Tuesday, October 9, 2012

80's Horror Week: TerrorVision (1986)

When the official encyclopedia of hip-hop is written, I hope that "Television, the Drug of the Nation" by Disposable Heroes of Hiphopcracy is included in the "worst message songs" category. While it is true that television has it's negative effects, "Drug of the Nation" tells the listener this with the laziest lyrics and most forced "this is bad for us all!" message imaginable. Then again, I do find it ironic that the group's mastermind is now behind Spearhead, which has collaborated with Pink and appeared on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show", but hey, most of us can't rail against the system forever.

Of course, I mention this as a guy who was partially raised by TV as a kid. My parents did most of it (and a fine job might I add), but like many of my generation, it's hard for me to imagine my life without television either today or in my childhood. Before my tween years, Nickelodeon and The Disney Channel were my places to go (as Jane from "Daria" said, "TV counts as a place!"), though the latter was a bit different back then. There weren't as many original shows as there are now, so Godzilla movies, "Under the Umbrella Tree", "The Racoons" and kid friendly movies were the name of the game. Why am I mentioning this? Because apart from the gore and sexual humor, the Charles Band produced, Ted Nicolau directed "TerrorVision" feels like something that could have been played on that channel back in the day.

It was at this moment that mythical beast Medusa began to question her life choices

Meet the Putterman family-parents Stanley (Gerrit Grahm) and Raquel (Mary Warnov), their kids Suzy (Dianne Franklin) and Sherman (Chad Allan) and out of his rocker war vet grandpa (Bert Remsen.) They have a new, state of the art (well, by 1986 standards) satellite television, so it looks like Sherman and gramps can be entertained while his parents go to a swingers party and Suzy goes out with her metal head boyfriend O.D. (Jon Gries.) Unfortunately, intergalactic garbage that contains a hunger monster (voiced by beloved voice actor Frank Welker) has landed, taking over the frequency and eating anyone in it's path.

Before I get to reviewing this movie, I just want to mention that the theme song for this movie is awesome.


Anyways, "TerrorVision" in itself is a movie that I find to be hit and miss. On the plus side, Warnov and Grahm are great. These are two people who are the definition of Regan era excess-shallow, rich without really deserving it, and rude to their own offspring and anyone not like them. I also really like Franklin as Suzy, who perfectly captures the Valley Girl type you found in the era. It also has some memorable gore effects (the highlight being grandpas demise) and and an amusing side character in horror hostess/phone sex worker Medusa (Jennifer Walker), who brings a certain deadpan humor to her proceedings.

The downside starts with what I meant by this could have played on Disney Channel in the early 90's: most of this is way, way too broad for it's own good. Granted, broad humor and horror can work great together, but almost everything here is exaggerated to the point of it being annoying. The worst offender in this department is the grandfather character, whose just a poor version of the "war veteran with a screw loose" stereotype. It could have been funnier, but it's so over the top that I found it to be annoying. Then there's the failed attempts at trying to bring forth social commentary. It works a few times, but when the movie seems to be trying to say something with the monster becoming addicted to TV, I couldn't help but roll my eyes. There's potential for something better here, but it doesn't quite gel the way it wants to.

"Sesame Street" character Tippy the Turd didn't go over the way executives hoped it would

I know that "TerrorVision" has a cult following, but for me it's a great concept that never really evolves beyond "Hey, isn't this wacky!" It certainly has it's moments and a few good performances, but as a whole I found it to be disappointing.

Rating: 5/10

As of this moment, "TerrorVision" isn't on DVD or Blu-Ray, but Shout Factory announced that it should be available in those formats shortly.

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