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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » The Terror Experiment (Blu-ray)
The Terror Experiment (Blu-ray)
Starz / Anchor Bay // Unrated // April 10, 2012 // Region A
List Price: $24.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted March 27, 2012 | E-mail the Author
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The Terror Experiment: terrible title, even worse movie.

Like the man says, the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. ...or, y'know, by unleashing zombie gas in the federal building in Lafayette. Po-tay-to, po-tah-to. It's the handiwork of
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a terrorist -- nay, a patriot! -- who's using the government's own toxic make-people-crazy gas against them to bring to light their secret, sinister nature or something. Pretty much everyone in the place has been sucking up zombie fumes. Most of 'em are dead, and the rest are rampaging their way up the stairs to those precious few survivors left on the higher floors. You've got your usual gaggle of plucky survivor types. There's the ostensibly foxy asskicker (Alicia Leigh Willis), the septuagenarian scientist with a secret (Jerry Leggio), the douchey hornball who's constantly futzing with his bedhead hair (Alexander Mendeluk), the recently divorced reluctant hero (Jason London) who just wants to ::sniffles!:: rescue his daughter, and a couple people you won't give a shit about.

What to do? They can't go down 'cause the lower levels are blanketed in zombie gas and teeming with the infected. They can't go up 'cause the terroristpatriot rigged it to blow. If, by some chance, they manage to escape, the feds (led by Agent Judd Nelson) will mow 'em down. If they stay put, the zombies will plow their way through the not-really-a-barricade or that other ticking clock will finish winding down. I know! Screwed no matter what. It's almost as if this is some kind of terror experiment or something.

Geez, there's just...nothing working here. The dialogue's tin-eared. The acting ranges from community theater clumsiness to shamelessly phoning it in. The cinematography and direction are aggressively bland. I don't know where its $5 million budget went seeing as how the production values make The Terror Experiment look more like a Lifetime Original Movie. A lot of the violence is obscured or offscreen, so this isn't so much a horror flick for the gorehound crowd. There are some yanked-out intestines and headshots and stuff, but I guess because of the budget, a lot of it's aftermath-y...you see bloody corpses scattered all over the ground but don't get a good look at how they got that way. In a failed attempt to try to ratchet up the tension, The Terror Experiment leans way too heavily on choppy, hypercaffeinated quick cutting, so you can't really
I'm a sweet genius -- are you?!
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see the zombies. That's probably okay since the undead -- or infected, whatever you want to call them -- aren't particularly menacing or unnerving in the first place. There's not a single worthwhile scare lurking anywhere around here. No tension. No suspense. No...nothing. C. Thomas Howell, Judd Nelson, and Lochlyn Munro have it the worst since at least everyone else is in a zombie movie, and instead they're just standing around outside where absolutely nothing is going on.

As a horror flick, The Terror Experiment is a complete misfire, separating itself from the rest of the underfunded direct-to-video zombie pack only by the fact that there are a few sorta-recognizable names on the cover. At least it's sloppy enough to get a few laughs. Well, and some cringes too, seeing as how The Terror Experiment kind of glorifies the fact that a terrorist is responsible for the brutal murder of however many hundreds of people, and he ultimately is proven correct. This is also a movie where Jason London's character slaps a little electrical tape over a door latch to keep it from locking, and then boasts later that nothing's getting through that lock...as the door is already wobbling and buckling under the weight of pounding zombies. The feds sneer about how masterful they are at covering up their secrets, saying something like "Ever heard of Area 51? We've been keeping that a closely guarded secret since the '60s." Uh... Jason London says that they don't need to worry about the building collapsing because the threat level is only yellow. First of all, it's not really a threat level anymore when a fucking bomb has just gone off. Like, you've graduated way past "threat" by that point. Also, you can't communicate with the outside world! Who's doing structural integrity studies or something in the 45 seconds since the bomb went kaboom? Who would've had time to rate it yellow in the first place? Dumb, dumb, dumb.

Ugh. But anyway, The Terror Experiment kind of wants to be Die Hard with zombies, and instead it's...well, not. I couldn't have made my way through more than six minutes of this if I were watching it for free on SyFy (and dollars to doughnuts you'll be able to do that before too much longer). "Free" is asking too much already; you really, really don't want to shell out any money for something this bad. Skip It.

Like pretty much every other low-budget horror flick coming down the pike these days, The Terror Experiment was shot with the RED One, and it shows. The same as a lot of RED shoots, the photography is reasonably crisp and detailed but has that unmistakeable tinge of softness to it, dragged down further by weak black levels and flat contrast. The authoring of this Blu-ray disc doesn't help much, with heavy posterization under lower light as well as some occasional banding. Backgrounds in general often look noisy and unstable. The Terror Experiment looks okay, but the mediocre authoring coupled with the chintzy cinematography leave it looking less like a shiny, new Blu-ray disc and more like something I'd catch on one of the high-def channels on cable.

The Terror Experiment is served up on a single-layer platter, unmatted and encoded with AVC.

Oops! Even though the packaging and menus list a TrueHD soundtrack, The Terror Experiment is actually just saddled with lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 audio (640kbps) instead. For whatever it's worth, it's kinda doubtful the mistakenly advertised lossless treatment would've contributed all that much anyway. First off, The Terror Experiment is one of those movies that's clearly mixed
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with stereo primarily in mind. The surrounds rarely amount to much more than an afterthought, reserved almost exclusively to reinforce the Casio-centric score and not a whole lot else. Even in the sequences where people are frantically running around and getting mauled by zombies, the rear channels are dead silent. Bass response is borderline-non-existent outside of the score, not even interested in belting out a low-frequency belch for any of its several gigantic explosions. The recording of the dialogue is all over the place, frequently sounding flat, and more loudly shouted lines are marred by clipping. From sprays of gunfire to frenzied zombie attacks, the action is consistently limp and lifeless throughout. The score does come through pretty well, but everything else in the mix ranges from poor to barely mediocre.

No dubs this time around. Subtitles are limited to English and Spanish.

  • Audio Commentary: Director George Mendeluk chimes in with a commentary track, and...I don't know, maybe it would've been a little more listenable if someone else had hopped in front of the mic with him. Instead, Mendeluk spends an awful lot of time simply narrating what's happening on-screen, and you could pretty easily turn his insistence on spelling out his cast's filmographies into a drinking game if you hate your liver. There are a few highlights scattered around in here: shooting on opposite-ish coasts in both Portland and Lafayette, turning to splitscreen to cover up a still-breathing corpse, drawing inspiration from the work of Joseph Campbell, and reshuffling the title of Experiment in Terror around for his own movie. All the best stuff really could've been covered in a five or ten minute interview, though, and a feature length commentary is kind of a waste.

...and that's it. Nothin' but commentary. Strangely, there's a credit for an EPK producer at the end of the movie, but whatever making-of featurette that guy slapped together is nowhere to be found on this Blu-ray disc.

The Final Word
Nope. Skip It.
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