Friday, March 6, 2020

Evil Spawn

Evil Spawn
Kenneth J. Hall, Ted Newsom

A scientist working on microbes from space is murdered by his assistant Evelyn Avery (Dawn Wildsmith) when she releases an alien creature. She then proceeds to take the microbes and give them to an actress that she is obsessed with, Lynn Roman (Bobbie Bresee). Lynn finds her acting career drying up as she is aging, but when a mysterious woman appears offering her an injection that can make her younger, how can she possibly say no?

"The hair is still good though, right?"
At its core, Evil Spawn is basically a remake of The Wasp Woman (1959) with a lot more nudity and gore. Taking the way traditional feminine beauty is weaponized against women and turning it around into a source of horror is a commentary that is still relevant today. Where Wasp Woman lays the blame at the feet of the beauty industry, Evil Spawn takes aim at Hollywood’s obsession with youth. I think it’s a credit to the writing that this element is taken seriously in an otherwise knowingly camp movie. Lynn’s anxieties as an aging star inform all her actions and even though it causes her to behave in cruel and petty ways, her reasoning is always clear.

Surrounding this core message is a whole lot of silliness. We meet John Carradine in a brief role with the most casual death ever put to film, and Dawn Wildsmith’s Evelyn Avery is sinister and unhinged but sadly exits the film far too early. There are also some delightful rubber puppets, monster suits, and plenty of blood. Evil Spawn is a great goopy monster film from the tail end of the golden age of low budget monster movie video rentals.

Everyone likes heads scritches.
The whole set-up of the film involves a microbe from space that is kept in a storage locker(?). Except it’s not a microbe so much as it is a spider the size of a small dog. None of this actually matters as the goal of the film is to get Lynn Roman injecting those space microbes to turn her into a creature. Almost the entirety of the film takes place at her house and it is here that the film had an opportunity to take its one location and make it feel small and isolated as Lynn’s downward career and recent monster problem isolate her. Instead, the very limited locations just feel like it was just what the directors had access to and that gives the production an unfortunate cheapness.

Evil Spawn is very aware of how cheap it is, taking a few shots at low budget horror movies enlisting washed-up actors mere moments after having John Carradine recite a few lines and then promptly die. This mixture of serious and ridiculous really keeps the spark of fun alive in Evil Spawn, you can enjoy it as a monster movie and you can enjoy it a (mostly) straight forward horror film.

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