11th Oct2021

Grimmfest 2021: ‘The Spore’ Review

by Jim Morazzini

Stars: Brian Hillard, Justin Golinski, Jeanie Jefferies, Haley Heslip, Peter Tell, Jackson Ezinga, Jovonnah Nicholson | Written and Directed by D.M. Cunningham

The Spore, is as you can probably guess, a film about killer fungi. That in itself is nothing new. From Matango: Fungus of Terror aka Attack of the Mushroom People to Creepshow’s “The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill” and more recently, In the Earth and Gaia there are plenty of them.

Writer/director D.M. Cunningham has come up with a new approach to the subject though. The Spore, while not truly an anthology film, is composed of connected segments, much like Southbound or The House that Dripped Blood. The film follows the spores as they infect and spread through a group of people in and around a small Michigan town. The infection itself is actually the film’s central character.

The first half hour of The Spore follows a hazmat suited CDC agent played by Brian Hillard who also did the film’s effects. He becomes infected and passes it on to Lowell (Justin Golinski), setting the film’s plot into motion.

Through most of this there is almost no dialogue apart from what we hear over the radio. Pay attention to these broadcasts. Much as in Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, which Cunningham cites as an influence, most of what clues we get as to what’s going are on scattered among them. Also like that film, there are many more questions than answers.

The individual segments that make up The Spore are fairly varied in their content but the style, and quality, tends to be consistent. The is a rather grim film with little in the way of humour and an emphasis on suspense and tension rather than violence. That’s not to say there aren’t any attacks, there are. But this isn’t a typical zombie film where they make up the core of the film. This is as much about people trying to avoid the infected and their reaction to them.

Unfortunately the fact that very few of the characters have a lot of screen time somewhat undercuts the film’s effectiveness. While the characters are reasonably well drawn, getting to know a little more about them would have made me care about their fates a bit more.

Despite being shot on a limited budget, The Spore boasts some incredible effects. While there’s not much in the way of gore, there are several different forms of mutations that range from what looks like a dehydrated body to a still conscious victim whose fate looks like it was inspired by The Thing. Hillard has worked on everything from Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds and Land of the Dead to The Haunting in Connecticut and Gallowswalkers. He puts that experience to good use here creating some very convincing creatures.

The film is dedicated to “Wes, George and Tobe” and is filled with nods to genre favorites. Scattered through The Spore are an interview with a nurse named Judith Myers, a creature that looks like one of The Deadly Spawn, the segment Franklin and Wendy features a victim in a wheelchair. And the cast includes Jeanie Jefferies who was in the original Dawn of the Dead and Knightriders.

Obviously made by a fan of, and out of love for, the genre, The Spore is a film that should please other fans. It’s creepy and effective with some excellent effects. Cunningham is already in post production with his second feature, 3 Demons. I’ll be watching for it.

***½ 3.5/5

The Spore had its world premiere at the 13th Annual Grimmfest and will be available as part of the virtual version of the festival on October 15th, you can get details on their website. Lionsgate will release it in the US & Canada on November 9th. It will be available in the UK on November 15th through The Movie Partnership.

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