Benjamin Wollmuth is a lover of literature who enjoys sharing his thoughts on everything from movies and video games to books and music.
Through my years of watching countless movies and reading countless books, I have come to the conclusion that films based on books are never better than the book itself. Why? Because it is tough to condense all of a book’s content––content that is highly descriptive and can take multiple hours to read––into a run-time that is less than 3 hours, possibly even 2. Plus, not everything in a book can be translated onto the screen in the correct way. While book-to-film adaptations can be equally as entertaining as the books themselves––take the Harry Potter franchise for example––they are never able to fully deliver everything that the book delivered. With all of that being said, there are many cases where a book-to-film adaptation is purely god-awful. It other cases, they can be highly entertaining and worth the watch. And while books can be looked at as heavily detailed film scripts, not all books––as I said before––translate to the screen correctly. Most of the time, it is either a hit or a miss. In this case… well, I won't call it a hit, but I will say I was pleasantly surprised.
But let's talk about the book first.
Offspring is the sequel to Off Season, both written by Jack Ketchum. Originally published in 1991, its intent was to continue the story of the incestual cannibal family, but this time with new victims. It takes place 11 years after the first, which is fitting because, as I said, this was published in 1991 and Off Season was published 11 years prior in 1980.
The controversy sparked from its insane descriptions of sex and violence, but I argue that it's what made the novel so scary (well, minus the sex, I guess). Readers could picture everything that was happening in their heads, and I’m telling ya, violence in our head is much more realistic than any violence on-screen.
Offspring is no different. While it might not be as descriptive, it is still horrifying and gross to read (and I mean gross in a good way). While I do think Off Season is the better book, I will say that Offspring improves on some things, mostly in the area of character development. I loved the characters in Off Season, but Offspring definitely included much more realized characters with much more character development. Ketchum even tries really hard to give the cannibals more development, which really helps in understanding them. Yes, the book can be looked at as a semi-copy-and-paste of the story from the first book––cannibals attack the home where the main characters are at, some characters are killed, some characters are captured and brought to the enemy cave, some characters are left behind to help save the day, and there are cops to do the shooting––but there are other things thrown in, too, like a side-villain who was a total dick and scenes from different perspectives, including that of a young boy. Ketchum also managed to be a lot more compassionate when it came to who lived and died, which was a huge change from the first book. Again, I do prefer Off Season just because it was a lot more violent and stomach-churning, and because Ketchum didn’t need to worry about connecting it to other books––it was its own thing at the time. However, I do think that Offspring is a worthy sequel and a damn good book at that, even if it isn’t better than Ketchum’s original controversial novel.
In terms of how the film does as an adaptation, I would say that it does a pretty good job following the plot of the book. The characters are kept the same, much of the dialogue is kept the same, and the order in which things happen is pretty much the same. Luckily for the movie, the book is not terribly long, so it was probably much easier to fit a lot of what happens in the book into a run-time of around an hour and a half. What I'm really impressed with is the amount of gore the film contains. While it could never beat the book in terms of describing the violence, the film manages to show a lot of gore that looked really good (most of the time) and was completely practical. I respect practical effects. The film also contained more nudity than I expected, because the book contained a lot of it. I guess I didn't expect to see that much of it, especially in a film full of child actors. But I am glad it stuck pretty close to the book.
There were some things I didn't like, however, and a lot of it spawns from my confusion of why they decided to turn the sequel into a film rather than the first book. To this day, Off Season has no film adaptation, and I honestly don't understand why. I felt that Offspring (the book) was better understood when knowing about what happened in the first book because much of the plot relied on the cannibal killers' return. The film adaptation mentions what happened 11 years ago, but it is barely talked about, so if someone were watching the movie without having read either of Ketchum's books, they would probably be insanely confused. Another thing I disliked was the strange grunt language the cannibals used. This grunt language never appeared in the books and just felt really odd to me. Finally, as with a lot of book-to-film adaptations, not all of the character development was there. Some character choices in the movie didn't make as much sense as they did in the book, since in the book we were able to see more into each character's head. I was most disappointed with Luke's development––or lack thereof––because in the book we really get to see how he feels amongst everything going on while in the movie he kind of just does stuff.
The movie itself isn't that great in terms of quality. Yes, the gore effects were actually really good. However, some of the camera shots looked really grainy for something released in 2009. The film was directed by Andrew van den Houten, a man who has directed his fair share of... not-so-great horror movies. He also went on to direct the film adaptation of Ketchum's prequel to Off Season, The Woman. The film was distributed by Ghost House Underground, an offshoot of the famous Ghost House Pictures that released films direct-to-video. The acting in the film wasn't fantastic, but it wasn't completely awful. The actors and actresses did a really good job expressing their characters' pain. I didn't like the costume design that much just because each character looked really similar––wig and all. I also didn't like the opening credits because they went on for too damn long. It tried to fill the audience in on the background of the killer cannibals using newspaper clippings and really weird nature shots, but it just ended up being really boring and hard to read. Oh, and the film takes place in the modern-day rather than in 1991. Just thought I'd mention it, even though it didn't bother me too much.
Overall, the film is a decent adaptation while not being that great of a film in terms of quality. But hey, I got more than I expected.
If I had to choose whether this adaptation was a hit or a miss, I would probably choose hit. No, the film isn't great quality-wise, except the gore was pretty good. While the acting was decent, there was some poor execution on certain lines. And, of course, the character development wasn't all there. With all that being said, the film managed to stick pretty closely to the plot of the book––it didn't change too much. That I respect because I really like Ketchum's writing. In the end, Offspring (the movie) is a solid adaptation of Offspring (the book), though I am still giving the film a 5/10.
© 2020 Benjamin Wollmuth