An all-new Pop Culture Beast is coming!

An all-new Pop Culture Beast is coming!
Pardon our dust!

Pop Culture Beast proudly supports The Trevor Project

Pop Culture Beast proudly supports The Trevor Project
Please consider doing the same.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

31 Days of Scream-O-Ween! - TerrorVision / Video Dead Double Feature

By David Massey


Often, when I see double-feature releases on Blu-Ray, my knee-jerk reaction is that I’m scraping the bottom of the bargain bin. Having only seen bits and pieces of ‘TerrorVision’ as a kid and never having heard of ‘The Video Dead’, I assumed that I was in for a few hours of drudgery. That couldn’t have been further from the truth; ‘TerrorVision’ is a camp classic, oozing with 1980’s kitsch, and ‘The Video Dead’, as shoe-string as it is, wound up being quite a fun little ride. Together, Scream Factory has given us a polished version of the often-hard-to-find gem that is Terror Vision with a bit of a forgotten bonus in The Video Dead and made the package well worth a buy.


TerrorVision / The Video Dead Review

The Films:

Both films are given equal time and effort here but ‘TerrorVision’ is doubtless the main feature. We’re introduced to a family brimming with all the worst trappings of the 1980’s; the clich├ęs have been elevated to the absurd and it’s to the director, Ted Nicolaou’s, credit that, in 1986, he was able to poke so much fun at the decade without the benefit of hindsight. The result is an off-the-wall comedy that feels like a 1950’s monster movie, staring ‘Leave it to Beaver’, as filtered through ‘Adult Swim’.

The daughter, Suzy, played by Diane Frankin (‘Better Off Dead’ / ‘Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure’), has the hair and make-up of an animated Cindy Lauper and an over-the-top valley-girl gab. A very young Chad Allen (you’ll recognize him from nearly every family TV show of the late 80’s and early 90’s), is the war-game-obsessed son. The mother, played by the always fantastic Mary Woronov (Roger Corman’s poster girl and star of ‘Eating Raoul’), is a distant, self-involved socialite more interested in her exercise videos than her kids. Gerrit Graham (‘Phantom of the Paradise’ / ‘Demon Seed’), hams it up as the swinging (literally) father always on the lookout for the next big thing. Rounding out the family is Grampa, the paranoid vet with a bomb shelter in the basement (Bert Remsen – ‘Nashville’ / ‘Places in the Heart’) and Suzy’s boyfriend, ‘O.D.’, the tweaked metal-head dropout played buy 1980’s staple, Jon Gries (‘Real Genius’ / ‘Running Scared’). Together, this group inhabits a home that looks like a cross between a sex spa and a Patrick Nagel exhibition on ecstasy.

Wacky from minute one (the theme song being one of the film’s high points), the family has just hooked up their new satellite dish while, simultaneously, far across the cosmos, a creature that can only be described as a booger with eyes, is being transported in exile by a humanoid-lizard alien that we don’t learn much more about until the film’s climax. The monster is mistakenly transmitted to the family’s satellite dish and has the ability to escape at will from their TV sets. Nonsense ensues as the monster is able, by transforming its tongue, to impersonate the face and voice of anyone it kills.

The film never really crosses into any straight genre and manages to hover, quite proudly, over ‘wonderfully weird’. If all of Hollywood had ostracized, instead of embraced, Tim Burton, this is the kind of live-action cartoon he’d be making.

‘The Video Dead’ feels much more like a student film, held together with Scotch tape and chocolate-syrup blood and looking more like no-budget-1970 than 1987, the year it was made. A mysterious TV inscribed with a skull and programmed entirely with zombie movies is delivered to a man who lives alone. One night, the unplugged TV becomes a portal for zombies. Yup, that’s right, zombies escape from the TV and go on a killing spree. I won’t pretend that this isn’t the fodder of late-night TV. In fact, I vaguely recall seeing it on ‘USA Up All Night with Rhonda Shear’ back in the very early 90’s, usually the final resting place for all 1980’s camp horror. What makes this one stand out is its bizarre logic; these are not Romero’s zombies.

