Trash Or Terror Tuesday: Progeny (1998)

t’s time for #TrashOrTerrorTuesday

…when I examine a film that’s been languishing in my personal library to determine if it is #Trash or #Terror

– or more importantly, if it deserves to stay in my collection.

And so, out from the dusty shelves of #VHS tapes & DVDs comes…

DVD box for Progeny (1998)Progeny (1998) by #BrianYuzna

w/#ArnoldVosloo #JillianMcWhirter #BradDourif #LindsayCrouse #WilfordBrimley

An unsuspecting woman is impregnated by aliens who are experimenting on the human population.

There Are Some Things In The Universe That We Can’t Understand

“Evil in a bottle”

#Horror #SciFi
#TrashOrTerrorTuesday

I bought a DVD copy of Progeny (1998) a long time ago, undoubtedly because of the names Brian Yuzna and Stuart Gordon. Every horror fan on the planet knows that these two guys were behind the certified classic Re-Animator (1985), as well as From Beyond (1986), Yuzna went on to direct Bride of Re-Animator (1990) and Society (1989), which I wrote about a while back. Gordon directed Dolls (1986) and The Pit and the Pendulum (1991), both of which are personal favourites of mine.

Looking at the box for Progeny, which credits Yuzna as director and Gordon as a producer and co-creator of the story, it’s not hard to imagine why I immediately snapped it up from the bargain bin where I had found it.

In the years since I first watched Progeny, I have become aware that many people hate it. Why? I have no idea. Some blame the acting, others the direction – many of the opinions are wildly contradictory. After almost 20 years, I couldn’t remember many specific details from the movie – just that I had enjoyed it. Could I have been wrong about it? Could Yuzna and Gordon have made a movie as bad as some people say it is?

To find out, I decided to put Progeny to the #TrashOrTerrorTuesday test.

Progeny is based on the (what to call it?) urban legend, or mythology, or belief, that people are being abducted by aliens who conduct experiments on them. We’ve all heard the stories. Someone sees a bright light and then the next thing they know it’s two hours later – even though it only feels like two seconds to them. 

The experiments are often of a sexual nature – the term “anal probe” has almost become synonymous with alien abduction experiences – and Progeny does not do a lot to change that. Jillian McWhirter plays a wife who, in the midst of making love to her husband (played by Arnold Vosloo), is taken up to a spacecraft and probed and poked (in the nose among other places) and later discovers that she is pregnant. She believes it is her husbands doing, but he knows that something is wrong, as his sperm count is ridiculously low. 

Eventually they both come to realize that this thing growing inside of her may not be a human baby.

So, what’s the verdict?

Progeny (1998) is a moderate to full blown Terror. It’s legitimately suspenseful and tense – and you feel a real sense of panic, as the characters both do in their own ways. I don’t know what some of the IMDb reviews are talking about, the acting is good. Arnold Vosloo has been in over 80 things and is perhaps best known for playing Imhotep in The Mummy (1999) and The Mummy Returns (2001). Jillian McWhirter only has 26 credits, but they include such cool, #NotQuiteClassicCinema as Violated (1984), Nowhere to Run (1989), After Midnight (1989), Rage (1995), a couple of Bloodfist movies, The Dentist 2 (1998) and Dee Snider‘s Strangeland (1998).

Brad Dourif is excellent as a doctor who is studying the alien abduction phenomenon.

And it’s always a pleasure to see my late Twitter buddy Wilford Brimley in anything.

Progeny (1998) even delivers on the #Trash side of things, with some full frontal nudity and moderately kinky alien probing. This is in line with the kind of kinky madness that can be found in films like Re-Animator, From Beyond, and Society

In fact, one can’t help by compare Brad Dourif’s character to Herbert West, and Arnold Vosloo’s character (who is also a doctor) to Dan Cain. Together they do some questionable things to try to save the blonde love interest (Jillian McWhirter) – who isn’t unlike Barbara Crampton, in a way. 

