April 27, 2011 at 3:05 am (9 Heads, TerrorVision) (, , , , )

TerrorVision – 1986 – United States

Charles Band (of Puppet Master fame) produced hundreds of weird flicks. My former favorite was Shrunken Heads (1994) where a girl romances a murderous floating head and Jodie Foster is a man—until TerrorVision happened. TerrorVision (not Charles Band’s crappy 2001 flick HorrorVision) is quintessential Charles Band. A confusing mixture of slimy gore, strange sex, and lame humor, that’s visually reminiscent of a kids’ movie. It’s quirky and transcendently hilarious.

TerrorVision’s sweet title sequence promises much. With stuttering video feedback and a shrill new wave song (“I dance by the light of the TV screen all night long. — I watch the medusa’s eyes turn green but my own reflection I’ve never seen.”), it’s bizarrely beautiful. Before you come to your senses, you get a full of dose of TerrorVision’s insane cast: kinky swinger parents, paramilitary grandpa, hyper son, and punky daughter (an extravagantly costumed Princess Joanna from Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure). As a crazy rich family, they live in a neon Art Deco house with pornographic comic illustrations framed on every wall. After their satellite dish is struck by space lighting, a monster pops out of the television and kills people by melting them into puke-like puddles and eating them. The adults all die and the kids befriend the monster in a perversion of Spielberg’s E.T. They scheme ways to get rich off him, which can only end in gory disaster. Eventually an alien warps in to capture the monster (who is apparently a mutant house pet) but dies in an amusing anticlimax. In a flick this extreme, there’s nowhere left to go aside from the monster flipping out and devouring everyone in a rampage of sloshing blood and puke.

Satirizing television appears to be TerrorVision’s aim, hinted when the kids explain TV to the monster: “This is TV. Next to food and music, this is mankind’s greatest invention.” Characterizing this is Medusa, a dirty-talking horror host with giant breasts. There are also some strange and incongruous Heineken product placements of ambiguous authenticity. TV is referenced in TerrorVision’s radical visual style as well. Vibrant video feedback is montaged with sci-fi clips (Robot Monster, Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, The Giant Claw), Mexican wrestling, and pornos, complimenting the typical Charles Band made-for-video look. But TerrorVision’s strongest element of parody is its cartoonish characters. The swinger parents ignore and overmedicate their kids. The daughter’s boyfriend is an air-guitaring metalhead remarkably similar to Ted (of Bill & Ted). And Grandpa’s bomb shelter full of automatic rifles, grenades, and plastic explosives becomes a key plot point.

Charles Band employs an unusual aesthetic in his flicks. Colorful lighting, whimsical music, and sets crammed with props give the impression of after school television, but contrasted with shocking violence and perversion. In lesser Charles Band movies, he lacks intention, but TerrorVision dials his style to eleven and it works marvelously, maintaining coherency even under heaps of ooze-covered rubber monsters and fake body parts, cute miniatures, and dime store digital effects.

Those familiar only with Charles Band’s Puppet Master would do well to check out TerrorVision, Shrunken Heads, and maybe Head of the Family if you haven’t been driven mad by then. As with any extremely prolific creator (i.e. Roger Corman), Charles Band mostly produces crap, but at least it’s crap that is unmistakably his.

Rating: 9/10 Shrunken Heads. I hated Charles Band after his flicks ran endlessly on Chicago’s Svengoolie. TerrorVision turned me around.


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