People of Earth, your planet is about to be destroyed... We're terribly sorry for the inconvenience.
Year of Release: 1986
Genre: Comedy/Science Fiction
Running Time: 83 minutes (1:23)
Director: Ted Nicolaou
Chad Allen ... Sherman
Diane Franklin ... Suzy
Gerrit Graham ... Stan
Mary Woronov ... Raquel
Jon Gries ... O.D.
Bert Remsen ... Grampa
Alejandro Rey ... Spiro
Randi Brooks ... Cherry
Jennifer Richards ... Medusa
Stanley Putterman installs a state-of-the-art satellite dish in his backyard. Through a cosmic accident, a wayward monster's energy is beamed across galaxies, into the satellite and onto the Puttermans' television set. The Puttermans don't notice any changes, only better reception and a strange monster continually appearing on the screen. But when the monster leaps off the screen and into the Puttermans' living room - terror erupts. The monster needs to feed on humans for its survival.
TerrorVision, the movie that dares ask the question: if monsters're gonna jump outta the TV an eatcha, what difference does it make if it rots your brains first? If you ask me, it's all just a big scam to ensure we spend our final moments so bored out of our skulls that we welcome death's sweet embrace, so you can count me right the hell out.
An speakin' of nasty placenta critters, I apologize if I don't make a lotta sense right now, cause I ain't gotten a wink of sleep since last Saturday night when I got home from the Grime Time an found an old beat up Western Family box fulla ugly, yappin' puppy dogs. This's basically what all my nightmares're like, only instead of puppies they're disgustin' little Pankins babies, an the box is less literal an belongs to Bambi. Anyway, it would seem that Apollo doesn't have quite the level of self control I have, an judgin' by the note I found in the box that contained the liberal usage of the words "putz" an "schmuck," I figured out pretty quick that it was Saul Schwartzberg that dumped 'em there. Him an his "AKC Registered," highfalutin, debutante Irish Setter, Anastasia, were apparently pinnin' all the blame on Apollo. So I went over there the next mornin', looked Saul right square in his yarmulke, an said: "Ya know, Saul, it takes two to tango, so the way I figure it, at least four of these mutts're yours."
"On the contrary; I have it on good authority from Mrs. Mindenhall across the street that that... beast of yours jumped the fence and assaulted my Anastasia. I've got half a mind to call the authorities and have that mongrel euthanized. Now get off my property, you're bringing its value down," was the response.
"I know you ain't callin' Apollo a rapist, Saul, cause if you were doin' that I might hafta grind your face into schlemiel sausage an feed you to these ugly ass puppies, but you obviously haven't seen the way that skanky bitch of yours parades around the yard when any dog that's still got his nuts walks by, it's like watchin' Miley Cyrus at the MTV Video Music Awards. She's processed more canine entries than the Westminster Kennel Club."
I think that's about the point where Saul took a swing at me, which was the most pitiful thing you'd ever seen in your life. Missed me completely an broke his thumb on the Topaz' driver's side mirror (the pampered asshole actually had it inside his fist when he swung), an it was so hilarious that I decided to just take all the puppies myself an deal with 'em. They're a handful for sure... well, technically, they're nine handfuls, but it was worth it just to see Saul blinkin' back tears on his way into the house. I prolly won't even put up a sign at the Grime Time tellin' everyone who the puppy mama is when I try givin' 'em away tonight. Probably. I mean, people have a right to know the bloodline, so if they ask I'd be obligated to tell 'em, but other'n that I'll prolly just keep my mouth shut. Apollo don't really know what to make of 'em, but he's doin' his damnedest to keep Shankles from murderin' the little monsters when they try playin' with 'im. I've already got a firm commitment from Cleave Furguson to take one, which makes sense, cause any self respectin' taxidermist needs a dog wanderin' around the place. But yeah, if anybody readin' wants one just come by the Grime Time around 6 tonight an take your pick. Got their daddy's face an their mama's haircuts, so they all pretty much look like Billy Ray Cyrus, circa 1992.
