Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Terror Within (1989) and Dead Space (1991)

As the 80's came to a close and the 90's came in, something became clear: many movies produced by Roger Corman were getting noticeably more forgettable. Sure, he produced and directed his share of duds in the past, he returned to the directing chair in the underrated "Frankenstein Unbound", and a few of the movies from this era are guilty pleasures, but at the same time, it was clear that the era of "Death Race 2000", "Humanoids From the Deep" and other cult favorites had come to an end. Besides, in this time, the era of the Grindhouse theater was over, and home video was the replacement. Still, it would have been nice to see at least a little more put into the movies being reviewed today.

First is 1989's "The Terror Within", which takes place on a post apocalyptic world with monstrous creatures known as "Gargoyles" roam. Here, a group of survivors have managed to live thanks to an antidote, and they find a girl outside of their compound who is pregnant. However, she's pregnant with a gargoyle, and when she gives birth, all hell starts to break loose.

There are a few things to like about this movie. The cast (which includes character actors Andrew Stevens, George Kennedy and John Lafayette) is largely good to decent, the 80's style synthesizer score by Rick Conrad is a lot of fun, and it's impossible to hate the cheap rubber monster costume available. That out of the way, "The Terror Within" is just too average to fully recommend. The whole thing has the same "been here, seen that" feeling of other Corman produced "Alien" knock-offs of the time, only without the button pushing fun of the likes of "Galaxy of Terror." Hell, whatever nudity we do get is brief (and unpleasant), and while it's bloody, the movie feels tame compared to those movies (though that's mostly due to the MPAA crunching down on violence at the time.) Plus, nothing about it is exciting. Instead of thinking "Wow, a Roger Corman production!", you think to yourself "Yep, a Roger Corman Production."

That out of the way, it's a masterpiece compared to 1991's "Dead Space." A boring remake of the Corman produced "Forbidden World", this deals with Commander Krieger ("Beastmaster" star Marc Singer) and his robot sidekick Tinpan (Rodger Halston) coming to the space station Phaebon, where a creature/virus in a cocoon has hatched. Now, this over sized virus must be stopped...or else.

Apart from the presence of Bryan Cranston (who went on to much better things-most notably the brilliant AMC show "Breaking Bad"), everything about this movie reeks of bad early-to-mid 90's video exploitation fodder. There's nudity, but only in one instance. The score by Daniel May* is as generic as they come. The bloodshed is minimal. The direction...well, you can tell that Fred Gallo is doing the best he can with the limited budget, but the script by Catherine Cyran is as dull and stupid as they come. The other performances are all pretty bad, especially Singer, who seems uninterested. I think you get the point. That out of the way, while the creature itself is mostly immobile, the design given to it is pretty cool.

If you absolutely have to pick between the two (which are available on the same disc thanks to Shout! Factory's "Roger Corman Cult Classics" collection), go with "The Terror Within." That out of the way, don't expect much. It's funny to see these labeled as "Cult Classics" though, as these are pretty much forgettable.

Ratings:

The Terror Within: 4.5/10

Dead Space: 1.5/10

*May went on to perform, compose and arrange songs for various television shows and movies, including "Fight Club", "Memento" and "American Gangster."

As for "Dead Space"-creature designer Dean Jones went on to work on "Star Trek: The Next Generation", "Dexter" and "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest." Prior to this, he did special effects make-up for "Blue Velvet."

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