Director: Andrew van den Houten (2009)
Starring: Jessica Butler, Holter Graham, Ahna Tessler, Amy Hargreaves
Find it online: IMDB, Amazon

Based on one of my favourite horror novels since ever (although I do prefer the as yet unfilmed predecessor, Off-Season) Offspring has a lot to live up to. Jack Ketchum’s story concerns a family of cannibals, living on the coast of Maine (yes, Stephen King territory, but it’s better than that). They turn their focus on a nearby family and their house-guests, including a newborn baby. It’s a simple plot, but one that is executed excellently by Ketchum.

Well, Ketchum himself actually wrote the screenplay for the movie, which you'd expect to be a good sign. And it’s a good time to be a Jack Ketchum fan, what with recent adaptations of The Girl Next Door, Red and The Lost. He is, by a Maine mile, my favourite modern horror writer, and the more adaptations of his work the better. Those other movies are fine enough, but Offspring is the movie I was really waiting for.

Off the bat, it’s faithful enough to the book. Indeed, whole scenes are transposed literally from page to screen. The home invasion scene looks exactly how you’d imagine it from the description in the book. Bits are taken from the book’s predecessor too though, and there’s less emphasis on the baby-in-peril. There’s plenty of gore and violence, which is one thing Ketchum does very well. His writing is amongst the most gruesome and visceral you'll ever read. Unfortunately, such things are readily available in movies today, and the scenes of torture and violence in the adaptation aren’t really original enough to stand out. Loathe as I am to say it, it stinks of torture-guff here, which many will find either a turn-off or a bore. Although, hey, you’ve never seen anyone “eaten out” in quite that way before (unless you've seen this movies mightily superior sequel, The Woman).

Visually, Offspring is very similar to Wes Craven’s original Hills Have Eyes. It’s stripped-back and basic, with a very low-budget feel (helped, no doubt, by its very low budget). The cannibals, particularly, look very much like the cannibal family in the Hills Have Eyes. They’re very dirty and dreadlocky, and wear a lot of furs. They look a lot like cavemen, as anyone who’s bothered to read the books might expect.

Unfortunately, that look doesn’t really help the movie’s cause, because it’s as stupid as it sounds. The nasties are very overexposed, and it’s hard to be scared of a Year One reject. It’s a shame that the filmmakers didn’t follow a “less is more” approach, because some of it looks downright silly. I didn’t want to laugh at Offspring, but it certainly inspires such a reaction.

The civilised family here aren’t developed, interesting or likeable enough to ever care about. The cannibals arrive only moments after our protagonists are introduced, which isn’t enough time to form an attachment. There’s an abusive ex-husband and a few useless cops thrown into the mix, but none of the characters are particularly memorable.

Still, this is a very entertaining, if decidedly minor movie. Fans of the novel will appreciate its faithfulness, whilst many others will find much to enjoy in the way of cheesy camp and grotty gore. As a die-hard Ketchum fan, I did really enjoy Offspring. However, even that can't defeat the overriding feeling that it simply isn't all that special.