One night, out in the woods, a couple of campers are settling down for the evening when they hear a loud noise then catch sight of what looks like a large meteor roaring out of the sky and into the ground a short distance away. Their curiosity duly piqued, they investigate, discovering a flaming crater but no obvious signs of anything else; nevertheless, one of the campers wants a photograph so heads back to the tent to fetch the camera with the flash. However, while he's away, his friend is set upon by something that looms from the shadows, and when the other man calls for him, he is attacked too, leaving both of them dismembered and devoured - what can this unspeakable entity from outer space be?
Why, it's Mr Deadly Spawn, pleased to meet you in a low budget effort that was a one hit wonder for most of those involved since it was an amateur production whose special effects were special enough for the whole kit and caboodle to be picked up for theatrical distribution before it found perhaps its more appropriate home on eighties video cassette. Director Douglas McKeown never helmed another movie, teaching being his day job, and almost all of the cast never appeared before the camera again, at least in an acting capacity, though the less forgiving would count that as a blessing seeing as how this was not the sort of film you would watch for the acting, it was more a gorefest.
Therefore it was the ingenuity of the makeup department that counted here, and to their credit the monster itself - as well as its squirmy offspring - were by far the most impressive aspect of the production, all masses of teeth in a gaping maw that happily chomped down on various of the budding thespians who happened to cross its path. For that reason, as if a throwback to the sixties low budget genre efforts that gave us cult classics such as Carnival of Souls or Night of the Living Dead, it generated a loyal following who appreciated the wonders it had managed on a tiny budget, most of the money blatantly going on the rubber creature achievements, and everything else looking like a shot on 16mm work should, that was, cheap and proud of it.
The campers are never mentioned again after their offscreen demises (though we do see a bloodied hand as evidence they have met a sticky end), which leaves us with the characters from a nearby country house to be introduced to. Don't get to like them too much, not with a rampaging beast holed up in the basement, as the married couple we see creep down to the cellar to check on the electricity supply and are promptly chewed up and swallowed by said beastie as the other inhabitants of the building are waking upstairs, oblivious since they believe the couple have left for an early start to the day. Here is also where the effects team came into their own, as we saw the fruits of their labour shown off in the gloom, George A. Romero-esque swinging, bloody lightbulb operating well for atmosphere.
There is another house afflicted and that belongs to the grandmother of the kid who is our hero, young Charles (Charles George Hildebrandt), a Famous Monsters of Filmland-reading creature feature obsessive who works out the alien cannot see and hunts by sound. Granny meanwhile is hosting a vegetarian get-together with her friends and Charles's mother assisting, which is surely a precursor to Troll 2's anti-veggie tirade since these ladies may not wish to eat meat, but the meat wishes to eat them. As that descends into chaos, Charles's older brother Pete (Tom DeFranco) invites his pals over, including the scientifically-minded Ellen, played by Jean Tafler in a performance that is actually the most professional in the whole affair. As with many a movie reliant on its gory bells and whistles, the business in between the setpieces is far less impressive than the bits where the blood is flowing, though after an awkward first half The Deadly Spawn worked up quite a head of steam, even pulling a surprise death out of the bag against the expected clichés. Not bad at all if you were sympathetic.