Cult Movie Retrospective: TerrorVision

The debut feature from former Empire Picture editor Ted Nicolaou is also his only theatrically-released film — an insane monster movie that’s tacky and obnoxious, riffing on television and ’80s culture.

It’s a typical evening in the life of the Putterman family. Dad Stan (Gerrit Graham) is struggling to install his new state-of-the-art “Do It Yourself 100” satellite dish. Mom Raquel (Mary Woronov) is working out and whining about the television reception. Daughter Suzy (Diane Franklin) is preparing for an evening out with her new boyfriend, lame-brained metalhead O.D. (Jon Gries). Son Sherman (Chad Allen) is enjoying a marathon of vintage horror movies presented by his favorite hostess Medusa (Jennifer Richards). Then there’s lovable Grampa (Bert Remsen) ranting and raving about international conspiracies and the “intellectual decay” of television while sporting combat fatigues and heavy artillery in his fortified bomb shelter. Meanwhile Mom and Dad are heading out for a night of swinging while young Sherman is left in the care of Grampa. Yes it’s a typical evening in the life of this all-American nuclear family.

Meanwhile, a civilization on a distant planet has found a way to solve its garbage problem: turning it into energy and beaming it into outer space. A flaw in this system is found when the signal is accidentally picked up on Earth by the Putterman Family’s home satellite dish. While this would ordinarily be just another mess, this particular transmission contains a hungry trash monster who quickly begins snacking on the Puttermans and their guests. Only young Sherman Putterman has any clue what is going on, but nobody will believe him. Is there any hope for the Earth?

If Videodrome and Critters had a baby but decided to abort it, the fetus would probably look a lot like TerrorVision. It takes the gooey, body horror sensibilities of the former and the latter’s tongue-in-cheek monster movie slant of the latter and practically nukes them in a microwave. Now, this may sound like a bad thing… but not really.

Make no bones about it, Terrorvision falls firmly into the horror-comedy category with the emphasis heavily on the latter. Unlike many B-Movies, it’s self-aware and every one of the frequent laugh out loud moments is intentional and earned. The cast are solid and Nicolaou’s direction is quirky and interesting in depicting the seediness and suburban weirdness of the family – slightly reminiscent of Tim Burton’s work, back in those long gone days when Burton still made films with original ideas in them. These elements would be enough to give the film a recommendation, but the absolute clincher for monster kids everywhere should be the creature itself. It looks truly fantastic and is full of personality with a face that’s pug-like in its ugly/cuteness. It has to be seen to be believed

TerrorVision was given a limited release theatrically in the United States by Empire Pictures in February 1986. It grossed $320,256 at the box office. In 2007, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer released a widescreen version of the film on Showtime. In 2012, Shout Factory announced that they would be releasing the film on DVD and Blu-ray as part of their Scream Factory lineup. A DVD/Blu-ray double feature of TerrorVision/The Video Dead was released in February 2013.

TerrorVision is in no way perfect, but it’s entertainment in its purest form. If you’re looking for scares, you won’t find them here. But if you’re looking for a silly and amusing piece of cinematic camp, you won’t find a movie much better than this.

Share your TerrorVision thoughts in the comment section below.

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