Them babies are NUTS!

Progeny

Director: Brian Yuzna

USA - 1999

  Hoff! Hoff! Hoff! 

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Once again I have found myself tricked.

While browsing one of the local video chains looking for an appropriate title for this week’s 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 bottl"Honey, why did you bring the Bug Zapper into the bedroom?"e 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 co"Is this a scalpel I see before me?"uple 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 he’s late for work, Craig excuses himself and hits the highway. After being stuck in gridlock traffic for a while, Craig becomes impatient, pulls onSo what's in the bowl, Wilford?to 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 he’s 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 can’t seem to stay focused -- which, being a doctor, is a problem. The last thing a woman wants to see when you’re 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 frie"You *will* buy me Skittles in the check-out lane!"nd 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 do!"?

I learned that I could do it quite a bit.

Anyway, DaYuzna delves into Hentai territoryvid 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 Kind of a waxy alienof 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 whaInsert "Calgon" joke heret 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 develoSay, that guy looks like the voice of Chucky!pment, 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 alo"I know I left my keys in here somewhere..."ne, 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, crazy."

Craig: "I told you!"

Sherry: "I'm sorry, but I simply cannot believe that our baby is crazy!"Arnold feels a bit melancholy after a screening of the latest Darkman installment

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, o"I wonder if this thing gets the Spice Channel?"r 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.)"I'm telling you, I'm not Billy Zane! You got the wrong man!"

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..."

          

        "Oops, nevermind."

 

-- Copyright 2000 by J. Bannerman

 

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