Not that long ago the video store was a mundane and sometimes obnoxious part of life; driving over to some lonesome strip mall with your friends or family to comb through the all-too-often disorganized shelves of your local shop, argue over a selection, and then be stuck with it, for good or ill. Yet, it was also sublime. And for those who lived during the true video boom, video stores also equate to another bygone commodity: VHS. When JVC’s Video Home System won the early-80’s format war, the motion picture market changed forever. The genre and B-movies that had previously filled drive-ins across the country now often went straight to VHS. Then DVD took the world by storm in the late-90’s. It was a brave new world, and sadly, many films never made the leap, trapped now on a dead format. These often aren’t “good” films, but goddammit, they were what made video stores great. For we here at CHUD are the kind of people who tended to skip over the main stream titles, our eyes settling on some bizarre, tantalizing cover for a film we’d never even heard of, entranced. These films are what VHS was all about. Some people are still keeping the VHS flame burning. People like me, whose Facebook page Collecting VHS is a showcase for the lost charms of VHS box artwork. With this column it is my intention to highlight these “lost” films and the only rule I have for myself is that they cannot be available on DVD.
Title: Terror Vision
Genre: Slimy monster movie
Tagline: People of earth your planet is about to be destroyed… we’re terribly sorry for the inconvenience.
Released by: Lightning Video
Director: Ted Nicolaou
Plot: The planet Pluton has figured out a unique way to handle its sanitation problems by converting its garbage into cosmic energy and beaming it out into space. But the Plutonians didn’t count on one of their signals being transmitted to Earth and picked up on the Putterman family’s brand new, hi-tech satellite dish. At first they think they just have great reception, but soon little Sherman Putterman is the only one to realize that a slobbering, insatiably hungry trash monster has been leaping out of the television and consuming his parents and their swinger house guests. Can anything stop it? Don’t touch that dial!
Thoughts: Did you ever wonder what E.T. would be like if instead of a cute, Reese’s pieces addicted alien we got a flesh eating monster in its place? Look no further, because Terror Vision is what you’ve been dreaming about. This is pure B-movie bliss. I discovered it a few years ago when I saw a 35mm print at a midnight show in L.A. and fell head over heels in love with it’s campy 80’s awesomeness. It’s a horror-comedy that features an incredibly talented cast of comic actors and is as intentionally humorous as it is gross. In short, it’s a shit-load of fun.
The film takes place in a meta 80’s universe where the sanitation department from an alien world transports its junk into outer space via energy beam, which unfortunately lands smack dab in the middle of the Putterman’s new satellite dish. The Puttermans are a suburban family that lives in one of the most amazingly decorated homes I’ve ever seen before. They are comprised of the patriarch and matriarch: Stanley and Raquel, who are both played brilliantly by the hilarious Gerrit Graham (Used Cars, National Lampoon’s Class Reunion) and cult-queen Mary Woronov (Death Race 2000, Rock ‘n’ Roll High School). They both deliver wildly cartoonish performances as the parents who like to “swing.” Eighties teen-goddess Dianne Franklin (Last American Virgin, Better Off Dead) plays their new waver daughter Suzy Putterman and she’s barely recognizable in her Cyndi Lauper meets Madonna look. The always great Jon Gries (Joysticks, Napoleon Dynamite) is her metal-head boyfriend O.D. and child actor Chad Allen is her younger brother Sherman, who’s the only character in the movie that has any idea what’s really going on because he watched the monster dissolve his grandfather into green ooze and slurp him up like a milkshake before his stunned little boy eyes.
The nameless monster looks like a slime-soaked mutant Mr. Potato Head and is more on the goofy side than the scary one. The prosthetic effects are not on the level of John Carpenter’s The Thing, but they don’t aspire to be either. The creature turns out to be a discarded “pet” from the planet Pluton that are considered highly unstable because they’ll eat anything. The oozing alien beast starts snacking on the family and houseguests by popping out of the television set and absorbing them with a petroleum jelly shellacked monster-tongue and a pincer-claw! The effects are a gloriously gooey example of low budget eighties handcrafted magic. The monster is disgusting yet somewhat lovable and scores a lot of points with me when we discover that he’s into metal.
Another character that’s dropped into the mix is an Elvira inspired all-night T.V. horrorthon host named Medusa (Jennifer Richards) who ends up getting involved in all the shenanigans when Sherman calls her during the live taping of her show and convinces her to drop by the house. The actress who plays her is really funny and definitely gives Cassandra Peterson a run for her money in the bosom department. Holy Toledo!
There’s a bizarre and slightly inappropriate moment when the kids walk into their parents bedroom only to discover a creepy Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice meets The Thing scenario with their folks and two “house guests,” in which the “hungry beast” has already consumed them and is making their detached heads appear above the sheets. The whole “swinging” mom and dad thing adds an extra special weird factor to this movie that gives it that eighties era edge I love and miss. Director Ted Nicolaou delivers a nice style that reminded me of early Tim Burton and Joe Dante and I can never see a child fire an automatic machine gun enough. Take that, Spielberg!
This movie is an amazing amount of fun that deserves the digital transfer treatment bad. It’s a 50’s inspired 80’s space monster camp classic and I absolutely adore the living shit out if it! From its opening credits new wave theme song to its abrupt and shocking ending fitting of the era, I worship every frame of this puss-dripping gem.