Director: Brian Yuzna
USA - 1999
Once again I have found myself tricked.
While browsing one of the local video chains looking for an appropriate title for this
weeks entry into Crazy Baby Month, I came across Progeny. Now, the video box
cover depicts a baby -- a crazy baby, no less -- sitting inside a milk
bottle with his
sharp little fingers, menacing little fangs, and a deranged look on its face. Clearly,
this indicates that the contained video is chock-full of Crazy Baby goodness. But alas,
like G.I. Bro, I once again had to learn the hard way
not to judge a video by cover alone.
One evening, in the midst of copulation, Craig (Arnold "Darkman(s) 2 & 3"
Vosloo) and Sherry Burton are interrupted mid-stroke by a bright blue light. Realizing
that his neon Schlitz: Bar Always Open sign has been defunct for quite some time
now, Craig knows that something is awry. Suddenly, the couple are frozen in place for what feels like two
minutes, but once Craig regains his senses and looks back at the clock, he comes to the
shocking discovery that two hours have passed! Though they are a bit frazzled by
the mysterious incident, the two lovebirds decide to just sleep it off.
The next morning, Craig visits his psychiatrist and explains the strange occurrence to
her. We then learn that the duo have been trying to conceive for quite some time now, and
their efforts have proven to be fruitless. Realizing that hes late for work, Craig
excuses himself and hits the highway. After being stuck in gridlock traffic for a while,
Craig becomes impatient, pulls onto the shoulder
of the road and speeds passed his fellow motorists. Unfortunately, he is immediately
stopped at the border by immigration (?). Even though Craig explains that hes a
doctor and the lives of many could possibly be at stake, the guards hear nothing of it,
and send him directly to the EBCSL (the Extensive Body-Cavity Search Lane).
Later, at work, Craig just cant seem to stay focused -- which, being a doctor, is
a problem. The last thing a woman wants to see when youre sitting between her legs
at the end of a surgical table with a scalpel in your hand is a dazed look on your face.
After finally finishing the procedure, Craig leaves the operating room only to run into
his old friend and colleague, Dr. David Wetherly (Wilford Brimley!).
Now, with Wilford in the picture, Progeny then became a test of just how many
oatmeal jokes I can make in the relatively short time span of an hour and a half. Not only
that, but how many times can I somehow incorporate the line, "It's the right thing to
I learned that I could do it quite a bit.
Anyway, David sees the state his friend is in and immediately
sends him home to get some well-needed rest. That night, Sherry breaks the inevitable news
to Craig that she is pregnant. At first, it seems to be a wonderful surprise -- but that
night, however, proves to be a restless one, as Craig has nightmares about immigration
raiding his house (?).
The next day, while shopping, Sherry experiences severe stomach pain in the Frozen
Dairy aisle. She then runs into a long-lost friend and her daughter. Before excusing
herself from the conversation due to her obvious discomfort, Sherry notices for a split
second the child peering at her through black alien eyes.
That night, while having a drink at a bar with David, Craig notices a talk show on TV
featuring Dr. Bert Clavell (Brad "Voice of Chucky" Dourif),
author of the book Close Encounters of a Personal Kind
(which, I suppose, is more subtle than I Did It With a Martian!). Ironically, the
author discusses several subjects that touch home with David, such as the eerie blue light
and the unexplained lapse of time from the previous evening.
The following afternoon, Craig receives some shocking lab results proving that he is
infertile, and his impregnation of his wife was a one-in-a-million shot. Craig runs home
and convinces Sherry that something strange is afoot, and that she should visit his
psychiatrist in an attempt to discover just what happened
that fateful night. Though it takes some persistent coaxing, Sherry finally concedes.
Under hypnosis, Sherry relates the story of how she was levitated from her bedroom into
a black hole in the sky, then lifted into an alien ship. Once inside, she was fondled by
tentacles (oh, that wacky Yuzna!), then had a metallic probe shoved up her nose. Then
there was a second probe, and it was inserted....um..somewhere else. She was then floated
back down to her bedroom, her husband conveniently placed back on top of her, and their
memories of the incident erased.
