A cross between “Rosemary’s Baby” and “Alien” with a pinch of “ER” thrown in, “Progeny” has all the outward trappings of Brian Yuzna’s best horror work, including scary creatures waving long tentacles and an unnerving way of getting under the skin, yet pic covers such familiar narrative ground that it fails to fully ignite. The nightmare about a young couple who discover they are going to have an alien baby unfolds as predictably as a TV movie with a giant f/x budget. At the same time, Yuzna’s taste for disturbing psychological implications gives pic an intriguing edge. Though expectant parents and the gynecologically squeamish had best stay away, sci-fi fans should be happy to ride the wave of skillfully timed thrills and familiar-looking monsters.
Pic trains its beam on the vulnerable human body and the bad things that can happen to it. As the curtain rises, Craig (Arnold Vosloo) and Sherry Burton (Jillian McWhirter) are in bed making love (and trying to have a baby despite his abysmal sperm count) when a burst of bright light causes their naked bodies to separate and float through the air. They don’t remember what happened until they are hypnotized on no less than three occasions by a psychiatrist (Lindsay Crouse) and a UFO investigator (Brad Dourif).
In dream images lovingly lensed by James Hawkinson, they recall how Sherry was abducted to an outer-space operating room and penetrated by slimy, tentacled aliens wielding long steel instruments a la David Cronenberg, in a scene so appalling it is repeated several times in ever-greater detail.
Though the doctrinaire shrink wants to pin all these painful memories on Freud, hard-nosed Craig, an ER doctor, smells a rat. Sherry, reasoning under alien control, refuses to admit anything is wrong, even when the family gynecologist (Wilford Brimley) has his pacemaker short-circuited by an alien force while he is running an ultrasound on the “baby.”
By the time the UFO specialist flies in from New York to take a look, things are pretty much out of hand. Yuzna and scripter Aubrey Solomon opt for a gory clandestine-operating-room finale that is not for weak stomachs.
The delicate-looking McWhirter gives a convincing turn as the world’s unluckiest mother. She maintains her dignity through alien impregnation, ob/gyn visits, a gruesome onscreen Cesarean and bouts of raving psychosis. Vosloo shows far less charm as the doubting father, and the choice to make him the film’s center, rather than McWhirter, makes this nightmare much less immediate than it could have been.
Monsters by alien designer Screaming Mad George have a mean yet familiar look , and film parallels them cannily to state troopers in sunglasses.