Jarv’s Schlock Vault: Progeny
I think that baby is normal, but Craig is crazy.
Jarv’s Rating: 2 Changs out of 4. Not what it’s billed as, thankfully.
I have to say that I did approach this effort of Yuzna’s with some trepidation. Space Rape films aren’t really my thing, being more in Wolf’s territory than anything else (Inseminoid, Xtro et al). Furthermore, the later Yuzna films have marked a severe decline in quality from the late 80’s/ early 90’s heyday. Still, 100% completion is something to aspire to, so with a mild sense of trepidation, I put it on. I would like to use this chance to express my absolute gratitude that this isn’t as billed- being more of a psychological thriller than anything else. Albeit one with a touch of tentacle molestation. You know, Yuzna had to throw in something to keep his fanbase happy.
Progeny opens with a bang, literally, as we’re treated to the sight of Dr. Craig Burton (Arnold Vosloo) humping his missus Sherry(Jillian McWhirter). He finishes and realises that 3 hours have passed. Instead of being righteously chuffed at some truly impressive staying power, Craig instead begins to suffer paranoia attacks about his missing time. Sherry is pregnant, and Craig has become convinced (due to seeing Dr. Bert Clavell (played with a grin by Brad Dourif) on TV talking about alien abduction) that ET has taken his place mid-job and she’s about to have a space baby. His immediate superior in the hospital Dr. Wetherly (Wilford Brimley) isn’t much use, and Sherry’s therapist Dr. Lamarche (Lindsay Crouse) is adamant that there’s nothing wrong with Sherry and Craig is just being a ginormous fuckhead. Not without some justification given what’s about to take place. Sherry is having flashbacks under hypnosis of being molested by third-rate Close Encounters of the Third Kind midget aliens- complete with spiky vagina probing thing, and, naturally, tentacles. Craig loses his mind completely and Clavell watches horrified as he operates on his unconscious wife in an attempt to remove the space foetus. Craig loses time again, causing his wife to die, and the film ends with him incarcerated precisely where he belongs. Although Clavell seems to get off the hook despite being at the very least implicated in the impromptu c-section.
First things first, this is actually quite a clever film. The veracity of the aliens (despite what the marketing would have us believe) is never confirmed. Craig is clearly suffering from extreme paranoia, and the only times we see them are during Sherry’s flashbacks- which are clearly presented as unreliable hallucinations. Even in the climactic operation, we’re never given actual proof as to the existence of the space foetus (and I’m a bit lost as to why Pervert ET had to insert something up her nose) with the thing he removes disappearing before he can share it with us, and the foetus itself apparently climbing up her spinal column so we can’t see that either. As such the question is clearly open as to whether Progeny is the account of the consequences of icky intergalactic shenanigans, or the tale of one man’s descent into madness. It’s up to the viewer which interpretation is the correct one.
As such, a lot of this film clearly hangs on the actors, particularly Vosloo and McWhirter. Vosloo is OK, although his accent is all over the shop, but McWhirter is much, much better. She portrays going nuts with some aplomb and has no problems at all with casual nudity and being caressed by icky, goopy tentacles. It’s a good turn. Crouse is a bit strident as the therapist, but she’s not helped out by the script- she’s meant to be the voice of reason, but this amounts to repeating the same line over and over again. The Brim is fine, but the role is undemanding and almost superfluous and Dourif is pleasingly eccentric as the
Obviously, this is a Yuzna film, so Screaming Mad George is on the effects again, and he’s clearly a deeply sick man. Although there isn’t a huge call for gore, when he has to supply some for the climactic operation he goes at it with both barrells. Lots and lots of lovely entrails for Craig to fish around in. The alien effects are somewhat more restrained, although the tentacles themselves glisten alarmingly. They honestly look almost as if they’re coated with semen. Yuck, is the word that leaps to mind, and in a film that should be more understated is alarmingly off-putting.
Nevertheless, this isn’t a particularly satisfying film. I’m fine with the absence of a happy ending, but Progeny has an ending that seems to be awfully contrived and overly reliant on an irritating Deus ex Machina for it to work. This actually feels like a cheat, almost as if Yuzna is overly desperate to maintain the central mystery of the film at the cost of narrative coherence. Secondly, as Vosloo is essentially the central character, he becomes increasingly, and annoyingly, stubborn in the face of logic and reason. His belief that it can’t be his child is based solely in that he was told it would be unlikely that he could father a child- note “unlikely” not impossible. Admittedly, he’s not exactly faced with incontrovertible evidence of the baby’s humanity, but he’s lacking sorely in any actual proof that it is otherworldly; he’s almost operating on a hunch. This is the central flaw in the script, and it does bring down the film.
Overall, this is an OK film. It’s not space rape, so that’s a good thing, and it can on occasion be smart and tense. However, it is unsatisfying and the script does leave a lot to be desired. I’m not really sure if I recommend it, it clearly isn’t a bad film, but by the same score it’s not one that I ever feel any overwhelming compulsion to watch again. Basically, if ever a film was the embodiment of “meh” then this one is it. Watch it if you must, but don’t expect a lot and certainly do not expect the gorefest that the advertising would have us believe it is. At the end of the day, Progeny is an OK effort, but not one worth really searching out.
Until next time,