Welcome back to another Friday Nightmare Reviews, wherein I tell you what you could be watching instead of mindlessly channel surfing in the way that no one really does anymore because video on demand is a thing and you don’t actually need to worry about it if you miss something because you can just record everything anyway. Oh, tonight’s review is gonna be dated. And bad. And way too much fun. I figured that in the wake of too much Halloween fun, I would bring you some very simple but very weird fun to enjoy to keep the spooky spirit going and would still take pity on those of you who might be recovering from the night before. So join me and let’s make some popcorn and enjoy a little bit of brain rotting indulgence with the always terrible but impossible to hate, Terrorvision.
Normally I would open with a lot of background or history information in relation to the evening’s movie but this film is a bit different from most of our other fare that I’ve featured so far. In fact, of all the films I’ve given the title of “weird” to, this one might actually be among the weirdest and least coherent. Considering that this is the same site where I’ve reviewed the mighty Rock & Roll Nightmare, the sci-fi groaner End of the World and the weird as fuck Grotesque, that might very well be saying something. The thing is that all those movies had some fairly coherent(ish) plot lines. They were awkward in a lot of ways and some of them were less scary than just baffling but you could more or less get what the characters were trying to do. And they might not have acted like real people but there was a sense they were trying to. Even if the pretense was fairly flimsy or the set up was crap, you still got what they were aiming at. All this is a polite way of saying that most of these films were attempting (and mostly failing) at giving us a sense that they take place in something that resembles the real world.
Realism in horror is one of those weird sticking points that people like to get into it about sometimes. If you want to be an annoying jerk, you can glibly go off about how all horror is unrealistic unless it depicts acts of realistic brutality but even then, usually the stuff that is shown in a movie isn’t going to happen in real life and certainly not the way it’s presented on screen. There can be, however, arguments about how certain elements of realism are more effective than others. After all, the brutality of the climax of Martyrs is made all the more effective and horrifying by the reality of the violence that it evokes but the film wouldn’t be nearly as effective without it. This was why the remake fell so flat with most audiences. Where the original had a world that was unrealistic in the sense that this cult probably wouldn’t be able to get away with what they were doing and their means of doing it would be difficult to pull off, the American remake stretched that thread too far and muted out a lot of the elements of that world that was created in the first one. What you got was a story that suddenly didn’t fit the shape of what it was trying to say anymore and the lack of realism’s seams showed.
All this said, horror doesn’t have to have a realistic premise to invite us into the world it’s trying to create. I’ve talked about how films like Pontypool and Ginger Snaps create these tense, claustrophobic atmospheres and a sense of dread by staying consistent to their story even though at the core, they are about a language based zombie apocalypse and a werewolf curse that is connected to pubescent growth into adulthood respectively. Even going one step further, some of our beloved horror classics are far from realistic in any capacity. You would not believe the length one would have to go through in order to hire a priest to perform an exorcism and that’s assuming any man of the cloth would be okay enough to even try, considering what kind of liability they might end up facing down. And when’s the last time you remembered your dreams in perfect clarity? And noticed that they had such a lucid and coherent thread to them? Yeah, most people aren’t really able to do that very well at all and I think if Kruger did show up for most people, he’d be just as likely to get sucked into a tea party in a weird version of his victim’s first bedroom as he would his own boiler room and that doesn’t guarantee that his knives wouldn’t end up turned into daisies at some point. And let’s not even get into how Michael Myers can even see properly to kill in that stupid mask. And how it managed to stay so pristine white through the whole killing spree. Arterial spray is a thing, you know!
This whole thing is basically the long way to say what I’ve always said about horror films and that is that they run on fairytale logic. Some of them are lighter on the fairy dust than others but they all basically carry the same thread that we are all just expected to go with and that’s what makes them work. When the thread works, you have a beautifully immersive and scary experience that let’s you sink into the story with the characters. When it doesn’t, you end up with a lot of questions about what’s going on and when you start running logistics at the whole thing, it can fall apart and ultimately, it just becomes less fun to watch. Much like our tales of old, as long as there is a kind of thread for us to pick up on and relate to on some level, we’re usually ready and willing to follow as long as the things we’re following don’t meander too far away from us. How well the filmmakers create that thread in the first place will determine if it’s effective or not and if we are okay with that or not. And then there’s Terrorvision.
