Review Date: September 4, 2001
Released by: Retromedia
Release date: 7/22/2001
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: No
Sam Raimi solicited cash from Detroit dentists in order to make The Evil Dead. Kevin Smith maxed out his credit cards to finance Clerks. Yet despite the budgetary limitations, these are some fantastic movies. The acting is terrible, the effects are amateurish, but the talent involved is what made these films classics. It's not the lack of budget that gives the movies their charm. Some filmmakers, however, believe that if you make a film that LOOKS cheap, fans will embrace it the same way they do other low-budget classics. They're wrong. Lack of finance is no reason to make a poor film. And one needs to look no further than Evil Spawn to see just how bad a movie can be.
Evil Spawn begins with some brief title sequence about a space probe, along with some very poor shots of a model spaceship. Back on Earth, a lab assistant is attacked by a bug creature for some reason, and then becomes some sort of creature himself. He attacks a man and woman in an alley, but is killed by the woman. This all makes absolutely no sense, and doesn't really figure in the rest of the movie at all. Maybe it's there to pad the length of the film to over one hour.
Then, the real part of the story (and I hesitate to call it a story) begins. John Carradine, in one of his final roles, makes a brief cameo as Dr. Zeitman, who with his assistant Evelyn Avery (Donna Shock) plan some kind of mad anti-aging experiment. The subject will be a faded actress, Lynn Roman (Bobbie Bresee), who's trying to get a role in a cheesy independent horror film, Savage Goddess. Ooh, the irony! It's a cheesy horror film, and they're TALKING about a cheesy horror film! I can't believe the Academy overlooked this complex satire on the independent film genre.
Lynn doesn't get the job because she's too old, so Evelyn convinces her to take the anti-aging medication. She does look a bit younger, but there's a pretty nasty side effect: She turns into a murderous bug-creature. Her first victim is skinny-dipping assistant Elaine (Pamela Gilbert), whose breast implants are probably the best special effect in the film. Soon, there's corpses all over (well, one or two) as Lynn gets revenge on ageist Hollywood. Can her biographer save the day? Will we care? These existential questions are answered in Evil Spawn.
OK, I know this is supposed to be a tongue-in-cheek film. But c'mon. There's simply no excuse, budgetary or not, for making such a lame movie. Probably the only thing good that can be said about Evil Spawn is that the running time is a merciful 75 minutes. Expect some of the worst acting, amateurish effects, and dull stretches of dialogue you'll ever see. With the exception of the skinny-dipping scene, nudity is kept to a bare minimum (no pun intended). At least more healthy doses of naked young surgically enhanced starlets would give this film something positive. It's pretty obvious that (uncredited) executive producer Fred Olen Ray is aiming for the cheap thrills/cheesy movie/excessive nudity market (there's even allusion to "sex" and "big boobs" on the back cover). One or two nude scenes doesn't exactly qualify in my book.
Writer/director Kenneth J. Hall shows zero filmmaking knowledge. Characters' heads are cut off, framing is terrible, and composition is horrendous. Even Ed Wood could properly block a scene (well, sometimes). Which brings me to my next point: You can't TRY to make a bad movie. If you do, it just looks like a bad movie. Ed Wood honestly believed in the films he made, and that was the charm. Or, you can take Killer Klowns From Outer Space, a throwback to the 50s cheese films, as an example of how to make a dumb movie properly. There has to be some filmmaking talent behind it. Evil Spawn is not "so bad it's good.". It's just bad.
Well, this is a DVD, with digitally re-mastered picture, so it should at least be a visual treat, right? Sadly, no. I've seen VHS tapes that outshine this disc. The picture is fuzzy and dull. I'm not expecting a fabulous anamorphic transfer, but I think this movie could look better than this DVD. In fact, I don't believe that this is "digitally remastered from the original camera negative" at all. I sure hope Retro Media isn't openly lying on their DVD covers. That's not the way to build up a customer base.
The sound of Evil Spawn makes the picture look reference quality. This is pathetic. It's two channel sound (OK, that much I expected), but the audio hiss is louder than the dialogue most of the time. About 45 minutes in, there's a major sound-synch problem that lasts for about 10 minutes. This gets funny sometimes, as you hear a car door slam about 2 seconds before you see it. At least the sound is consistent with the video quality and the film itself: BAD
Retro Media actually supplied a fair amount of extras. Nothing really earth shattering or informative, but I do give them points for including one or two supplements. For the movie itself, there's a brief behind the scenes segment (with a few more glimpses of a nude Pamela Gilbert), then a slide show of a couple of photos from preliminary footage shot by Fred Olen Ray, and finally a bit about John Carradine. It turns out the Carradine footage was meant for another film, which explains why so much of Evil Spawn makes so little sense.
There's also a new episode of Fred Olen Ray's "Nite Owl Theatre." This is accessible in the supplements menu, but it also triggers automatically before and after the movie. Ray, along with a few more scantily clad women, pimps his other movies. If you send in the card with the disc, you're entitled to some free stuff. This host segment says very little about the movie itself, and I have to wonder if it's the same on all of Retro Media's discs. There are some marginally funny outtakes of these host segments as well.
Last are a few trailers for some other Retro Media films. Most look to be of the same quality as Evil Spawn, so if this is your type of film, there's a whole menu of other selections for you.
Man, I hate to openly put down someone and their work so bad, but Evil Spawn is quite possibly the most amateurish production I've ever seen. What makes it worse is that the DVD presentation is so bad. I'm very skeptical that this is truly digitally remastered like the liner notes claim, and that bothers me a lot. Films like this DO have a following (I can't imagine why), and it would be in Retro Media's best interest to make a quality transfer. I'm not too familiar with this company, but they really need to improve their product.
Movie - D-
Image Quality - D
Sound - D
Supplements - C+
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- Dolby Digital Mono
- Behind the scenes footage
- Stills of alternative footage
- "Frankenstein's Brain" out-takes
- Nite Owl Theatre
- Evil Toons special offer
- Nite Owl bloopers