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Friday, May 3, 2013

TerrorVision




TerrorVision
1986
Ted Nicolaou

‘TerrorVision’ is a product that could only have been created in 1980’s. Everything about its lurid color scheme and its lurid characters just screams excess and greed. Even the monster exists only to consume as much as possible. It’s a much sharper critique of the era than its boisterous exterior would let on. 

Stanley Putterman (Gerrit Graham) has just installed a brand new state-of-the-art satellite dish as part of the “pleasure dome” he’s constructed in order to engage in some serious swinging. Stanley and his wife, Raquel (the always lovely Mary Woronov) head out for a date, leaving their gun-nut son, Sherman (Chad Allen) home with survivalist grandpa (Bert Remsen). Their valley-girl daughter, Suzy (Diane Franklin) arrives with her metal-head boyfriend O.D. (Jonathan Gries). All of them are unaware the recent lightning strike on their satellite dish wasn't a lightning strike at all, but a monster being transmitted right into the TV. It’s called the Hungry Beast and it lives up to its name.

‘TerrorVision’ enters dicey territory right from the start: It’s a horror-comedy that forgoes any semblance of subtlety and pitches every moment at maximum ludicrousness. The humans are just as grotesque as the monster. The acting, the sets, and even the theme song are overblown, too bright, and beyond silly. It’s a movie that’s cranked up to “10” for its entire 83 minute run, and surprisingly it ends up not being a headache inducing mess. It a live-action cartoon filled with violence, sex, and a particular 1980’s obsession: gallons of slime.

The acting is smart, especially from Graham and Woronov, who know how to give their characters just enough depth to keep them from being complete caricatures. Even the kids, normally the bane of most films, are good enough to pull back just from the edge of being screeching lunatics the entire movie.  They come across as more sympathetic merely because they are caught between the monster and their parents, all of whom are hell-bent on satisfying their desires no matter what the cost.

The special effects make-up and animatronic monster are fun, riding a fine line between unsettlingly gross and endearing. Especially in the age of CGI creations, it’s really impressive to see a large physical prop like the Hungry Beast in action. It’s also a joy to see a movie that isn't shy with the ooze, and has cast game enough to get slathered in the stuff. 

The film keeps up a hectic pace that only bogs down a little at the start of the third act when the kids think they've befriended the monster. It’s nominally supposed to play like an E.T. parody, but it goes on just a little too long and the audience is forced to wait around while the characters catch-up on what’s really happening. Thankfully, it’s only a small portion of the film and things soon take off again, culminating in comically bleak ending.

‘TerrorVision’ is a movie you can watch purely as a bit of 80’s absurdity, or a sly commentary on what the 1980’s wrought. It is perhaps the least subtle movie you'll ever see, but you'll definitely leave satisfied.




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