To further substantiate Craig's suspicion, David performs an ultra-sound with some
horrific results. A baby too big for such an early stage of development,
not to mention something obviously not human (something...crazy, perhaps?). In
fact, the results prove to be so shocking that David's heart fails, along with the
equipment (which, naturally, goes out before they can store a good image of the creature
in-utero). David is left comatose, thus leaving Craig back at square one.
Though these events are enough to convince Craig, Sherry, on the other hand, holds firm
to the belief that somehow they have beaten the odds, and the baby is theirs -- not to
mention normal. The family psychiatrist, as it turns out, feels the same, finding Craig's
evidence to be inconclusive. She also feels that Craig might be losing his marbles.
Realizing that he's fighting a losing battle and that there's no way to win alone, Craig enlists the help of Dr. Clavell, the aforementioned authority in the
field of Crazy Alien Babies. Together they attempt to discover the truth behind this spawn
from another planet, and if necessary, destroy it.
When Brian Yuzna teamed with Stuart Gordon and did the classic Re-Animator, they
were able to successfully blend sharp humor with gross-out imagery. Yuzna still has
disgust factor down cold with Progeny, but the essential wit and humor are missing.
I'm not saying that every horror movie needs comic relief, but when dealing with such a
campy storyline it'd help if the film poked just a little bit of fun at itself. Besides,
how am I supposed to take a movie starring Wilford Brimley seriously in the first place?
As far as pace goes, Progeny starts off fairly well (kicking things off with a
sex scene is always a plus), but towards the end it becomes a messy conglomeration of
redundancies and cliches:
Craig: "The baby is crazy!"
Sherry: "My baby isn't crazy"
Craig: "I'm telling you that our baby is crazy!"
Sherry: "Our baby is most definitely not crazy"
Psychiatrist: "I think that baby is normal, but Craig is crazy."
Craig: "I'm not crazy, but that baby is!"
Dr. Clavell: "I, too, am under the impression that the baby may be, in fact,
Craig: "I told you!"
Sherry: "I'm sorry, but I simply cannot believe that our baby is crazy!"
As you can clearly see, it gets quite old after a while. It's always a bad sign when
you begin to find yourself easily distracted while in the midst of a video, "Hmmm, I
haven't read the liner notes of this Men At Work album in a while..."
If you like gore, however, Yuzna still has quite the flair for it. I don't often find
myself bothered when watching gore-laden films like Dead-Alive
and the Evil
Dead series, for the effects are both campy and fun. But when I watch a something
like Progeny, or Yuzna's earlier effort The Dentist, the gore
is not fun. It's more in the vein of scrunching up your face and going, "Eww..."
Like David Cronenberg, Brian Yuzna has the uncanny ability to make me want to turn my head
during various scenes. I'm not a wuss (ok, I'm kind of a wuss), but these
guys certainly know how to press my buttons, provoking questions along the line of,
"Now where is she going to put that coat hanger?" and "I didn't think an
umbilical cord could stretch that long!"
But besides all that, the most important thing to take into consideration is the Baby
Factor. Were there any babies? If so, were they crazy? Did the filmmakers utilize their
Crazy Baby at every opportune moment? If so, was it done tastefully? (Answering
"yes" to that last question would be a negative check.)
And does Progeny stack up?
No. There was no Crazy Baby until the end, and even then it was somewhat of a disappointment. Sure, it had some crazy
little tentacles on its abdomen, but its antics were less than insane. If you're going to
feature a Crazy Baby (heck, not only was it featured on the cover but it was also the
titular character, for cryin' out loud!), I require that the child is given an ample
supply of screen- time, and plenty of nutty antics of which to entertain me. I'm sure you
can all relate to the disappointment one harbors every time he or she rents a movie
brimming with the promise of Crazy Baby fun, but then fails to live up to said promise.
It's false advertising at its most heinous.
"Perhaps my baby isn't crazy after all..."
-- Copyright © 2000 by J. Bannerman