Worst case scenario I hafta give away free pizza pockets with every puppy, but don't you worry about me, I've got an ace up my sleeve: gonna show Hunk next week at the drive-in an lure in a buncha unsuspectin' middle-aged women who're terrified of dyin' alone. Trust me, every last one of 'em'll be gone by intermission. Forget puppy problems though, cause this week we got a flick about pet predicaments from beyond infinity - I'm talkin' TerrorVision, which is about this glopola mutant that gets turned into an analog radio wave an blasted zillions of miles through space into Gerrit Graham's satellite receiver where it starts pullin' a reverse Poltergeist an jumpin' outta the TV set so it can suck the juice outta unsuspecting character actors. Now obviously, this isn't the kinda project you entrust to just anybody, cause a story like this can get away from ya real easy if it's not handled with the poise and respect necessary to see it through to the end, but don't sweat it, cause we're in the capable hands of Empire Pictures. In the '80s you couldn't hardly beat an Empire picture, an there ain't many better ways to spend a freezin' cold night than hangin' with Charles Band in his pre-prostitution days, so if you'll hang on just a second I'll prove it with a few intellectual highlights from one of Charlie's most underrated flicks. First, couples' swinging becomes increasingly awkward when you find out both members of the other party are after the same member of yours. Second, a head count doesn't always tell the full story. An third, apparently, nudity ceases to be considered "tasteful" when its accompanied by motion and company.
Unfortunately, I feel duty bound to inform all you pet lovers out there about one particular aspect of the flick that's bound to getcher fur up, but I'd like for everyone to proceed with an open mind an use these aliens' mistake as a learning tool to educate the populace. There's really no way to sugar coat this, so I'm just gonna come right out an say it: some people shouldn't be allowed to own sea monkeys, let alone a full blown glopola monster. Seriously people, a pet is a *lifetime* commitment, not a way to apologize for gettin' drunk an swattin' your sister-in-law's backside, so if you're not ready to make that kinda commitment, you needa just cross the street when you pass the pet shop. I'll tell ya somethin' else too: vaporizin' your pet when it becomes a minor inconvenience is right up there with attachin' its kennel to the luggage rack of your SUV; I mean, what kinda sick, disconnected sociopath would do somethin' like that? Take this ass-backward planet from the movie for instance, they actually set up an incineration chamber to rid themselves of "burdensome" pets, just cause they underwent a slight metamorphosis an turned into somethin' resemblin' a pan of Swedish Meatballs. Big fuggin' deal, these things *happen*. That's no excuse to take 'em out back an shoot 'em into space just cause they started gettin' familiar with grandma after she fell asleep on the couch on Thanksgiving. I mean, these "people" learned how to turn living tissue into electricity and beam it through the cosmos at Warp 9, but they haven't mastered obedience school? Look, I don't wanna hafta start beamin' Humane Society ads into space any more than we already are. Nobody *wants* that, but if these turkeys aren't gettin' the message, I really don't see what choice we have. Now, I consider myself a pretty tolerant guy. I can put up with a hell of a lot: low fat mayonnaise, the discontinuation of the Chevy Nova, an even Jason Voorhees bein' blasted into space, but people who don't take care of their pets? These people are scum, an it's high time we developed some form of deterrence that goes beyond our current approaches - like chainin' 'em to Jane Fonda an forcin' 'em to watch Barbarella nonstop until there's some kind of a breakthrough. For Cripes sake people, we're BETTER than this. Getcher goddamned heads in the game an start treatin' our 4-tentacled friends like what they are: members of the family. I don't care *what* they left on the waterbed, an besides, it ain't like *you* never threw up an passed out in the bed of somebody's truck at a bonfire, so quit actin' so high an mighty. Digestive malfunctions happen all the time - deal with it.
The movie begins on a planet (Pluton) that looks like it was built by the effects crew from MST3K while on coffee break, where this ugmo janitor with a trumped-up title is oven bakin' the Flying Spaghetti Monster inside a gas chamber an ends up turnin' it into a bolt of electricity, blastin' it into space, an sendin' it richochetin' off a buncha planets like a 3rd Rock from the Sun bumper. Meanwhile, on Earth, Gerrit Graham is hookin' up his new satellite dish an accidentally fries all its guts like a haggis stand operator, until he gets P.O.'d an hasta chew out this geeky little Corbin Bernsen impersonator (Norton) who's supposed to be helpin' 'im but can't seem to pry his eyes away from Mary Woronov's hiney while she reinforces 'er buns of steel with a Mary Hart workout video. Then Mary's Dad comes home lookin' like he got tarred an fell down in the Mini Micro Machines aisle of Toys 'R Us an gripes about how all the lunatics of the world're makin' it so you can't hardly have a civilized conversation on traffic islands anymore. That's right around the time a bolt of lightnin' strikes the dish an gets it workin', only Garrit an Gramps start fightin' over the remote control an the TV goes flippin' between King Dinosaur, this Elvira-esque Horror hostess named Medusa, an porno, in what's a bizarrely accurate, if abridged, history of the evolution of late night cable. Then this guy who looks like Gene Simmons an Tommy Wiseau had a baby (O.D.) comes over an pretends not to be a deadbeat so he can take Gerrit's daughter (Suzy) out to the W.A.S.P. concert, an fortunately Gerrit's too distracted thinkin' about the swingers date he an Mary're gettin' ready for to ask O.D. about his plans for after graduation, an so Gerrit straps on 45lbs of gold neck chains an the two of 'em head out the door to keep it up with the Joneses. So, with the house to themselves, Gramps an Sherman (Gerrit's boy) fall asleep watchin' The Giant Claw until a buncha tentacles start squirmin' outta the TV gropin' around for Japanese school girls, sendin' 'em fleein' to the safety of Gramps' bomb shelter where they load up with all the semi-automatic weapons an hand grenades Gramps's been hoardin' for the day the liberals finally come for 'im.
