When splatter punk author Jack Ketchum’s name is attached to something, goremeisters generally know what they are getting themselves into. So it should come of no shock to those of you in the know when I tell you that Director Andrew van den Houten’s vision of Ketchum’s novel Offspring is pretty much a psychotic mess.
Offspring is the sequel to Ketchum’s groundbreaking 1980 cult debut novel Off Season. That book told the story of a cannibal family that feasted on the residents of the small Maine community of Dead River and the sheriff who hoped to have killed them off. Offspring is about the return of the cannibal family and the reenlistment of now retired Sheriff George Peters (Art Hindle) to find them again.
The residents of Dead River are turning up…well…dead. Eviscerated and decomposing all over their nice clean country houses. When a local family is attacked by the cannibal clan (dressed like rejects from a prehistoric cartoon comedy) survivors Amy (Amy Hargreaves) and Clair (Ahna Tessler) are kidnapped and taken to the cannibal’s beachside cavern lair. Amy (who has a baby at home) is needed to nurse another child the cannibals have stolen. Clair has her own son Luke (Tommy Nelson) and a brutal ex-husband to contend with. Eventually all the families and the cops end up in one final blood-soaked showdown on the beach.
It’s damn near impossible to succinctly describe the narrative of this film without using the term “controlled chaos”. In a very brief 79 minutes this film manages to utterly annihilate a veritable cornucopia of characters. Less than 20 minutes in the film is full-steam ahead on the bloodshed and it never lets up. It’s moving at a break-neck pace toward the horrific climax. What’s amazing is that like the book, the film is going places that you would never want it too. And it’s going there with gallons of grue and glee!
Offspring is more than just another killer kid movie. Children of the Corn or The Orphan have nothing on a film like this. These kids are five, seven, eight years old, eating people alive, stealing babies, hacking off limbs and cooking them over open flames. They get shot in the head by police officers with no regard to their ages. To top off all the violence the children receive, the film also offers assorted severe misogynistic scenes of rape and abuse carried out but the adult protagonists and antagonists as well.
Offspring is a brutal production and one that wallows in the bloody mire of its excesses. It’s not strictly reality; it’s every one of the worst aspects of the human race all on display at once. No one sees redemption. Even the most innocent character in the film is forced to destroy that innocence to save another. This is a bleak movie, based on bleak source material from a man who has cornered the market on the destruction of hope. Anyone who has read or seen the film adaptation of Ketchum’s masterwork The Girl Next Door can attest to that.
So much of the film is a mess that it’s hard to point out the darkness from the light. This is a low budget production, and as such, it suffers from some seriously bad lighting, camera work that periodically goes out of focus, and a final set piece (the cave) that really pushes your suspension of disbelief. And it’s all flying at your face with such fervor that you couldn’t clock character development with a radar detector. It’s like Jeffrey Dahmer’s Cliff’s notes version of Ketchum’s book. It might be a train-wreck of a film but its one bloody, bodies-strewn-across-the-tracks-train-wreck that you’ll have a hard time turning away from.
So, if you’re looking for a feel good night at the movies, or you think all cannibal flicks are Hills Have Eyes tales, then you should run away from Offspring as fast as your feet can take you. However, if you want to look past all the technical flaws for a balls-to-the-wall bloodbath then you’ll never be sicker than to spend a night with the fucked up family at the center of this film. Most of you probably fall in the middle between both worlds. To you, I can only say be warned. Once you step into the dark mind of Jack Ketchum you might never be the same.