As Bad As You Thought?: TerrorVision

A few months ago I was reading my favorite magazine HorrorHound and they were interviewing a veteran horror director by the name of, Ted Nicolaou. Mr. Nicolaou spoke of one of his films that he was particularly proud of called, TerrorVision a movie from 1986 that while not released onto Blu-Ray or DVD the studio had allowed for it to be streamed on Netflix. This got me curious so I turned on my TV and Wii and watched this forgotten film he spoke of, and ‘lo I found one of the finest example of pure insanity ever captured on film. A movie that made little to no sense and all those responsible for it need to be evaluated psychologically by trained professionals. Because my duty each week is recap movies that make you wonder what the filmmakers were thinking I thought I would bring you the tale of this seldom seen gem. So it’s to turn on the idiot box and see if TerrorVision was as bad as you thought.

On a planet made from a diorama kit picked up from Hobby Lobby an alien race load up some disgusting blob of a creature into a pod and convert it into energy, then it is shot into space. Then complete with eightiestastic terrible pop music the opening credits roll with such a mess of colors and patterns it’ll make your brain melt. Once that nonsense ends we are in what looks like a home in the suburbs on whatever planet A Clockwork Orange took place on. The living room is filled wall to wall with outlandish erotic artwork which luckily covers up large chunks of the poorly painted wall, but left a good view of the ancient Greek theme they were kind of going with, this room takes 80’s decadence to a whole ‘nother level. We are introduced to three of our main characters; Stanley who is mucking around with the family”s satellite dish, his wife Racquel who is decked out in her Jane Fonda work-out best, and their teenage daughter Suzy who….yikes even Madonna from that era would say lil’ Suzy went overboard with the makeup. And the hair. And the clothes. And the everything. I guess the people in the wardrobe had to figure out what the hip kids were wearing and decided to throw everything and the kitchen sink at the problem. I can already tell this is going to be an ordeal; Hera give me strength. Hera said no to me.

Stanley’s satellite screwery has the family bummed out, until the door bell rings and it’s a crazed man in a decked out paramilitary uniform carrying a sign advertising lizard tail jerky. Well it’s certainly time to call the cops but….waitaminute Suzy just got excited because it’s her grandpa.  He goes on a bit about the evils of MTV and spy plans he wanders around the house spouting off his conspiracy theories and shouting “Phooey” but the family seems thrilled to have him so who am I to judge. As he talks to Stanley about the satellite dish our hero and protagonist Sherman emerges wearing camouflage and the two have a play shooting match. Oh great, another movie about an annoying kid and his weird grandfather.

Stanley argues with a random neighbor who apparently can repair the satellite dish but only if it’s covered by warranty; so in order to enact this warranty he proceeds to bang the dish with a hammer a few times right in front of the guy. Kids, in the real world this is how you get the warranty so voided that buying the thing in the first place was pointless. As Stanley does his best Thor impression a freak lightning bolt strikes the dish, holy crap best Thor impersonation EVER!!!!!!!! That evening he pulls out the comically over-sized remote to give his family the demonstration of the new satellite dishes power. Naturally each member of this strange and eclectic family wants to watch something different and fight over the remote causing the television to start shooting out lightning bolts and freak out, but nobody thinks to call a repairman or even to think that it’s strange. The TV ends up on Medusa a bad knock off of Elvira which thrills young Sherman and Grandpa for that matter. As the strange clan settle in to watch their own awful movie (surreal I know) the doorbell rings and it’s Suzy’s new boyfriend OD, proclaiming that her old boyfriend was “squidsville” (which means a neighbor to Spongebob I guess) I guess when Mr. Nicolaou decided to throw random words together in an attempt to ape teenager lingo. She proclaims OD to be a musical genius so the family wants to meet him, it turns out he’s a middle aged man dressed like Alice Cooper, and needless to say the Putterman family is not amused; but what comes next means they have no justification for their passing judgement. When Suzy asks if she and OD can use the hot tub (like any good teenage daughter would ask) her parents say no, because they are using it for swinging at eight. Yes, you read that right Racquel Putterman told her teenage daughter that they were going swinging in the same way she might say that she’s going to the grocery store to get some Lunchables.  In a very Cleaver-esque fashion they wish the teenage couple (well one teenager one guy old enough to remember the Kennedy Assassination)  and head off to their Sex Room blatantly bragging about their plans for the evening. I’m still waiting on Alex DeLarge to show up and bludgen someone with a giant phallis.