Then Norton drops by to check on the satellite dish an purt'near gets blown into leisure suit shrapnel by Gramps, only once the old man splits to inspect the perimeter the cosmic casserole pops outta the TV screen, an by the time Norton hears the grue it scarfs 'im like a possum burger at a trailer park barbecue. Course, Norton makes a pretty sorry excuse for an entree after you've flown a hundred billion light years with no in-flight meal, so once he's been crunched an munched, ole fettuccine face lumbers into the livin' room an sucks all the juice outta Gramps an slurps up the husk like a Fruit Rollup an hops back inside the TV. Sherman only catches the tail end of it, but he'd really rather not wind up the youthpick that scrapes all the Grampaste from between the monster's masticators, so he hunkers in the bunker until Gerrit an Mary come home with their dates (Carlos Ramirez from The Flying Nun, an a bleached blonde bimbo named Cherry whose name hadn't been accurate since 1968), cept when he tries tellin' Mary about the hostile Tentacostal jumpin' outta the test pattern she's so P.O.'d about 'im tryin' to ruin 'er sleepover that she hasta lock 'im in the bomb shelter an threaten to double his Ritalin prescription. Meanwhile, Gerrit's showin' his guests the "Pleasure Dome," which's basically a jacuzzi room with a buncha weirdo Kama Sutra paintins on the wall an a TV. Then Gerrit excuses 'imself to get out of his restrictive jockey shorts an turns the TV on for Cherry, cept the only thing on is the intergalactic sanitation commissioner from the beginnin' of the movie beggin' humanity to destroy all their TV sets an become Luddites before Pizza the Hut hops outta their screens an starts deep dishin' out Pastafarian justice. Elsewhere, Mary's still debatin' the existence of the man-eatin' manicotti with Sherman, an so she yells for Gramps down in the bomb shelter an the monster hasta jump outta the screen an burp up Gramps' head an orchestrate a damned impressive ventriloquist routine so she won't realize the old guy's torso's bein' processed into creature crap. Then Mary an Carlos head into the kitchen to mix drinks, only there's been a little misunderstandin' with regard to their impending genital jousting, cause Carlos wants to be the 'smore between Gerrit's Grahams. Cept now they've got even bigger problems, cause by the time Carlos gets back to the pool it's covered with this pink fog like they're about to film a Richard Simmons workout video, an when he swims over to Cherry he gets a whole lot more appendage than he bargained for.
Then Mary hasta tell Gerrit about the menage-a-spa Carlos an Cherry have planned, an so the two of 'em make for the pool room to set things straight an can't help but notice their guests're missin' an the water looks like The Oakridge Boys've been usin' it for a dip can, but their horror is pretty short-lived, cause next thing you know Cruds McKenzie floats up to the surface an sucks the fillin' out of 'em like a coupla ding dongs. Moments later, Suzy an O.D. come walkin' in the front door while Sherman's blowin' the lock offa his cell, an again he tries explainin' that there's a meatloaf monster oozin' around the house hostin' a family reunion in its stomach, but by the time Suzy goes to check on the parents, Tony Minestrone's already pooped out all its victims' heads to trick Suzy into thinkin' everything's normal. Err, well, as normal as can be expected when your parents're swingers who invite Gramps along for the ride. Seems like a lot of wasted bowel contraction to me, cause it ain't three minutes before Gooey Lewis jumps out of the TV in the Pleasure Dome an purt'near eats O.D. Ramone, stoppin' only when it sees the leather studded armband O.D.'s wearin' that causes 'im to flash back to his home planet an his adopted parents who evidently dressed like Demolition. This pretty well chills 'im out an puts 'im on his best behavior, allowin' the kids to introduce 'im to some of the finer things Earth has to offer, like junk food an Thrash Metal. Then they start gettin' greedy an schemin' about how best to exploit 'im for profit an decide to call Medusa an offer 'er first dibs, only she ain't got time to talk to 'em cause she hasta get out of 'er corset before it causes permanent spinal cord damage. Trouble is, once Medusa goes off the air, the interstellar waste management dude comes back on an Pukie Wilson gets all triggered like Mike Huckabee at a gay pride parade an unclogs alla O.D.'s pores with his teeth until this cop shows up to bust Sherman for tyin' up 911 in his attempts to locate The Monster Squad. The monster's watched enough TV to know how this usually ends for the illegal alien, so he preemptively dissects an slurps Officer Buzzkill while Sherman an Suzy Rambo up with Gramps' sovereign citizen starter gear an prepare to nuke the outer space Hot Pocket. After this it gets kinda weird, so I'd better shut up before I go spoilin' a superb finale.