Don’t get me wrong. Progeny is not as good as Re-Animator. But it’s good enough for this Re-Animator fan to keep it in his personal collection. 

Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Galaxy of Terror (1981)

I remember when Alien hit the theatres back in 1979. Ever since I first saw Star Wars (1977) I would check the movie listing in the newspaper every day. I think I mainly wanted to reassure myself that Star Wars was still playing, because I wanted to see it again (and again). But I also loved movies in general, so maybe I was legitimately interested in knowing what was new. The iconic ad for Alien, featuring the egg with green light coming out of it and the often imitated (and sometimes parodied) tag line “In Space No One Can Hear You Scream” really sparked my imagination. I wanted to see this movie but, unlike Star Wars, it was not rated as appropriate for kids. Home video was still only a futuristic dream, so, I had to wait for Alien to be shown on television. Needless to say, I enjoyed it very much.

Fast forward a couple of years, and home video exploded onto the scene. Suddenly, I could rent movies like Alien and see them uncut (as opposed to edited for television). What was even better, I could rent and watch a whole bunch of other movies, that I’d never heard of, that were like Alien. Titles like Xtro (1982), The Intruder Within (1981) Creature (1985), Alien Prey (1977), The Alien Dead (1980) and Alien Contamination (1980) were jumping off the shelves at me. But one of the most intriguing movie boxes I remember was Galaxy of Terror (1981).

I’m honestly not sure if I ever rented it back in the day. Sometimes my friends would see a movie without me, and then I would somehow never get the chance to see it. In those early days, renting movies was like going to a movie. You almost never did it alone. It was a social activity. Eventually that changed, and by the time I got to university I was renting movies by myself every day. But I digress.

All of those Alien inspired movies started to look alike after a while, and they all kind of blurred together in my memory. So, after all these years, I wasn’t sure which one Galaxy of Terror was, or if I’d ever even seen it. Last Friday I decided that it was time to find out.

I had heard a few people say that they felt that Galaxy of Terror was the best of the Alien ripoffs, and after watching it last week I’d be inclined to agree. of course, I’d have to re-watch many of the other films before I could ever truly make such a definitive statement. But I can say that I enjoyed Galaxy of Terror very much. It’s more than just an Alien ripoff. It’s more like Alien meets Forbidden Planet (1956). And considering the low, low budget, the production design is really quite amazing. 

One of the production designers, and the 2nd Unit Director, of Galaxy of Terror was James Cameron. Yes, the guy who made The Terminator (1984), Titanic (1997) and, of course, Aliens (1986) the much loved official sequel to Alien. It seems quite likely that when making (or deciding to make) Aliens, Cameron would have been influenced, and inspired, by his experience of having worked on Galaxy of Terror.

Every review that I have read of Galaxy of Terror has made reference, in a positive way, to one scene in particular; a scene that involved what could be described as a giant space worm (or maggot) molesting (or raping) one of the female crew members (played by Taaffe O’Connell, who was also in New Year’s Evil (1980), another film that I quite like). This “space worm rape scene” is quite something, and fairly unique in the annals of #NotQuiteClassicCinema. Not since John Waters gave us a scene in Multiple Maniacs (1970) in which Divine is sexually assaulted by a giant lobster has there been anything quite like it. I won’t try to describe either of these scenes in detail. Let’s just say that if they sound like something that would entertain you, then they probably will.  

Genre stars Sid Haig and Robert Englund also appear in Galaxy of Terror and they are both very good. It’s surprising how big Robert Englund’s part is, considering that he had yet to become famous as Freddy Krueger. Fans of either of these two actors should definitely check this movie out.

Galaxy of Terror (1981) made for a wonderfully nostalgic #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn, although truth be told, I’m still not sure if I’ve seen this movie before or not. Some moments were very familiar, but that could be because I saw the trailer, or very similar moments in other movies that ripped off – I mean paid homage to – Alien. Either way, I’ve seen enough movies of this type to feel great nostalgia even when watching one that I’ve never seen before. And that’t what #NotQuiteClassicCinema is all about.