If you ever wondered how certain movies get made, it sometimes helps if the writer, Ken Nakamura, is also the producer and has the resources necessary to finance the project. The British might refer to "The Spreading Ground" as a wank, whereas Americans, being more tactful on occasion, would label it a vanity production.
The plotting is beyond credibility, way, way beyond. A serial child killer is on the loose, and the embarrassed mayor, with some important city contracts on her agenda, makes a deal with the corrupt chief of police to hire a lead enforcer in the Irish mob to find and whack the killer, to hush the affair up quickly and to avoid the publicity of a trial. Thus, the chief of police is actually working against his own detectives and even leaks official leads back to the mob, a factor leading to the murders of potential witnesses. The head of the mob, named Johnny Gault (professionally played by Tom McCamus), has a nasty habit of shooting people on the slightest provacation anyway, and one supposes that the disposing of bodies in this town is an easy task anyway. So it's the mob versus the cops as both groups attempt to discover the murderer's identity first. Oh, did I forget to mention that the child serial killer -- remember him? -- has murdered five children on his first day alone? This fact might make world news let alone give the locals something to ponder. It might even create a bit more publicity than the mayor would like, if she wishes to hush up her little problem, making all her scheming even more unbelievable -- and unnecessary.
I suppose the director/cinematographer, Derek VanLint, does the best he can to make all this watchable, and considering what he's got for a script, he deserves some credit, even if one occasionally watches the flick with ones jaw hanging open. Dennis Hopper plays Det. Ed Delongpre, who leads the investigation, with help from his partner Mike McGivern, played by Frederic Forrest. (I hope both talented actors were paid very, very well. At least, Hopper is given some chance to act, whereas Forrest is completely wasted in a thankless role. Both actors have wisely chosen to underplay their parts in a desperate grasp for credibility, since the story is so over-the-top to begin with.) Det. Delongpre also gets assistance from his alienated daughter, Leslie, who coincidentally happens to be the mayor's -- you remember the major? -- chief aide. Thus, Leslie is able to obtain the goods on the corrupt chief of police -- you remember the chief of police? -- and leak this info back to her dad. It's suggested that the reason Leslie has been alienated from her dad for ten years is that her troubled mother committed suicide and she somehow holds her father responsible. We never learn why she does exactly, but does it matter? It's predetermined that father and daughter will make peace by the movie's bizarre conclusion.
I'm not certain anyone involved with this production should rush to put it on a resume, except, of course, Mr. Nakamura, who, I suspect, regards it as the greatest thing to hit the screen since "Gone With the Wind."