast, Original Concept Art, Publicity Photos, and The Movie Unleashed, which includes a pic of Variety's 50 Top-Grossing Pictures, with Deadly Spawn at #10, and Evil Dead at #8 (They played across the street from each other on the legendary 42nd Street). The #1 movie? Flashdance.
There are also Filmmaker's Biographies, an Alternate Opening Sequence, which only adds an optical effect and cleaner opening credits, a "Comic Prequel" - a comic strip with its own original soundtrack - which is ultimately worthless, but not as tiresome as A Visit With The Deadly Spawn 1982, a video visit to FX artist John Dods' workshop. The package also gets an "A" in completeness for including black-and-white Audition Tapes. Man, consumer level video was horrible back then.
The disc also includes two commentary tracks - one by production assistant Tim Sullivan, writer/director Doug McKeown, star Charles Hildebrandt, the aforementioned FX dude John Dods, and executive producer Tim Hildebrandt (yes, that Tim Hildebrandt). The five guys occasionally get too loud, and stories get sidetracked, but it remains fairly coherent and entertaining.
The second track, by producer Ted A. Bohus is a little spottier - he falls into the trap of simply describing what is happening onscreen a little too often, but he also has several meaty stories, especially about Spawn's troubled theatrical distribution deal. And he finally explains the enigmatic quote at the tail of the end credits, "DON'T TRY IT, GARY", which goes a long way towards supplying complete customer satisfaction for me.
It's nice to see this movie finally get the treatment it deserves.
Dr. Freex, 11/24/2004