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Review: THE SPAWNING (2017)

Never underestimate the power of a good trailer. I saw a mention of Simon Riley’s THE SPAWNING, but given the pile of screeners and festival films I had to wait for me, I wasn’t planning to watch it. Not until I saw the preview, which evoked memories of two classic UK alien on Earth films, XTRO and Norman J Warren’s PREY. After that, I had to see it.

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Amy (Zoe Karpeta DISCARNATE) hopes for a wonderful life with John (Liam Millard) and their new unborn baby. However, after catching him with another woman, a night out with her friend Karen (Faye Sewell SPARROW) turns into an unending horror. She’s attracted the attention of an alien with the most unusual nutritional needs.

The film’s makers say they set out to “recapture the dark beating heart of horror that prevailed throughout the 70s and 80s” and they certainly get a lot of it right. They’ve also picked some mighty big shoes to try to fill, and you can’t blame writer/director Simon Riley if his first feature falls a bit short in comparison. You should, however, praise him for coming as close as he does. THE SPAWNING frequently captures the feel of older films while adding its own stamp to them. One sequence that especially stands out is a nightmarishly edited sequence involving Amy and the alien. It’s not only pivotal to the plot, but has genuinely disturbing moments.

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On the other hand, while the effects start off strong, there’s some horrible CGI blood and fire near the end. This is always a distraction, but it’s an even bigger one in a film that wants to be a throwback to the days of practical effects. I can understand not wanting to go live with an improvised flamethrower, but THE SPAWNING makes very good use of practical blood effects elsewhere. Using CGI splatter here makes no sense.

While not totally successful in its aims, THE SPAWNING is certainly worth a rental on Vimeo, which seems to be the only way to see it at the moment. You can check for additional outlets and other updates on their Twitter stream.

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