Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #396
Number of Views: One
Release Date: February 14, 1986
Country of Origin: United States
Running Time: 83 minutes
Director: Ted Nicolaou
Producers: Albert Band, Charles Band, Debra Dion
Screenplay: Charles Band, Ted Nicolaou
Special Effects: John Carl Buechler, Robert Kurtzman, R. Christopher Biggs
Cinematography: Romano Albani
Score: Richard Band, The Fibonaccis
Editing: Thomas Meshelski
Studios: Empire Pictures, Altair Productions, Lexyn Productions
Distributors: Empire Pictures, Vestron Video International
Stars: Diane Franklin, Gerrit Graham, Mary Woronov, Chad Allen, Jonathan Gries, Jennifer Richards, Alejandro Rey, Bert Remsen, Randi Brooks, Sonny Carl Davis, Ian Patrick Williams, William Paulson
Suggested Audio Candy
The Fibonaccis “TerrorVision”
Recently I have compiled a number of Z-Lists, dedicated to showcasing the very worst in horror films from yesteryear, and it seems to have taken its toll on my impressionable mind. I would love to provide you with clarity as to why, last night, I decided to boot up TerrorVision but alas I can only put it down to severe fatigue. Few films escaped my attention during the eighties but Ted Nicolaou’s campy schlock fest creature feature somehow passed me by. I was aware of its existence and it sat on my video store shelf ogling me with its one eye but I stuck to my guns and never gave it the time of day.
In the early throes of the decade I was rather open to ridiculousness. Saturday The 14th, National Lampoon’s Class Reunion, Pandemonium, Wacko, and Hysterical all provided a great of amusement on primary viewing but then puberty struck and I began to take my horror rather seriously. TerrorVision was excreted in 1986, before Charles Band established Full Moon Pictures and typically received an absolute mauling by critics. I managed to hold off for nearly three decades but finally buckled and decided to give it the fair hearing it has waited patiently for all those years. I will be required to tread carefully here as I’m aware that the film does have its own little fan base and I even dusted off my rose-tinted spectacles especially for the occasion.
Nicolaou’s light-hearted (and headed) romp comes across as an amalgamation of fifties B-monster movie, sixties free love, and eighties MTV-generation materialism. Not a minute has passed and we’re more than aware of where this is leading, as intergalactic beams ping from planet to planet before locking themselves into Earth’s coordinates. Enter the Putterman family, a crude collective of staples from all three aforementioned eras, and garbed accordingly. Papa bear Stan (Gerrit Graham) is fixated with remaining one step ahead of the Joneses and is busy tinkering with a state-of-the-art satellite dish which has just been installed on his patio. His wife Raquel (Mary Woronov) is more concerned with exercise videos than challenging her youngest Sherman (Chad Allen) on why he carries a semi-automatic weapon around when he should be pulling the limbs off his Stretch Armstrong. The enthusiastic Grampa (Bert Ramsen) appears never to have vacated the battlefield and has his own panic room, which doubles up as a hurt locker. And I have saved the best until last.
Valley Girl Suzy (Diane Franklin) is the girl who just wants to have fun. Looking almost as truly outrageous as Jem, she bounds about like a neon rag doll as she prepares for the imminent arrival of her gnarly rock dude boyfriend, the conveniently named O.D. (Jonathan Gries). It is here that I wish to make a brief pit-stop and explain to you just why Suzy tugs my jerky. Franklin was something of an enigma during the eighties and became something of a national treasure during her brief flirtation with success. As well as becoming poster girl for Coke, Trident, Jell-O and Maxwell House, and reciting the national anthem to a packed Dodgers stadium, she also popped up frequently on our screens in that time, with The Last American Virgin, Amityville II: The Possession, and Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, being of particular note. However, it was as exchange student Monique in Savage Steve Holland’s glorious coming-of-age comedy Better Off Dead that any tingling in my crotch relocated to my heart-strings.
She spends the entire second act out gallivanting with her knuckle-head beau; while I’m sat here worrying myself sick and glancing fretfully at my Casio. The youth of today. Mom and dad, or Stan and Raquel as they read in the classifieds, are far less concerned and, instead, too busy swinging to give a hoot. Both long-faced Woronov and bulging-eyed Graham play their parts to perfection; all that acid they took as the sixties tailed off is evidently still in their system and they remain oblivious to a thick-set threat to their otherwise idyllic suburbanite existence. Once the cable repair guy has been promptly vaporized, Grampa is first to meet and greet the creature and the old dog’s noggin is compacted like a jelly snow globe. However, having negated to tick the “do not resuscitate” box, he is given a new lease of life courtesy of our slobbering alien’s pin-point puppetry skills.
It’s utterly ludicrous from first to last frame and the final act, where Suzy is finally delivered home safe and I can finally stop worrying, plays to our E.T. sensibilities as the remaining Puttermans, along with tag-along drum head O.D., and Elvira’s stunt double, attempt to tame the beast, introducing it to new-wave technology and junk food. Have they not read Xtro’s tagline? Not all extraterrestrials are friendly. Fair enough, a few hours of E.T. in pearls and polyester is going to wear you down but, when the creature in question has over a thousand grinding teeth (and that’s just its upper jaw), you have to question the logic don’t you? Of course you don’t; TerrorVision has been upfront from the get-go regarding its mission statement. The Puttermans may be loonies but they’re our loonies; thus we owe it to them to pay that forward in-kind.
TerrorVision can’t have it all its own way of course as I have my own social standing to uphold without going down with the Puttermans. The whole “holy tomato” act is fun for a while and Graham is afforded many of the movie’s best lines; but never once does one double over hyperventilating, even though it habitually tickles. If Nicolaou has no intention of removing the tongue from his cheek then more should be made of the comedic aspect. Instead, it is left to our players to encourage perseverance and they just about manage the feat.
So we arrive at my least favored part of the process. I actually get a kick out of awarding a shiny digit but, with cases such as TerrorVision, it becomes somewhat troublesome. While I enjoyed my time with the Puttermans, Suzy in particular, it never really engaged my senses to the degree that I had hoped. However, this is where I am required to apply a little perspective Grueheads. Had I watched this at twelve then I have absolutely no doubt that it would hold a special place in my heart. Thus, the Crimson Quill’s judgement is adjustable dependent on mindset. Add or subtract at will but, for me, Nicolaou’s film exhibits just enough meanness of spirit and schlocky excess to make it worthy of tuning in for.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 6/10
Grue Factor: 3/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers: If the Critters ever found their way into Dr Edward Pretorius’s Resonator then I would envisage the bi-product to resemble the creature from TerrorVision. There’s beauty in the breakdown as, one-by-one, our cast are digested, regurgitated, and soundly gunked, but green ooze is prefered to deep red on this occasion. With John Carl Buechler and Robert Kurtzman responsible for mechanisms and organisms, our safekeeping is assured.
Franklin, I Give a Damn!
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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