Survivors of a feral flesh-eating clan are chowing their way through the locals. Amy Halbard and Claire Carey strive to survive their abduction by the cannibals and save their children. A ... See full summary »
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Andrew van den Houten
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Based on the Jack Ketchum novel of the same name, The Girl Next Door follows the unspeakable torture and abuses committed on a teenage girl in the care of her aunt...and the boys who witness and fail to report the crime.
A group of friends travel into the Australian wilds to view ancient cave paintings but soon find a horrible sickness gripping one of their own, which leaves them with nothing in their mind but a primal blood lust.
Two clans of deranged males make the mistake of stalking four young women they assume to be easy prey, only to find out that at the stroke of midnight the tables will be turned and all hell will break loose.
Survivors of a feral flesh-eating clan are chowing their way through the locals. Amy Halbard and Claire Carey strive to survive their abduction by the cannibals and save their children. A subplot involving Claire's despicable husband, Steven, gives an opportunity to cleverly compare predatory civilized folk to the appetite-driven primitives. Written by
Jack Ketchum is one of the best current horror-novelists, Stephen King and Psycho novelist Robert Bloch among those screaming their praise for his gruesome and down-right disturbing stories (it's hard to find a single Ketchum book without a King quote plastered on the jacket somewhere). However, Ketchum film adaptations haven't lived up to their original text and most of them have been forgotten...despite all coming out within the last few years. With the release of Offspring, I found myself hoping Jack Ketchum film adaptations existed within some Bizzaro universe, where good books made bad movies and bad books made good movies. Offspring wasn't a particularly bad novel, but was definitely one of Ketchum's weaker efforts. A sequel to Off Season (which hasn't been filmed yet due to a rights issue), which was your typical generic cannibal movie in book form, Offspring followed a group of children cannibals terrorizing some cardboard cut-outs from Maine. If Ketchum's more enriching experiences couldn't be duplicated in film, maybe one of his more generic pieces would lend itself better to the medium of film. Unfortunately, my parallel universe fantasy was dead wrong and what we're left with is incrementally worse than any prior Ketchum adaptations.
It's easy to forget that film-making takes immense skill, work, experience and luck to produce anything of quality. It seems like every other month there's another critically acclaimed independent film from someone who had nothing but a dream and a few grand. Unfortunately, these are the very rare exception and the reason why The Blair Witch Project, Clerks, El Mariachi, and Paranormal Activity are so famous is precisely because they are the exception. For every low-budget, low-experience success, there are numerous failures. Offspring is a harsh reminder of this. Everything about it shouts out "student film" or some deviation on the word "amateur". It's rare to see something of this low quality on the rack in a video store, let alone with distribution from Sam Raimi's Ghost House Underground and the only reason for this surely must be the link to Ketchum.
The picture is cheap consumer digital video, fluctuating in and out of focus. The camera-work is utterly bland with no sense of purpose or reason, simply shooting from one seemingly random chosen angle. Editing is sporadic, sometimes going through the standard way to edit a sequence (conversations cut almost on cue to the three requisite angles: long shot, over the shoulder 1, over the shoulder 2), other times apparently unintentionally jumpy. The lighting is so evidently off studio lights, particularly in the cannibals cave dwelling which looks like a cheap studio set. The sound effects are of the variety downloaded off the Internet, including the monotonous cricket loop, the popping gun sound and cheap thwacking sounds for axe impact. These are all aspects of film that are not always apparent upon viewing, but do make a gargantuan difference in quality and effect. Offspring, because of all this and more, appears to be a cheap student exercise rather than a real, albeit low-budget, production.
There are more superficially obvious muck-ups among Offspring though. The acting is quite frankly horrendous. Whether floundering under lacklustre direction or just simply bad, the actors appear to be attempting to outdo each other in lack of emotion or personality. However, it reaches its apex when paired with the atrocious costuming of the cannibal children. Drabbed with loin cloths straight out of Tarzan Halloween costumes and with tacky Walmart wigs atop their heads, these have to be the some of the least menacing cannibals possible. It isn't until they begin giggling like Chucky had he been sucking on helium that they become the least menacing villains possible, dethroning the killer leprechaun from Leprechaun and the killer snowman from Jack Frost. They run, scream, and jump around with the overacting zeal of an ecstatic kid playing charades.
The biggest problem however, is the script itself, which sadly was written by Ketchum himself. Few would have any doubts about his ability as a novelist (even if some critics do find his material repugnant or without any substantial merit), but his first foray into screen writing is deeply flawed. He has essentially transcribed the glut of the scenes from the novel directly to the screen with little to no alteration. An endless battle over the course of a night with cannibals worked within the context of the novel as the written form allows us to explore the characters thoughts, feelings and experiences, making it something more than just endless fighting. Here, this isn't true; the scenes are, when taken out of the context of the novel, pointless and meandering. The characters are stripped of their character. The story is stripped of all its insight and intelligence, already quite limited. Film and writing are two different mediums and in this case what worked decently well in one doesn't work in the other. We don't know why, for instance, the Sheriff so willingly helps track down the cannibals (don't worry, this is essentially the first plot point). In the book, we learn through his thoughts that it's motivated by a previous encounter with them that scarred him deeply. Here, he just does it and we don't care, true of nearly every event. The despicable menacing ex from the book comes across as a mere d-bag, the three adult protagonists as boring and shallow yuppies who speak constant cheese dialogue.
Of course there are those who will propose that Offspring is primarily a bloody, gore-fest and that if the film succeeds in delivering the carnage, it's a success. All I can say is that if baby dolls smeared with blood in plastic bags and the sporadic blood spraying of an insecticide pump filling in for a severed vein, there isn't much here to recommend.
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