Alrighty, well, it may not be Empire Picture's best title, but I can't think of any other that captures the essence of the '80s better than TerrorVision, despite being a throwback to all the cheesy Science Fiction flicks of the 1950s. It's not an all-time classic like Re-Animator, or From Beyond, nor did it get the same level of screen time as Empire's other late night cable favorites, like Troll and Ghoulies, but it's still very good. It's also decidedly goofier than most of their movies, and was produced around the time Empire tried branching out a little with Comedies like Assault of the Killer Bimbos, and The Princess Academy. That whole Comedy thing never really did pan out, and it's just as well, because as much as I admire what the Bands were able to do in those days, they simply didn't have the connections necessary to do what Roger Corman was doing with New World Pictures. They'd periodically try making an Action movie (Walking the Edge), or even a Musical Comedy (Valet Girls), but in the end they stuck with the Horror/Sci-Fi/Fantasy genres and managed to make a go of it, despite being constantly on the edge of bankruptcy. Getting back to TerrorVision though, it seems to stand out from their other titles due to a unique combination of virtue and luck, the former of which begins with a rock solid cast of genre favorites anchored by Mary Woronov and Gerrit Graham. It's also been said that it's better to be lucky than good, and TerrorVision really lucked out by virtue of the public's affection and fondness for the decade in which it was produced, which it accentuates in every detail, from its gaudy rendition of a 1980s swinger's pad (the details of which were made possible by the director and his production designer actually scouting out these sorts of locations in L.A.), to its pop culture cliches, which include everything from phenomenally bad hair to the over-medication of preteens. It's also one of the most quotable movies I can think of, and while there isn't enough time to run down every memorable line, I would like to share two of my personal favorites, one from the scene where O.D.'s studded leather sleeves inexplicably calm the monster down, at which point he remarks: "Hey, you guys remember that movie? You know, the one about the little space guy, made ya cry like a butthole?", and the shot where Woronov and Graham first see what's happened to their "Pleasure Dome" after their guests've been consumed, and Graham screams: "What the hell did that homo do to the jacuz'?!" Whole movie's chalk full of hilarious, if occasionally politically incorrect stuff, that tends to bite at both sides of the political aisle. Great fun.
Anywho, charm'll only getcha so far, so let's pry open this sucker's jaws and see what kinda liabilities it's got stuck in its molars. The plot is unapologetically goofy, and establishes itself as being such before the credits even roll. Some movies go this route to insulate themselves from potential criticisms, but TerrorVision is deliberately cheesy by virtually every measure, making clear from the early goings that it is intended as an homage to the silly Science Fiction titles that preceded it while also including its own brand of biting satire at the expense of '80s pop culture trends. Really, when a flick declares its intention to make an absolute ass of itself from its very inception, it's more or less untouchable from a critical standpoint. You may not *like* that it chose to do this, but to hate on it for doing so, when it goes to the trouble of giving you all the facts up front, would be absolutely asinine. The acting is easily the best thing about this flick, with Mary Woronov and Gerrit Graham stealing the show despite being eaten halfway through the running time. I'm not sure Ted Nicolaou realized what a hit he had on his hands with regard to those two, otherwise he may not have killed them off quite so soon. The supporting cast is also excellent, and features highly entertaining performances from Bert Remsen as the Army surplus stockpiling Grandpa, Jon Gries as the headbanging boyfriend, Diane Franklin as the huge-haired daughter, Alejandro Rey as the swinger after Gerrit Graham, and Jennifer Richards, essaying the part of the Elvira composite Horror hostess. About the only character in the flick that isn't superb is Chad Allen who was still a little green at the time, but not bad. Absolutely amazing casting for this flick, and when paired with the side-splitting dialog, we're talkin' extremely high marks.
