Offspring (2009) poster

Offspring (2009)


USA. 2009.


Director – Andrew van den Houten, Screenplay – Jack Ketchum, Based on the Novel by Jack Ketchum, Producers – William M. Miller, Robert Tonino & Andrew van den Houten, Photography – William M. Miller, Music – Ryan Shore, Makeup Effects – Anthony Pepe, Production Design – Krista Gall & Brian Rzepka. Production Company – Modernciné.


Art Hindle (George Chandler), Amy Hargreaves (Amy Halbard), Ahna Tessler (Claire Carey), Erick Castel (Stephen Carey), Tommy Nelson (Luke), Andrew Elvis Miller (David Halbard), Holter Graham (Vic Manetti), Pollyanna McIntoh (Woman), Spencer List (Rabbit), Jessica Butler (Eartheater), Jana Veldheer (Hitchhiker Susan)


In the town of Dead Water on the northeast coast of the US near the Canadian border, retired police detective George Chandler is called in to assist the sheriff’s department at a murder scene. There have been a spate of murders where the bodies have been cannibalised, which is similar to a series of killings that Chandler dealt with during his time on the force and others that have been going back years before that. Chandler theorises that the killings are being conducted by a feral family that live in the wild and are constantly on the move back and forward across the border. At the same time, husband and wife David and Amy Halbard are visited by their friend Claire Carey who is seeking a divorce from her abusive husband Stephen. As she arrives, they receive a call from Stephen saying that he is driving up from Portland to put a stop to the divorce. The house is then abruptly attacked by feral children. Amy and Claire are abducted by the feral family and taken away to their cave, while David and Amy’s son Luke flees with the baby. As Steven arrives on the scene, he is also attacked and dragged to the cave.

Jack Ketchum (1946-2018) was a horror writer who put out a reasonable body of novels and short stories between 1981 and his death. A number of these were adapted into films with the likes of The Lost (2006), The Girl Next Door (2007) and Red (2008).

Several years before this, I had seen and reviewed Lucy McKee’s The Woman (2011), which was made from a Ketchum script. I was not aware at the time that it was a follow-on from Offspring. Ketchum had written Offspring as a novel in 1991 before developing it as a screenplay here. Furthermore, Offspring is also a sequel to Ketchum’s first novel Off Season (1981), which so far remains unfilmed. The Woman is a direct follow-on from this film – Offspring establishes the feral family and has one character referred to as Woman played by Pollyanna McIntosh. McIntosh returned to play the role in The Woman, which shows her, as the end does here, alone and abandoned from her family. Furthermore, McIntosh went on to direct/star in a further sequel featuring The Woman with Darlin’ (2019). Andrew van den Houten produces all three films.

Seeing Offspring after The Woman gives a whole lot more sense to The Woman’s set-up where you were left questioning the whys of the basic premise, where The Woman came from etc. On the other hand, The Woman ends up being the superior film. Offspring is just about assorted people being attacked by a feral family – which is by no means uninteresting in itself – but The Woman added a whole nastier undertow in the scenes where she was made prisoner by Sean Bridgers and the brutal way that he treated her and his family.

Pollyanna McIntosh as The Woman in Offspring (2009)
Pollyanna McIntosh in her first appearance as The Woman

Ketchum and director Andrew van den Houten certainly capture your attention. Ketchum seems to like exposed characters with problems and edges and in creating intersecting plotlines where things can connect or turn on their head with whiplash unexpectedness – he reminds me in many ways of Elmore Leonard. It is quite possible that Offspring was inspired by the recent success of the remake of The Hills Have Eyes (2006) – the scenes with the prisoners in the cave certainly resemble one copy made of that with The Asylum’s cheap Hillside Cannibals (2006).

There is a considerable jolt where the family and Ahna Tessler are relaxing before the house is abruptly invaded by the feral children and in no time we see Andrew Elvis Miller with his throat gushing and his intestines being torn out by attackers that are only children. There is also a brutal scene mid-way through the film where Art Hindle accompanies an armed police sortie and they are abruptly attacked by children appearing out of the grass along the side of the path and wiped out within a matter of seconds.

Offspring was made by Andrew van den Houten who had previously made the quite interesting Headspace (2005) in which a teenager gains expended mental powers. Van den Houten has not directed any other films subsequent to Offspring but has become prolific as a horror producer with medium-budget works such as The Girl Next Door (2007), Home Movie (2008), Lucky McKee’s The Woman (2011), Ghoul (2012), All Cheerleaders Die (2013), Jug Face (2013), Malignant (2013), Ascent to Hell (2014), Slumlord (2015), Central Park (2017), Camera Obscura (2017), No Way to Live (2017), The Night Sitter (2018), The Ranger (2018), Sadistic Intentions (2019), Darlin’ (2019), The Honeymoon Phase (2019), Sadistic Intentions (2019), The Block Island Sound (2020) and Good Samaritan/Don’t Look Back (2020).

Trailer here

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