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Lionsgate Home Entertainment // R // October 6, 2009 // Region 0
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Adam Tyner | posted October 5, 2009 | E-mail the Author
Okay, so Offspring opens with some dumpy, drunken broad coming back from a night on the town, and it looks like she picked up how to pretend being sloshed from reruns of You Can't Do That On Television. After stumbling into the kitchen and spotting a trickle of blood on the floor, she looks up gasp! Escapees from a seventh-grade production of Lord of the Flies are perched on the counter over a babysitter buffet. As Mom clues in that those murderous little bastards have what's left of her bouncing baby boy in a doggie bag, whack. Splat. Cut to black. Roll titles.

Based on a
[click on the thumbnail to enlarge]
novel by Jack Ketchum, Offspring is about a family of roving cannibals that have carved a path of destruction through the coastline of Maine and up into Canada. They've been out and about for a while, but now they've once again set up shop in the sleepy little hamlet of Dead River. When the cops stumble onto some of the family's leftovers, they drag in George Peters (Art Hindle), the long-since-retired cop who put an end to their last reign of terror in these parts. Anyway, the hunt for human flesh isn't going so hot these days. The cannibals are convinced that offing the baby has put a curse on 'em, and the only way to break it is to snatch another veal cutlet out of a bassinet. As luck would have it, they know just the house to hit too...

So, here's a quick taste of what you have to look forward to in Offspring:
  • Intestines being slowly yanked out and gnawed on
  • One pint-sized cannibal taking a hatchet to the chest and another shot in the head
  • One poor bastard gets an eye gouged out, and as a knife plows clean through his neck, one of the cannibal broads rips off his lips with her bare teeth
  • Multiple bitten shoulders
  • A cannibalette who kinda looks like Ruby from the original The Hills Have Eyes -- wearing nothing but a belt and a sheath for her knife -- strolling through the forest and whacking herself over and over with a tree branch
  • An under-the-wolf-pelt handjob
  • The Kannibal Kids™ putting in Jaws-style razor teeth carved out of leftover cans of RC
  • A meandering subplot about an asshole almost-ex-husband who, as the movie goes along:
    • Looks like a cross between a guy from a Grey Poupon commercial and Sonny Crockett as he tools around in his Porsche, with the strains of Vivaldi or whatever lilting out of the speakers
    • Picks up a gum-smacking Emo-college-girl type in that Porsche and drunkenly rambles something about "Suzy Creamcheese, Lazy Susan..." for a couple minutes, forces her to throw a backpack out the window, cops a feel, and then pulls over to let her out, having accomplished absolutely nothing but wasting a sizeable chunk of this barely-feature-length movie
    • "WWOOOOOOOOOOwoooowooowooowooowooo"-ing his way into the woods Three Stooges style after he clues in that the cops know about a restraining order his wife has against him
  • Cannibal rape
  • Cannibal baby nursing
  • Pan-seared hands
  • Cannibal face flambé
  • Brain munching
Normally...? Sounds like my kind of flick. The dime-store cannibals look so chintzy and overact so much -- c'mon, those Eegah!-flavored "ook"s and grunts? -- that they never come off as all that menacing, even as they're carving into a family man and ripping out his innards. It's pretty gory, sure, and there's a pretty great deflection about who the resident hero of the movie is exactly, but that's about all Offspring really has going for it. It's like a local theater production of The Hills Have Eyes, complete with clashing families, a gaggle of cannibals, and supposedly civilized people sinking to the primal depths of their tormenters, even. There are already a stack of backwater cannibal flicks on Blu-ray, so why settle for something this goofy and amateurish? Skip It.

The run-and-gun 16mm photography throughout Offspring can get really soft and murky. I mean, not only is this high-def image not teeming with fine detail, but there are a couple stretches where it struggles to find focus, period. It's especially a mess under low light, which is...hey! the backdrop for most of the flick. I don't have the DVD handy to do a direct comparison, but dollars to doughnuts the difference is pretty marginal. Strangely, although the video is encoded as 1080p24, the end credits have an overly interlaced look to them. I couldn't spot anything like that in the meat of the movie itself, though.

