1987 - 70m.
Ever since I first saw the trailer for Evil Spawn that was placed at the beginning of my old Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers VHS tape, I thought it looked fantastic. I was not able to see the movie back in the day as none of the video stores of my youth carried it. Now, many years later, I finally had the opportunity to check it out and it gave me all the thrills that the trailer promised and is an excellent example of the type of trashy flick that I absolutely love. The story is interesting enough (even with the padding), the blood flows freely, and there is ample nudity so there is nothing to complain about other than the fact that the movie takes about 20 minutes to find its footing. Once it does, the pace is quick and there is always something to give you your kicks whether it be cheesy creature effects, amateur acting by some of the cast members, self deprecating in-jokes, or a quick flash of skin. If you love 80's scream queens, b-movie creature features, and watching movies that go better with beer, pizza, and a few friends, Evil Spawn is a perfect Saturday night selection.
Bobbie Bresee stars as Lynn Roman, an actress clutching to what remains of her fleeting fame despite the fact that the cruel reality is that Hollywood had already determined that she has passed her expiration date. She is approached by a crazy woman (Dawn Wildsmith) posing as an advocate for a new wonder serum that will restore youthful looks to the person who injects it. Roman initially refuses but eventually tries the sample and finds that she does experience a change for the better that is noticeable to others. The only problem is that the drug has a nasty side effect of temporarily transforming her into giant insect with a taste for blood. This leads to a few highly entertaining scenes that feature Lynn sprouting silly monster teeth and taking on a wasp-like appearance while terrorizing the rest of the cast. Her biographer/friend suspects something strange is going on with Lynn's erratic behaviour and does his best to save the day when her learns that the age-halting remedy is not all that it is cracked up to be.
This must have been a difficult role for Bresee to take on as she was on the tail end of a brief stint as a scream queen herself. While not on the same level as Linnea or Brinke, she went from a starring role in Mausoleum to minor parts very quickly and the role of Lynn Roman must have felt at least slightly autobiographical. She runs with it and gives a great performance showing just how far some people will go to hold on to what they once had and not gracefully accepting the inevitable. I have to give her props for this and it is unfortunate that she didn't have more of a career to speak of. She is attractive and isn't afraid to show it but didn't get her break until she was in her 30's which would be difficult in a business where most of the prominent actresses are in their 20's.
Although the Lynn Roman storyline is the main plot of the movie, the first act serves as an extended prologue giving Wildsmith a chance to chew up the scenery as the malevolent assistant of the drug's creator Dr. Zeitman (John Carradine). The scene with Carradine is awkwardly wedged into the movie as it was actually shot by b-movie veteran Fred Olen Ray with the intention of being placed in a film somewhere down the road. Regardless, this money-saving, scene-padding tactic is one of the things that gives movies like this their charm. There is another seemingly random scene of a couple looking for a cat in an alley. The guy is trying to get lucky by doing a good deed for his girlfriend but ends up getting his arm ripped off. There was not much point in this other than to have some gore and a bit of comic relief but it works in a way that is more funny than incompetent. Miraculously, director Kenneth J. Hall is able to cobble this all together and make the film feel coherent even though a close examination will expose all kinds of plot holes. Frankly, I didn't care as this one brought me right back to the days of boobs and blood being the real stars of the show. Special mention should be made for Pamela Gilbert's extended skinny dipping scene and subsequent death (complete with blood running down her ass) that is clearly the centerpiece of this flick. Evil Spawn is a classic low budget picture from the heyday of the video boom that is a homage to drive-in schlock that also fits in with the style of the period. Look for Forrest J. Ackerman as the pool man.
The release of this movie took an odd turn when film historian/actor/director Ted Newsom (Ed Wood: Look Back in Angora) was given the opportunity to rework the film under the title Alien Within. Newsom shot new scenes with Jay Richardson, Suzanne Ager, Melissa Moore, Richard Harrison and Gordon Mitchell. This version is difficult to find as it was only released on VHS and I am curious to see what changes were made and what effect they have on the movie that most of us know as Evil Spawn. Thankfully, Retromedia Entertainment has recently announced that Alien Within will be making its DVD debut in November 2013 allowing fans the chance to satisfy their curiosity and see the alternate version. (Josh Pasnak, 9/2/13)
Directed By: Kenneth J. Hall.
Written By: Kenneth J. Hall.
Starring: Bobbie Bresee, Drew Godderis, Pamela Gilbert, John Terrence.