It’s rare that you have a film like this that makes almost no nod towards reality whatsoever. I know this is technically meant to be a horror comedy but even Once Bitten tried to make the world view of the characters something that we could relate to in real life. This film looks like it’s set in the backyard of PeeWee’s Playhouse and has ingested a few tabs of LSD with its fairy dust. Part of the reason for this abandonment of the real world may lie in who was at the helm of this film. Yes, we are welcoming back to this space the always interesting Ted Nicolaou, who directed this oddball piece of cinema as well as the oddball Vampire Journals. In some ways, this isn’t that surprising. Nicolaou had previously introduced us to a weird world where vampires can play nanny to other vampires and get all excited about girls who play piano and then lose a guaranteed fight for no reason. Still, at least that film seemed a bit more coherent. This one legit seems like it’s based in a fantasy world that is equal parts fever dream and toddler babble tale. And about that plot. Well, it’s just that old cautionary tale of what happens when a man decides to tackle installing a home satellite dish by himself and ultimately gives an entry point a creature that is intent on devouring everyone in the world. When the creature eats the grandfather of the family, the traumatized youngest child of the family relies on the patriarch’s militant conspiracy preparations to try to defeat the monster in his house. This is thwarted when his older sister and her boyfriend of the week decide to domesticate it due to their lack of understanding of its reaction to something. Meanwhile, it continues to eat more of their family members during a swingers party and there’s the alien that tries to warn them of the danger they’re in and the horror hostess Medusa that they continually try to call for assistance even though she’s a TV personality who continues to mock them.
There’s not much more to say in regards to this level of masterpiece. I mean, sure, I can talk about how the father, Stanley is played by Gerrit Graham (who has been in so many things, you can grab a random assortment of film and television shows and he might be in one or more of them) and the red shirt boyfriend is played by Jon (Uncle Rico) Gries. In fact, this whole film is basically made up of character actors, most of whom have a ton of supporting roles in different films and some running even into the present. And they are given a whole lot of nothing and way too much to do with the roles they do have in this film because everyone reacts to things like a cartoon character might. In any other film, this would be called bad characterization but considering the world they exist in, I think it would a bit difficult to have any other kind of people populating this story. And why no, none of them really have anything other than surface traits but the even the traits that they are given are weird and not really normal traits to have. Take our young hero(ish), Sherman, played by Chad Allen, who has been instructed in the ways of life not by his parents but rather by his conspiracy-spouting gun nut Grandpa, played by Bert Remsen. Meanwhile, his parents are image and sex obsessed, gathering up weird kitschy shit to put in their pleasure dome house in an attempt to get another couple to have a swap with. And then there’s Suzy, the older sister played by Diane Franklin, who is basically just an MTV poster girl who switches boyfriends on a weekly basis and has decided that Gries’ O.D. is the man of her dreams for the next twenty four hours. For his part, he’s a parody of a metalhead and as such is basically an idiot. There’s your cast. Don’t get attached to anyone.
From everything I’ve written so far, you already know this is a bad movie. It’s the kind of bad that really does skirt the line between so bad it’s good and almost unwatchable but it does so in such a flippant way that it has earned my eternal respect for it. Really, the plot is so bonkers that it really is just to weird to put down on paper and do it justice. And that’s why you need to see this film. I really can’t explain how likable everyone is, even when they are gut wrenchingly annoying at the same time. This film really is one that you have to be in the mood to watch but it’s so odd that you can’t look away and you just can’t really hate it. This is, of course, aided immensely by the theme song. If you’ve never heard it, the song is called “Terrorvision” by the now defunct group The Fibonaccis and it is impossible to find for sale anywhere. If anyone finds it, please, for the love of everything, just let me know where I can throw money into the hole to buy it for a reasonable price because I’ve been looking for years! And with my angst over my futile internet shopping trips over with, let’s get back to the film. Watch it. Embrace the lack of real characters and the weird as fuck plot. Love the rubber puppet that’s supposed to be a world eating monster but looks like a really poorly made toy from the late eighties. Just let the weird soak over you like a cleansing odd, awkward bath that will carry you through November and straight into the land of sleigh bells and good cheer and horrible music.
And with that, I thank you again for joining me for another bonus round of Friday Nightmare Reviews. Join me every Friday for another horror movie that I’ve dug out of the bargain bin of my memory or some local thrift store and let’s enjoy some forgotten gems or bombs together. And if you’re still itching for more horror stories, why not check out my ongoing series of stories under the Hello Dolly tab? It features the title character, Dolly as a horror host with her monstrous friends as they deal with real creatures that lurk in the dark all while trying to produce a weekly online show. Updates for that are on Mondays. And until next time, may your channels come in clear and may Medusa only give you the kind of nightmares you enjoy the most.