Sherman and his grandfather continue watching Medusa’s monster movie of the week, while Grandpa munches on his Lizard Tail Jerky. OD tells young Sherman that if he loves metal he’ll kiss is boot, Sherman counters by pointing his toy gun at him, telling him to “kiss the ass”, this scene has nothing to do with anything but it further makes me wonder what universe these people live in. Grandpa plays around with the remote until he finds the monster from earlier in the movie right on his TV.  Elsewhere in the house the soon to be swinging parents carry on about how Stanley disapproves of OD for his daughter while his wife thinks he’s cute and will grow out of his phase (hate to tell you lady, but at his age it’s past being a phase) and they have this talk with all the calm white breadness of the Tanner family discussing how to settle an argument between DJ and Michelle over his gets the last ice cream bar. Personally I don’t care what you do in your spare time, but if swinging is your hobby and you discuss it with your progeny openly, letting your daughter date a guy like that should be no biggie, just saying.

As they wear on into the night Sherman and Grandpa fall asleep in front of the TV and the booger monster finally emerges, and for all of his talk of survival tactics and conspiracy theories Grandpa is unprepared when he and Sherman awake to see the slimy thing right in front of them. Proclaiming that the green slime covered creature with fangs and claws and tentacles was not a monster but in fact a burglar, he leads his grandson into his underground shelter/bedroom. They load up on guns and ammo (kid with assault rifles, something tells me that wouldn’t fly in movies nowadays). As the duo prepares

“We launched a dangerous space monster at your planet who could wipe out all life, my bad.”

for battle the annoying neighbor from earlier shows up to repair the satellite in accordance with the warranty which must read “stupidly and purposely hitting device with hammer is covered”. The two parties meet for a confrontation in the backyard, and the neighbor seems unnerved but not too upset about an old man and a small boy running around pointing high powered rifles at him. Grandpa goes off to survey the house for the monster giving us a further look at the house decorated like an art museum on acid; as he does the neighbor/repairman gets eaten by the monster and shortly thereafter the creature gets Grandpa as well who tries to blow the creature away but is liquified and suck up through a tentacle/straw and it was as disgusting as you think. Fortunately nobody in the house is disturbed by machine firing or if they did hear it they just went “Oh, grandpa, not again” with a smirk.

When the 911 call to the police yields no results, Sherman intrudes on his parents and the couple they’ll be swinging with in “the pleasure den”. As Racquel goes off to comfort her son and reassure him there is no monster, Stanley takes their guests through “the pleasure den” and into “the pleasure dome” which has an indoor swimming pool AND a full bar. Who has stuff like this, seriously who besides Hugh Heffner somehow gets tons of disposal income and says to themselves, “I want to invest this into my hobby of swinging with other couples”. The mother chastises her son, threatening to call Dr. Silverman on him , I’m sure that’s a story in of itself. Once she discovers the puddle of goo which used to be Grandpa she accuses her son of lying and heads off to the bomb shelter/ room, where the monster sticks out his long slimy serpentine tongue and morphs it into a slime covered version of Grandpa who reassures them he’s just down in the basement taking care of business, nothing to arouse suspicious or look out of the ordinary. She does what any normal mother would do and locks her son down in the shelter with his grandpa, the kid naturally freaks out until he looks down and discovers the monsters has used the TV to get out of the room.

The movie continues on and an alien begins to appear on TV warning all of earth about the inconvenience of his race having launched a booger monster through the trash at the planet. The problem is whatever planet is in this movie it doesn’t look like the earth I know.  In “the pleasure dome” the monster strikes again claiming the Putterman parents as well as the other couple via a slime filled pool and yes it is a strange and stupid as it sounds. The booger monster uses his MO of liquifying his victims and slurping them up, which is a unique way to eat people I guess. As the terror unfolds OD and Suzy return to the house to be confronted by a gun wielding Sherman who tells them of the monster.

Of all the ways to go out this has gotta be one of the worst

Suzy threatens to make the boy take his pills but she relents to go see what he’s talking about. So the kid is on pills and apparently is acquainted with a Dr. Freeman, maybe it’s one of those deals where the whole movie is made up by the main character who has some kind of mental trouble, that would explain a lot. The kids raid their parents’ room to find that the monster has used it’s mutant tongue to take on the appearance of the two couples in bed….oh and Grandpa, and everyone acts as if it’s a normal occurrence in the household. If I were these kids I would need pills and Dr. Freeman as well.

