Last year, Ghost House Pictures, the production shingle led by Sam Raimi and his longtime production partner Rob Tapert, cherry-picked a handful of films to be released on home video. Modeled on the similarly successful After Dark Fright Fest, the first round of Ghost House Underground was mostly lousy. However, there was one great movie in the bunch, the Danish sci-fi movie 'The Substitute.' That movie was so good that it gave me a misguided sense of excitement for the other movies, as well as for future Ghost House Underground picks. ('The Substitute' is now being remade in English by a new wing of Ghost House called Spooky Pictures.) If there's another 'Substitute'-style gem in this year's batch, then 'Offspring' sure isn't it.
'Offspring' is based on the not-terribly-awful Jack Ketchum novel of the same name. It's actually a sequel to a story called 'Off Season,' but as we learn on the commentary track, the rights to that one were all tied up and these filmmakers, who had achieved modest success with another Ketchum adaptation (of 'The Girl Next Door'), decided to move ahead with the second story. And boy, are we glad they did.
It concerns a group of cave-dwelling Neanderthals, basically, except here they're rendered as little more than wild men/women cannibals, who terrorize people and eat babies and the like. That's more or less the entire plot. There are more than a handful of horror clichés gleefully (or unknowingly) engaged in with this movie, including a queenly mother figure of these freakish people (just like 'Beowulf,' 'The 13th Warrior,' and countless others); a grizzled small town Sherriff who has dealt with these monstrous people before (he's a character carried over from the first story); cannibals chewing on somebody's intestines; the jerky preppy ex-husband; and evil little kids.
The whole thing is barely watchable. It just grinds on and on and on, a seemingly never-ending parade of awfulness. Blood splashes across the screen, the actors are truly awful (and you could care less about any of the characters), and it looks like the cumulative budget was about $4.50. The ineptitude of the production reaches into every facet of the production, including when a naked cannibal woman is tromping through the woods, you ask yourself when, exactly, did the cave dwelling cannibal woman have time to wax?
Bottom line: to paraphrase Roger Ebert: I hated, hated, hated this movie. There are a number of high-quality horror movies out on high definition this Halloween (and maybe there's a diamond in the rough crop of Ghost House Underground movies), many of them new, but please do not waste your time with 'Offspring.' It's a truly atrocious experience from beginning to end - and I had to watch it twice!
Well, you've got to give them points for consistency - the transfer is just as dreadful as the movie. The MPEG-4 AVC 1080p transfer (1.78:1 aspect ratio) on this itsy bitsy 25GB Blu-ray disc is awful looking to the extreme. Everything looks soft - washed out, grainy, and unappetizing. Skin tones are fine, blacks are iffy, colors are drab and featureless, detail is marginal, and for a disc that's ten dollars more than the standard DVD, you're not getting your money's worth, at all. Although the thought of someone being so enamored with 'Offspring' that they'd want to own it on high definition, well, it's more fanciful than a thought of cannibalistic Neanderthals stalking well-meaning suburban residents. And that's really all I've got to say on the matter.
Good news for audiophiles: 'Offspring' comes equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix. The bad news: it sucks just as much as everything else. Everything seems muffled, with sound effects occasionally sounding loud but not very crisp (it's about as muddled as the video is). On the commentary track, everyone talks about how amazing the sound design is and how the obnoxious score is so great and atmospheric (and influenced by 'Cannibal Apocalypse,' apparently), although by listening to the movie you'd never notice that at all. All in all, this audio mix is just lousy. None of the hallmarks of a great mix are represented here - dialogue is often soft, directionality is blunt and only occasional, ambience and atmosphere are minimal, and the music is loud and overbearing.
There are no alternate language tracks to pick from, but there are subtitles in English, English SDH, and Spanish. Also, there are moments when the cannibals are speaking their cannibal language, and we get those moments subtitled too.
Ghost House actually saw to it to put a fair amount of effort into the special features… if only it were for a movie you were actually interested in knowing more about! These are the same special features as on the DVD. And a note for anyone who is wondering just where the the commentary track is - for some reason it's hidden under the language selection. (This took me a few minutes to figure this out.) It's worth ferreting out because it's really the only special feature worth investigating (even if it does mean you'll have to watch the whole movie over again). It should be noted that the disc is Region "A" locked.
'Offspring' fails in every way that a movie can fail, and this Blu-ray disc, with its abysmal video and audio and host of unnecessary and repetitive special features isn't going to change anyone's mind. There's a fine crop of Halloween Blu-ray discs out this year, among them 'Drag Me to Hell' and 'Trick R Treat,' but please, stay away from this movie. It really is lousy. Only the hardened cannibal junkies or Jack Ketchum aficionados are going to watch to even rent this baby. Avoid this one like the plague.