Reviewed by Colin Jacobson
Special Edition DVD
Sterling, widescreen 1.85:1, languages: English Digital Stereo, subtitles: Spanish, single side-single layer, 24 chapters, rated NR, 95 min., $29.95, street date 4/6/99.
Directed by Brian Yuzna. Starring Arnold Vosloo, Jillian McWhirter, Brad Dourif, Lindsay Crouse, Wilford Brimley.
After hoping and praying, Craig and Sherry Burton's dream of having a baby just came true. But it's nothing like they expected. Because this baby is definitely not of this world. Fearing the worst, Craig teams up with alien abduction expert Bert Clavell to unravel the truth. Through hypnosis, they discover in horrific detail that aliens impregnated Sherry. Now the only way to save them is to face the terror within.
Cue the Jeffersons theme, 'cause I'm CLEARLY moving on up to the big time! Yes, I recently received my first ever SCREENER DVD! That means the company that released the DVD sent it to me free for the purposes of my review! I feel just like Roger Ebert! (Okay, I always felt like Roger Ebert, but this is the first time it's for reasons other than the fact we're both fat guys with glasses and mussy hair.)
So what is this cinematic gem I've received? Must be something good - A Bug's Life? The Siege? Armageddon? Hmm... doesn't look like it...
Wha - what's this? Progeny?? PROGENY?!! What the hell's Progeny?? Better read the press release... A "home video premiere title"? Doesn't that mean - yikes - a straight to video production? Ack!
Better cancel any plans for that career change...
Well, I attempted to ignore any negative associations I may have toward straight to video productions and I gave Progeny the closest thing to an open mind that I can offer. It didn't help.
Oh, Progeny isn't a terrible movie, but it's definitely not a very good one. I have no idea if this sucker was ever actually considered for release theatrically or not, but it's probably for the best that the studio didn't bother with that move. I can't imagine it would have lasted in theaters for too long.
The press release touts Progeny as a cross between Rosemary's Baby and Alien. Well, I never thought that much of Rosemary's Baby, but the notion that this bomb is anywhere near the league of a classic such as Alien is completely laughable. That movie was exciting and scary; this one's just kind of... there.
Actually, Progeny offers a few semi-creepy moments during its 95 minutes. My fiancee' told me to mention that it probably is scarier for women because of the focus on the whole alien baby deal and some allusions to rape, and she's probably right. However, I don't think that extra layer for female viewers does enough to take this movie to any kind of higher level.
Progeny stands as one of the most forgettable films I've seen in some time. It's only been about two days since I watched it, but I'm having a damned hard time remembering much about it. It's not that the film was that poorly made; it's generally a fairly professional affair, with some exceptions that will be noted. It's just such a blah little movie that neither offers anything new to the genre nor tells its story in a compelling way.
Here's what I really liked about Progeny: 1) Jillian McWhirter has some pretty nice nude scenes (full-frontal - yeah!); 2) Uh... well, that's about it.
Overall, the film's just so damned flat and ordinary that it can't stir up much excitement. I can't actually write a list about what I really disliked about Progeny because the movie doesn't stir up enough of an emotional response in me. Probably the worst aspects about this film are:
1) The acting. The two leads - McWhirter and Arnold Vosloo (!) (I don't know why I put that exclamation point there, but it just seems that with a name like "Arnold Vosloo," it deserves some sort of punctuational comment) both overact pretty badly. I guess they thought Progeny was going to be their big breaks so they put everything they had into it!
The rest of the cast offers weak performances from other unknowns, and some numb acting from decently respectable types such as Wilford Brimley, Lindsay Crouse, and Brad Dourif. The latter group essentially walk their way through the film and appear to be embarrassed to be there (can't blame them for that).
2) The effects. In particular, the alien puppets look really bad. The rest of the work didn't thrill me either, but those animatronic space-dudes just appeared completely laughable;
3) The logy directing. This movie just meanders along at a snail's pace and never quite seems to get anywhere. The entire thing simply seems uneventful and anticlimactic.
Despite the rather uninteresting quality of the film itself, Sterling Home Entertainment have created a surprisingly nice DVD. Its weakest area, unfortunately, is its picture. The image on the Progeny DVD usually looks fairly decent, but it contains many more faults than I've seen in other DVDs. The picture often looks "jerky" when the camera moves, and some serious artifacts pop up at times (especially during a scene with a white background). Colors often appear oversaturated. For the most part, the image maintains a solid "B" to "B+" rating; it's never exceptional, but it's usually pretty decent. However, the bad scenes are poor enough to drop my overall rating to a "C." Also, despite what the case says, the film is letterboxed in a 1.85:1 ratio, not 2.35:1.
Progeny offers up a surprisingly effective Dolby Pro Logic 2.0 sound mix. In general, both music and speech sound clear and natural, and the rear channels are used fairly actively to provide a pretty good surround environment. It certainly doesn't make me want to throw away my copy of Twister, but it holds its own, considering the film's low-budget origins.
Progeny also does pretty well for itself in the department of supplemental materials. It offers a fairly good selection of them, starting with two - count 'em! two - audio commentaries. The first comes from director Brian Yuzna and producers Jack Murphy and Henry Seggerman, while the second gives us writers Aubrey Solomon and Stuart Gordon. I didn't much care for the first, as the three participants spend much of their time trying to convince - and themselves, I suppose - that the movie's great. Never have I witnessed a group that tried so hard to convince me it was a classy production. Here and in promotional materials we hear about "Academy Award nominees" Dourif and Crouse, and they talk about the "state of the art" special effects, and on and on... If the work was better, they wouldn't have to attempt to convince us. The remainder of track one discusses various technical aspects of making the film. It's not very interesting either.
Fortunately, the second track with the writers works better. I think this is because a) they don't spend much of their time congratulating themselves and b) the story itself isn't bad; only the execution of Progeny fails. Okay, the script isn't anything special, but the project had some potential, and you get a sense of that during the writers' commentary. It didn't make me enjoy or appreciate the film more - something that the best commentaries achieve - but it offered some interesting information and was thoroughly listenable.
The DVD also includes some videotaped material. We get interviews with all the primary cast members plus some of the crew. These segments last about 20 minutes total, and they're generally not terribly interesting, except for Wilford Brimley's bit; it's quite hilarious, though it wasn't intended to be.
In addition, we see some interviews with "actual alien abductees." Nothing here you wouldn't find on a Fox special, though the latter probably would present the material in a more interesting fashion. The "experiencers" (as the DVD calls them) are rather dull and listless themselves; perhaps they gave their interviews right after they watched Progeny.
Finally, we get some storyboards, a brief behind the scenes glimpse into the making of those amazing alien puppets, a trailer, and a trivia game. The latter's a multiple choice deal. Unlike a similar effort on New Line's Lost in Space DVD, there's little reward for answering all the questions correctly; the DVD offers a static text page that congratulates you - whee!
Still, the trivia game was more fun than anything else involved in this package (except for the Brimley interview). While Progeny offers an unusually strong package for a straight to video movie, I nonetheless have absolutely no reason to recommend this DVD. It's a dull movie that spices things up to a degree with some nice supplements, but nonetheless can't overcome the many faults inherent. If you're absolutely nuts about the whole "alien abduction" genre, you might want to rent it; everyone else should steer clear.
Current as of 4/25/99
The Official Alien Abduction Test Site--"The only place in cyberspace where you can learn if you or someone you know has been abducted by aliens."