Here's who matters and why (besides Mary Woronov, who most Horror fans *should* be familiar with already): Diane Franklin (Amityville II), Gerrit Graham (Child's Play 2, Phantom of the Paradise, Demon Seed, The Wasp Woman 1996, Philadelphia Experiment II, Martians Go Home, Big Man on Campus, It's Alive III, Ratboy, Chopping Mall, C.H.U.D. II, The Creature Wasn't Nice, Strange New World, Beware! The Blob), Chad Allen (Fright Flick, The Bad Seed 1985), Jon Gries (Men in Black, The Axe Murders of Villisca, Skinwalker Ranch, Ed and His Dead Mother, Fright Night Part 2, The Monster Squad, Helter Skelter 1976), Bert Remsen (Humanoids from the Deep 1996, Evil Spirits, Peacemaker 1990, Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat, Remote Control, Tarantulas: The Deadly Cargo), Alejandro Rey (The Ninth Configuration, The Swarm), Randi Brooks (The Man with Two Brains), Sonny Carl Davis (The 'Burbs, Evil Bong 1 - 6, Killjoy's Psycho Circus, Kill or Be Killed, Gingerdead Man vs. Evil Bong, Butcher Boys, Jersey Shore Shark Attack, Bad Channels, Seedpeople, Trancers II, Wacko), Ian Patrick Williams (Dire Wolf, Bad Channels, Robot Jox, Dolls, Re-Animator), William Paulson (Zone Troopers), John Leamer (From Beyond, Zone Troopers). It's always surprising to see how many people escape relatively unscathed after working with Charlie Band, so for those who're curious, here are the folks who managed to keep their heads above water and go on to something approaching mainstream appeal: Diane Franklin (Monique Junet in Better off Dead, Princess Joanna in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, Karen in The Last American Virgin), Gerrit Graham (Jeff in Used Cars, and the voice of Franklin Sherman on The Critic), Chad Allen (Matthew Cooper on Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, Zach Nichols on My Two Dads), Jon Gries (Uncle Rico in Napoleon Dynamite, Lazlo Hollyfield in Real Genius, Casey in Taken 1 & 2, Broots on The Pretender, King Vidiot in Joy Sticks), and of course, Alejandro Rey, whose career was already on the outs long after portraying Carlos Ramirez on The Flying Nun.
The special effects are a little substandard, but due to the plot structuring, seem only to build upon the film's overall aesthetic. John Buechler's effects are *usually* better than this, and while it might be romantic to believe that they were produced this way deliberately to crank up that goofy '50s vibe, I think they were probably just being cheap and got saved by their concept. The outer space sanitation commissioner actually looks pretty good, but the monster is kinda stiff when shown in its entirety. Honestly, I think the only serious problem arises when it's crawling, as you can tell that it's just rolling on a dolly, and in the end, the puppeteers do a pretty good job of bringing the monster to life and making it at least somewhat expressive, which helps to blunt the silly design. All the scenes where you've got the critter sucking the guts outta people are super cheesy, but that part looks very much to be by design. The sets are highly amusing, and feature the Grandfather's bomb shelter, walls loaded with "tasteful" animated nude photo spreads, hallways decorated with Roman style statues, fountains, busts, and of course the Pleasure Dome, which is honestly a little disappointing after seeing all the areas of the house one must pass through to get there. Still, the set designers really outdid themselves producing this monument to one couple's massive ego and sexual overcompensation. The one thing I don't like about it is the exterior, which is just another set with a backdrop standing in for the sky. I realize that stylistically it's generally in-tune with the rest of the flick, but it's one area where I think they went a little too far with the foolishness. The soundtrack was composed by Richard "the usual suspect" Band, and the band The Fibonaccis. The Fibonaccis' stuff is all over the place, and include tracks that take the 1950s concept and run with it, while others are full-fledged '80s Thrash Metal. None of these are particularly impressive or helpful in creating much mood for the flick, with one *big* exception: the title track, which is fantastic, catchy, and strikes the perfect tone. I've gotta say though, Band's contribution isn't much better. Normally I love Richard Band's compositions, but this one is a bit too silly for me. I won't say that it damages the movie's atmosphere, because that would be practically impossible, but one need only look at the Killer Klowns from Outer Space soundtrack to see how a piece can be both ridiculous, scary, *and* catchy at the same time. Definitely one of Band's lesser efforts, and for that reason, the soundtrack is unquestionably the weakest aspect of the film. Overall, not only can I enthusiastically pass TerrorVision for its enjoyment factor, but when rated in its proper context, it actually passes fairly comfortably on its technical merits. Truly an underrated gem, and one of the greatest '80s time capsules ever made - definitely check it out.