Back in the living room the creature decides he’s played around enough and in a complete WTF change in story direction pops out of the TV barking and growling ready to befriend the kids. This change of attitude is apparently brought on because OD’s spiked gloves reminds him of the spiked gloves of someone who was nice to him on his home world. Completely neglecting the fact that the monster has slaughtered their family Suzy and Sherman decide to take him on as a new pet. Thus the flick transforms from a cheezy B-Grade sci-fi flick into a cheezy B-Grade knock off of E.T. I don’t know if you’re aware of this but I HATE it when a movie completely switches tone/genre in the middle of the story. The first thing they teach their new companion is how to eat, and proceed to empty out the fridge and give the monster an assortment of human foods which he’s not fond of but he does learn how to say “food” which I guess is progress. The kids teach the creature a whole vocabulary and about the music on earth in a variety of wacky and comedic ways.

Inevitably we reach the standard sitcom moment when it comes time to argue over who gets credit for this amazing discovery; OD who befriended it or Sherman and Grandpa (I guess the kid forgot the monster ate him) for being the first to see it, but decide to share the human eating creature from space in order to make some money off of the whole ordeal. The three of them decide that Medusa from TV is the best route to go in order to get their message out. At her studio Medusa gets a phone call from Sherman and Suzy who convince her to check out the creature at their by tricking her into thinking that they are having a party; all the while the monster obsesses with the television. They flip through the channel until they reach a channel showing the alien responsible for sending him to earth which makes the slime monster understandably upset and he attacks his new friends, very ungrateful. A battle ensues and the police show up and you can guess their fate as well as OD’s, which is alright I guess the guy had a long life. This leaves the fate of the planet in the hands of the two Putterman siblings armed only with their grandfather’s (surely illegal) high powered rifles. They carry out their plan of attack but as you may guess two kids against a monster does not go all that great for them and in a last ditch effort to save themselves they throw the remote at the creature which explodes and the alien who has been appearing on TV all night appears in their living room with a space gun of some kind. He promises to help the kids to stop the “Hunger Beast” a breed of pets from his home world who all inevitably mutate and eat everything and everyone in sight, which makes me wonder what makes for a bad pet on this planet. Anyways the alien promises to defeat the Hunger Beast and create clones of their parents who would live in special aquariums. The guy talks a big game but Medusa unexpectedly shows up at the house and smashes his space helmet….for some reason, causing his head to explode. To show his gratitude the Hunger Beast tears through the wall ad starts sucking everybody into his mouth like a vacuum cleaner, and yes it is as stupid as your picturing it in your head. The next morning Medusa’s chauffeur who apparently slept in the car all night gets awakened by the Hunger Beast who is in the process of changing into the TV hostess demanding he take it to the television station.

Was it as bad as I thought? Well, you know how movies like; Carnival of Souls and Freaks and John Carpenter’s version of The Thing, and many other movies are almost neglected when they were originally released but many years later were rediscovered and seen as the masterpieces that they are? This is not a movie like that. TerrorVision is proof that some movies lost to obscurity have achieved that status for a good reason. This movie ranks with Troll 2 in the “What Did I Just Watch?” department, but instead of deriving entertainment from the quirky strangeness of it all, you can only be entertained by the uncomfortable strangeness of it all. The family is uncomfortably open about their strange eccentricities which would be amusing for audiences if it weren’t for the fact their eccentricities did not make you feel so uncomfortable. The characters are completely uncharming and unrelatable which adds to the discomfort of the whole ordeal. And let’s not forget the monster, there have been many low budget B-level flicks throughout the history of filmdom that have managed to pull off memorable and simply put, cool looking monsters, but this is not one of them, the Hunger Beast is a blob of slime and eyes and fangs and any other characteristic a small child my give to a monster. The tone of the film is also a contributing factor the the weirdness, it has the over the top camp sensibilities of a kid’s movie but with several elements that are surely not for kids (basically any part of the movie with the parents). I recommend this movie merely as a means to satisfy your curiosity as to how strange a movie can get otherwise avoid it like the plague.