With a name like ‘TerrorVision,’ you expect a movie with disturbing visuals full of horror and fright; for your senses to be racked with fear; for a good ol’ horror movie. If you throw ’80s clichés, some pop-culture references, and spoof off of a few 1950s era sci-fi B-flicks and ‘E.T.,’ you get this instead.
On the distant planet Pluton, an alien is doing his job as a sanitation department mutant creature disposal unit employee, or better known as an intergalactic garbage man. He transforms a grotesque creature into energy, then beams it into outer space, pinballing off of planets until it hones in on a signal from Earth.
This is where we are introduced to the screwed up Putterman family. With the clueless dad, Stanley, played by actor Gerrit Graham, and the workout queen mother, Raquel, played by veteran ’80s B-movie actress Mary Woronov, it quickly becomes obvious that there is no hope for the kids. Headliner Diane Franklin played over the top, neon makeup loving, eighties teenage daughter, Suzy, and child actor Chad Allen was her camouflage wearing, militant younger brother Sherman. Just to mix it up a little there is a gun-toting, paranoid veteran Grampa, character actor Bert Remsen, who is touting the wares of eating lizard tail jerky because the tails grow back. On a side note, I do want to bring attention to the ridiculous eighties themed sex art that can be found throughout the house, but when your parents are swingers, I guess anything goes.
Stanley has bought a new satellite dish, the Do It Yourself 100. As he struggles to install it, the energy beam from Pluton enters Earth’s atmosphere and heads directly for the Putterman’s satellite. As electricity arcs from the television set, the family is oblivious to the fact that an alien is in their tv. Soon after, as they surf the channels, an ominous eye set inside the monster from the beginning peers out at them. Believing it to be a bad horror movie (oh, the irony), no one suspects that the monster is real and will be able to travel through the televisions, allowing it access to the entire house. The parents continue with their plans as swingers to go meet a couple, leaving Sherman with Grandpa while Suzy has a date with her new punk rock degenerate boyfriend, O.D. (Jon Gries).
Grandpa and Sherman fall asleep in front of the television, and the monster beams itself out into the living room. Sherman sees it and tries to warn his Grandpa, but it’s too late. It turns out that the monster has a voracious appetite, and humans are pretty tasty, even cheesy satellite repair guys wearing polyester pants pulled up above their navel.
When Sherman’s parents come home with a couple, he tries to tell them about the monster and is threatened with pills and shuffled off to bed. Here is where you see that the monster can put its victim’s heads on its tongue and speak with their voices, thereby tricking the family. An alien, Pluthar, the monster’s owner, keeps showing up on the TV, pleading with the Earth people to take heed, that a dangerous creature is on their planet. This is also perceived to be another cheesy horror movie and dismissed. The Putterman’s bedroom, which they have nicknamed the “Pleasure Dome”, has a gigantic Jacuzzi and, of course, another television set. Soon enough the two couples become snacks for the insatiable monster.
In an odd throwback to the movie ‘E.T.,’ Suzy and O.D. try to teach the monster to speak and decide to call the local late night horror movie Elvira knockoff, Medusa (Jennifer Richards), and invite her to come and see it in the hopes that she will put it on television and they will become millionaires. The plan backfires and the monster goes on another killing spree.
From the moment the theme song came on, performed by the L.A. band The Fibonaccis, during which I wanted to claw my own ears off, I was more in an ’80s-induced shock than I was entertained. And that’s saying a lot because I am an ’80s music fan. The level of overacting in this movie leaves me hoping that it was done on purpose. Scenes with the monster are painful at times, due to the creature’s restricted movements and overall general cheap feel to the effects.
Satellite dishes in the ’80s were definitely the large, backyard fixtures that you see in the film, but I have never heard reports of them pulling in signals from extraterrestrials. On the other hand, Suzy’s crazy look is, unfortunately, a too real item from the 1980s. The premise of the film was unique, but the low budget and attempts to make it similar to a 1950s-era B-flick didn’t work. The extremism of the ’80s didn’t mesh well with the muted and simple vestiges of an earlier era. The dialogue was terrible for the most part, and what might have been salvageable was shredded by the overacting.
Director and writer Ted Nicolaou had a specific vision in mind, I am guessing, but it just didn’t translate well to the screen. Albert and Charles Band, a father and son team who formed their own production company, Empire Pictures, and had been associated with such horror films as ‘Puppet Master,’ ‘Re-Animator,’ ‘Troll,’ and ‘Ghoulies,’ also produced ‘TerrorVision.’ This film, sadly, is simply not of the same caliber as some of the previous mentioned. The actors did a pretty good job with what they were given, but the whole thing came together as one big mess of a film.
I can’t tell you to go get this one. Not to pay to see it, anyway. It is streaming on Netflix, and if you have nothing else to do on a weeknight, you can give it a shot. If you’re not a horror buff, I don’t think this one is for you.