The Puttermans are free! Free from the shackles of cable TV. That big, ugly dish in the backyard gives them a direct pipeline to pretty much any broadcast the world over...or universe over, I guess, since they unwittingly intercept a colossal, slobbering, insatiably ravenous mutant that some aliens were digitally chucking in the garbage. The creature can zap his way in and out of any of the TVs in the house, perfectly
Writer/director Ted Nicolaou mentions in the extras that he made TerrorVision to warp twelve year old kids, and, well, mission accomplished. I stumbled upon the flick at some point when I was in junior high, and despite decades having passed since then, The Fibonaccis' ridiculously catchy title song and a metric ton of the movie's off-kilter imagery were seared into my brain. Rediscovering TerrorVision, I had the same bug-eyed expression and goofy grin plastered across my face that prepubescent-me did when I first watched the movie all those years ago.
If you've never managed to catch TerrorVision before, try to picture a cross between Eating Raoul, Pee-Wee's Playhouse, and just about any late night black-and-white creature feature from the '50s. I'm not pointing to Eating Raoul just because it also co-stars Mary Woronov, has a whole thing with swingers, and is pretty much entirely set in one home. They're both head-on collisions of camp and satire with similarly exaggerated, absurd sensibilities. TerrorVision mocks the excess of the 1980s, with 98.3% of the movie set inside the Puttermans' gloriously garish home. The walls are hot pink, you can putter around in an indoor Olympic-size jacuzzi, there's a TV no matter which way you turn your head, eight foot tall pieces of fetish art are drapped all over the living room, Roman statues spew water from their fountain-nipples: I mean, the filmmakers obviously had to build the place on a set since there's not a house the world over like this. That sense of deliberate artifice extends to the exteriors too, with an evening sky that's clearly just a sheet of fabric in a corner.
TerrorVision is never not deliriously over-the-top, every bit as entrancingly strange in 2013 as it was a quarter-century and change ago. The production design is drop dead gorgeous, at least if you're as enthralled by that mocking 1986-cranked-up-to-eleven aesthetic as I am. TerrorVision sports one of my favorite creature designs this side of The Deadly Spawn, courtesy of John Carl Buechler who contributes all sorts of other inspired splatter as well. First-time filmmaker Ted Nicolaou has a hell of a cast onboard: super-cute Diane Franklin (Better Off Dead...), Gerrit Graham (Phantom of the Paradise), cult cinema icon Mary Woronov, Jon Gries (Real Genius), Chad Allen, Burt Remsen, and Alejandro Rey among them. The screenplay pretty much never bows to any of the usual conventions, as you could probably guess by the time you get to a girl with hypercolor hair teased up two and a half feet treating an otherworldly beast to several hundred pounds of TV dinners. TerrorVision is just a hell of a lot of demented, inexorably '80s fun, and it does my heart good to see that a movie I was utterly fascinated with as a kid continues to hold up so well all these years later.
The Video Dead
Wait, they didn't tell you? Isn't it, like, the law that a realtor has to tell you when you buy a house where there's been a murder or a suicide? Or one of those all-too-familiar ordeals where a battered old black and white TV is misdelivered to a chainsmoking lush of a writer's house, is stuck on a movie called Zombie Blood Nightmare that's apparently nothing but undead ghouls shambling through the
While TerrorVision is a splattery satire skewering '80s excess, The Video Dead turns the dial a little more towards horror. There's definitely a dark, depraved sense of humor on display here -- I mean, there's a rotting bride in a wedding dress who leaps out of a washing machine to kill a housewife -- but it mixes in some genuinely effective scares while it's at it. The Video Dead dishes out some pretty solid jolts, its best sequences are remarkably tense and suspenseful, and...geez, it's not afraid to get bleak and nihilistic about the whole thing either. Writer/director Robert Scott refuses to play it safe. His zombies aren't ripped right out of the George A. Romero playbook; The Video Dead kinda goes out of its way to be as un-Romero-ish as possible, to the point where they're sadistic killers rather than mindless gutmunchers. With a lot of horror flicks, you know who the hero is, who the red shirts are, who's gonna make it to the end, and...no, that's not even a little bit the case here. Though The Video Dead doesn't have the seasoned cast and crew and modest-but-way-bigger-than-this production values of the other half of this double feature, the movie makes it work anyway. The cast may generally be inexperienced, but they're all earnest and instantly likeable. The zombies all have a hell of a lot of personality, aided by some really terrific prosthetics and makeup and stuff, and The Video Dead has 'em whipping out some really inspired kills.
When I first stumbled onto The Video Dead some lazy Sunday afternoon on USA in the very early '90s, my eyes tripled in size in that "I can't believe this exists...!", hushed awe kind of way. I was more than a little concerned that this would wind up being one of those cases where my memories of the flick completely eclipsed the actual movie (::coughcoughFlesh Eating Mothers::), but instead, I think The Video Dead is even better than I remember it being. I mean, eight hojillion horror movies later, I'm better equipped now to appreciate just how clever and defiantly different it is than the rest of the pack. Being generally unavailable for a couple of decades probably got in the way of it being the cult classic it ought to be, but now that it's finally clawed its way onto DVD and Blu-ray...? Maybe now The Video Dead can get the following it deserves. Essential viewing for fanatics of off-kilter '80s horror.
TerrorVision and The Video Dead have been making the rounds on various high-def cable/satellite channels for six or seven years now, and it's a pretty safe bet that this Blu-ray disc is culled from the same mid-aughts masters that those were. Both movies look decent enough, not dragged down by any excessive speckling, print damage, or digital knob-twiddling. The Video Dead was shot on 16mm, and
Both halves of this double feature are lightly letterboxed to an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and have been encoded with AVC. What with two feature-length movies being on here and everything, you probably already guessed that we're talking about a dual-layer disc here.
Yeah, both TerrorVision and The Video Dead have the same set of technical specs here too. Their original stereo soundtracks are served up in 24-bit DTS-HD Master Audio, they're both rockin' lossless 5.1 remixes, and there are English (SDH) subs if you need 'em. The six-channel remixes are basically stereo too. TerrorVision generally just uses the surrounds for light reverb, and the LFE twiddles its thumbs disinterestedly for an hour and a half. There really is no low-end whatsoever, to the point where I got up and made sure my subwoofer was turned on. The Video Dead is stingy with the lower frequencies but at least dishes out some modest synth-bass. The remix on this half of the bill commits a cardinal sin, though, with every line of dialogue spilling over into five channels at once. That's a really lazy way of doing things. The instrumentation in the score is spread across the different speakers pretty effectively, at least. Dialogue and sound effects in both movies are understandably dated. TerrorVision suffers from some mild clipping and distortion at times, and the fidelity in The Video Dead is limited enough that I really don't think it would sound a whole lot different pumping through the built-in speakers on my TV. Totally listenable but kinda underwhelming.
It never even occurred to me that there'd be any extras on this Blu-ray disc. I mean, I thought part of the reason it's a double feature was to make up for a lack of extras. So, imagine my surprise -- no, really; imagine -- when I flipped over the case and saw hours and hours and hours of bells and whistles.
The Final Word
...and Scream Factory announced this double feature, like, three days later. I know! They're in my head. Highly Recommended.