"The Offspring" would like to think it's descended from classic horror anthologies like "Dead of Night" but it's really little more than a knockoff of the "Creepshow" movies. Vincent Price, who's made a career out of horror films good and bad, is the librarian and historian for Oldfield, a Tennessee town with a long history of violence. "It's as though the very foundation of the place was human suffering," he explains. Unfortunately, none of the four stories he introduces seems to have much of anything to do with a particular town, and the exposition by Price and the inquisitive Susan Tyrrell is very weak.

The first story -- the basis for the film's title and print ad -- has to do with a prim and repressed man (Clu Gulager) who falls for a fellow worker and finally summons up the courage to ask her to dinner. When she resists his advances on the way home, he kills her. Later at the funeral home, Gulager reasons, "We can't let a little thing like this interrupt our romance," and proceeds to necrophilia (off-camera, thankfully). Nine months later, just after Gulager has killed a hypochondriac sister who drives him to the fringes of incest, guess who shows up looking for Daddy? Don't blame Gulager for any of this; the script writers made him do it.

The middle stories deal with a petty criminal who lucks onto the secret of immortality only to find it a curse, not a blessing; and a freak-show performer who eats nails and glass, makes the mistake of falling in love with a townie and soon wishes he'd opted for industrial-strength Alka-Seltzer.

The final story is a Civil War scenario about a troop of damn Yankees who stumble into a swarm of Rebel kids whose parents have been killed in the war. Captured, they soon realize that these Kids 'R' Nuts. They go for games like pin the arm on the corpse.

Writers Courtney Joyner, Darin Scott and Jeff Burr -- the latter also directed -- seemed to have been inspired by the works of Ray Bradbury and Stephen King, only not enough so. The special effects are few and far more bloody than scary, and even then Burr pulls away from his own visual punch line. It must have been fun working with Price and other veterans like Rosalind Cash and Cameron Mitchell, but that doesn't make it fun or frightening for audiences to see.

The Offspring, currently playing at area theaters, is rated R.