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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
by Garon Cockrell
31 Days of Scream-O-Ween! - TerrorVision / Video Dead Double Feature
email print
Oct. 8, 2013 5:20 p.m.

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 clichés 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!




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Check out yesterday's Scream Factory review Phantasm 2!








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