|Review||Inseminoid (1981)||Director||Norman J. Warren|
|Writer||Nick Maley and Gloria Maley|
|Cast||Judy Geeson, Robin Clarke, Jennifer Ashley, Stephanie Beacham, Steven Grieves, Barrie Houghton, Rosalind Lloyd, Victoria Tennant, Trevor Thomas, Heather Wright and David Baxt|
“You can’t get away from me. You know it doesn’t matter what you do. You’ll have to come out sometime” – Sandy
A group of scientists are working on a freezing cold planet excavating the ruins of an ancient civilization believed to have lived there. Soon one crew member starts showing signs of being possessed and another one, Sandy (Geeson), is attacked and impregnated by a creature there. At first she seems to have survived the ordeal intact but soon starts behaving weirdly and eventually starts killing her colleagues and drinking their blood in order to protect her rapidly growing fetuses.
English director Norman J. Warren (1942-2021) had a good run of filmmaking between the years 1976-1987 where he churned out what was to be his lasting legacy. The majority of these were horror films that were produced on a low-budget and appealed to genre fans but it’s safe to say none of them were regarded very highly and Warren didn’t become a big name in the field. A quintet of his films have had lavish physical releases in Hi-Def in recent years and Warren’s work has had a new lease of life for horror aficionados to discover and enjoy.
One of these films is “Inseminoid” which can quite easily be labeled as an “Alien” (1979) clone (or rip-off) that has far inferior production values, far less name value in it’s cast, a story that borrows heavily from what’s come before and so on. In the late 70’s and early 80’s a lot of films were either obvious copycats or thinly disguised homages to recent hits that intended to cash in on a craze and while many failed to register some were damn fine flicks in their own right. I’d say that “Inseminoid” falls into the latter category.
In Warren’s three previous horror features; “Satan’s Slave” (1976), “Prey” (1977) and “Terror” (1978), he gradually refined his skills for maximizing atmosphere and working around a budget to display as much as he could visually. For “Inseminoid” he reportedly had a larger budget then before but this still looks quite micro-budget but what’s achieved here overall is very impressive. The sets look adequate enough but Warren’s tendencies for crazy lighting (in fuller display in his “Suspiria” (1977) inspired “Terror”) and distorted visuals pay off greatly as the overall mood is pretty effective and tension filled.
A few set-pieces here work really well and a decent amount of suspense is generated once a member of the crew shows signs of possession and Sandy goes on a killing spree. Though never very explicit; “Inseminoid” is nevertheless fairly brutal with some of it’s kill scenes though admittedly they could have been even better realized. Still; Warren makes good use of the sets here and stages scenes credibly enough even though it’s painfully obvious on occasion that a limited budget prevents him from fully reaching their potential. “So you use what you’ve got and you learn to make do” as The Boss says in one of his songs.
Acting is a bit hit or miss but Geeson is undeniably very effective in a fairly demanding role; physically and mentally. Beacham does well and Clarke is fine but others are fairly unremarkable.
I have a soft spot for filmmakers who were obviously gifted and had the passion but never broke out and hit it big. Warren’s career in films more or less ended after “Bloody New Year” (1987), a fairly inventive and well made horror film that was really hampered by a very low budget, and his earlier films became obscure and nearly forgotten. Thankfully his work resurfaced thanks to film restoration and distribution companies (in this case Vinegar Syndrome in the US and Indicator in the UK) that continue to unearth and present valuable bits of movie history. Warren’s work certainly deserves re-appraisal.
“Inseminoid” was Warren’s biggest budget foray in trying to break into the mainstream horror market but it didn’t pan out that way thanks to lackluster reception from audiences and critics alike. It’s not a forgotten gem but it’s a very competently made space horror on a tight budget with some good highlights and it’s the horror community’s loss that Warren wasn’t able to realize more projects.