After some time, new residents move into the house and discover the possessed TV in the attic. The film turns into a teen-horror and the characters are given glimpses of another world beyond the screen in which a vampish seductress taunts and a hero garbage man is in search of the escaping zombies. Little of this is explained beyond a few scenes and that plot seems all but forgotten halfway through. In the second half we’re introduced to a mysterious roaming Texan (a poor man’s Slim Pickens) hoping to avenge his wife’s death which was apparently at the hands of these zombies.

As if that wasn’t weird enough, the zombies giggle, taunt, and torture their prey. There’s no biting here, more likely, these ghouls are apt to strangle and kill in elaborate ways (see washing machine death) usually reserved for the likes of ‘Jason Voorhees’ or ‘Michael Myers’. There’s also a number of rules (a la ‘Gremlins’) that can be used in combatting them. There was something to do with mirrors, bells, and having to convince the zombies that they’re dead; there was even a scene where claustrophobia seemingly causes one of their heads to explode and the others turn cannibal. I didn’t really follow all of it but it didn’t really matter. With some schlocky gore and a plot drifting from comedy, to stoner movie, to chainsaw wielding buddy adventure, I suggest just sitting back, turning your logic-cap off, and having a laugh at this one; without being at all good, it’s not all bad.


The Disc:

The films are not really given any star treatment in their packaging. There’s a split-cover showing the original posters for each (incidentally, ‘TerrorVision’ was written entirely around this pre-existing poster). On the reverse are some stills from the movies and 2 alternative posters for The Video Dead.

Both films come with new documentaries about the making of, bringing together many of the cast and crew.
The commentary for Terror Vision was fun and really elevated the movie for me. There were tons of insights to the evolution of the production, the actor’s perception of the script, on-set anecdotes, and the initial response to the film when it was released. Unfortunately, the commentary for The Video Dead reads like an apologetic ‘MST3000’ episode. There are some funny moments but you get the impression that this wasn’t exactly as passion-project.

Being one of those cult films that’s been sought-after but not easily found for a number of decades, this is likely the best version of ‘TerrorVision’ that’s ever been available. The latter is probably true for The Video Dead but I doubt the same could be said of the former. Of the two, The Video Dead is the least fortunate in presentation. Most of the film, shot in 16mm, is so grainy and ghosty that it’s a bit like watching through a mask of gauze. The set comes with both films on DVD & Blu-Ray but, with The Video Dead, I really couldn’t see a difference.

The Features:

Terror Vision:

  • Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Ted Nicolaou and Actors Diane Franklin and Jon Gries
  • Documentary ‘Monsters on Demand – The Making of Terror Vision’ – New Material
  • Posters & Still Gallery

The Video Dead:

·         Audio Commentary with Writer/Producer/Director Robert Scott, Editor Bob Sarles, and Special Make-Up Effects Creator Dale Hall, Jr.
·         Audio Commentary with Stars Roxanna Augesen and Rocky Duvall, Production Manager Jacques Thelemaque, and Makeup Assistant Patrick Denver
·         Documentary ‘Pre-Recorded’ – New Material
·         Behind-The-Scenes Still Gallery
·         Poster & Still Gallery


The Specs:

·         1080p High-Definition Widescreen 1.78.1
·         DTS-HD Master Audio Stereo
·         English-only Audio & Subtitles
·         Original Release: 1986 (‘TerrorVision’) / 1987 (‘The Video Dead)
·         Runtime: 81 Minutes (‘TerrorVision’) / 90 Minutes (‘The Video Dead’)
·         Rating: R

Final Grades:

  • Story: C- / Both films seem to be a means to an end with little thought put into plotting.
  • Presentation: B / I think both films are getting the Surprise-Prom-Queen treatment here (minus the pig’s blood).
  • Scare Factor: D / More laughs than scares here.
  • Gore Factor: C / Both films give a go at grossing us out.
  • Repeat view-ability: ‘TerrorVision’ gets a solid B because this is one that you just wanna show your weirdo friends. ‘The Video Dead’ gets D. I can’t see myself really giving it my time again.

 Add TerrorVision and The Video Dead to your collection, click HERE!
Check out yesterday's Scream Factory review Phantasm 2!

Post a Comment