So anyway, Offspring looks pretty terrible in HD, but if you want me to spout off the usual technical specs anyway, the 1.78:1 video is encoded with AVC and has been plopped onto a single-layer platter.

Shot on a budget that wouldn't cover bus fare to St. Louis, Offspring is packing a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack but doesn't really benefit from lossless audio so much. The recording of the dialogue is uneven and sounds awfully flat at its worst, and hardly any of the effects pack much of a wallop. Even the handful of gunshots sound like one of the neighbor kids is outside goofing around with fireworks. Some cannibalistic grunts and light atmospheric color creep into the surrounds, but they don't manage to dial up the intensity any. There's not much lurching around in the lower frequencies either, but the kind of grating electronic score does rumble pretty heavily early on. Director Andrew van den Houten raves about the sound design in his audio commentary, but me...? I'm not hearing it.

No dubs or downmixes this time around, but Offspring does serve up subtitles in English (traditional and SDH) and Spanish.

  • Audio Commentary: For whatever reason, Offspring's commentary
    [click on the thumbnail to enlarge]
    track is hidden under the Setup menu rather than listed with the rest of the extras. This chat with director/producer Andrew van den Houten, producer/D.P. Bill Miller, and writer Jack Ketchum is decent enough to be worth nosing around the menus to dig up, though. It's explained why Offspring got the nod over Off Season, the novel of Ketchum's that took place before this, and having the author in front of the mic also gives him a chance to explain what the deal is with the chained-up breeding machine and noting how much of the background color is based on actual people. van den Houten and Miller, meanwhile, run through having Michigan stand in pretty convincingly for Maine, clever tricks with forced perspective and a mock-cave ceiling on a pulley, tooling around in the Porsche from Risky Business, and lots and lots of casting notes.

  • Progeny: The Birth of Offspring (20 min.; SD): Get it? 'Cause the movie's called "Offspring". Anyway, this mix of behind-the-scenes footage and conversations with the cast and crew cast a pretty wide net: how the actors brought these feral creatures to life, hammering out a cave in a homebrew soundstage, a few of the technical hurdles they had to overcome along the way, and staging the final brawl. It's a decent making-of piece, and the cast and crew all come across like such great, hardworking guys that I feel like kind of a prick for ragging on their movie so much.

  • Webisodes (18 min.; SD): Eight short clips -- ranging anywhere from one to four minutes a pop -- were making the rounds online to plug Offspring, and if you've plowed your way through "Progeny", you've caught a lot of this already: quick peeks from the set, the movie's director and DP chatting about the appeal of making a horror flick, one of Offspring's young stars running through what scares him, and some quick back-and-forth about how there are ancient tribes still alive and kickin' whose primal fury could clash with our modern world or something.

  • First Stolen's Bailout (3 min.; SD): Turns out that one of the lead cannibal types was driving with a suspended license -- oops! -- and this snippet follows the crew as they bail him out of jail and shuttle him off to the set for another grueling night of stabbing-'n-slashing.

  • Photo Gallery (3 min.; HD): This montage cycles through a stack of high-res stills for three minutes straight.

  • Trailer and Ghost House Microvideos (5 min.; SD): Also piled on here are a minute and a half trailer for Offspring along with a quick barrage of thrash metal set to clips of other Ghost House Underground releases.

  • Other Lionsgate Trailers (HD): Last up are high-def plugs for Saw V, The Midnight Meat Train, My Bloody Valentine 3D, The Haunting in Connecticut, and The Descent.

The Final Word
Offspring is so cartoonish and deliriously over-the-top that I honestly thought it was a genre spoof for a few minutes there. Might be worth a rental for the so-bad-it's-whatever crowd, but otherwise...? Skip It.

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