TerrorVision (1986)

*. There seems to be a generational effect when it comes to nostalgia, relating to the amount of time it takes for something that was once cool and then passed out of fashion to come back again and be seen as camp, kitsch, cool, or even in a few exceptional cases classic. In the 2010s the 1980s enjoyed such a rediscovery.
*. Even in the 1980s, however, there was a sense of self-awareness about just how ridiculous the 1980s were. TerrorVision is evidence. If you were looking to send up that decade you could do a lot worse than just cutting and pasting this mess.
*. TerrorVision was an Empire International release, and qualifies as one of their less restrained efforts, which tells you something. Charles Band’s company was behind a lot of the sillier horror-comedies from this period, including titles like Re-Animator, From Beyond, and Ghoulies. TerrorVision, however, really goes off the rails.
*. It’s less well known than those other movies I mentioned, and I think for good reason. It begins with a monster being put into a garbage disposal unit on the planet Pluton, from which it’s accidentally beamed to a satellite receiver on Earth. The monster then proceeds to egress from television screens, leading to a lot of cheesy chaos.
*. If you thought scary things coming out of your TV set got started with Ringu then you didn’t live through the ’80s, which gave us this movie as well as Poltergeist, Videodrome, and Shocker. Where the idea first began I’m not sure, but I’d be willing to bet sometime in the 1950s. It was in the ’80s however, with the advent of VHS and satellite receivers, that people really started getting anxious about what was coming into their homes.

*. TerrorVision could have been, if not good, at least a lot better. There’s the family of stereotypes: a little boy who no one believes has seen a monster (while his parents just want to put him back on his meds), a New Wave daughter dating a metalhead boyfriend, a crazy grandpa, and swinger parents (with Mary Woronov reprising this role from Eating Raoul). And there’s a slimy dumpling of a monster that devours its victims by sort of melting them down into puddles of goo.
*. On the horror-comedy scale TerrorVision tilts heavily toward comedy, with most of the humour being very loud and broad. Today it’s hard to find anything funny in it at all. Indeed, it would be much funnier if they had played it straight. That’s part of the generational effect I mentioned.
*. But if TerrorVision tilts toward comedy it tilts even more toward incoherence. The thing about hysterical movies like this is that they have to maintain some sense of artistic control or else they just feel like they’re falling apart. TerrorVision feels like it’s falling apart. The main joke seems to be that TV is toxic garbage. It’s noteworthy that part of the architecture of Pluton includes a model of the U.S.S. Enterprise (which I noticed right away because I had that model hanging from my ceiling when I was a kid). The point being, I think, that Star Trek was just as much a piece of crap as the slimeball that Pluton beams to Earth. When the alien appears in a kind of PSA, begging us to turn off our TV sets or we’ll be devoured we understand the point he’s making. Look at what channel 69 did to the parents.
*. That is, however, a simple joke and it isn’t developed in an interesting way. In fact nothing about TerrorVision is interesting, or funny. When silliness is just silliness it starts to wear on us pretty quickly, and TerrorVision outstays its welcome by more than an hour. Even television in the ’80s wasn’t as bad as this. Honest!

4 thoughts on “TerrorVision (1986)

  1. Tom Moody

    Another consummately ’80s production actually made in the ’80s is Neon Maniacs. I confess I don’t understand this cyclical revivalism. Donnie Darko was made 18 years ago and looks just like an ’80s film (coming 12 years after the end of the ’80s may have given it a nostalgia bump at that time but now it feels like seamless continuity). Stranger Things mines the same vein but the distance from the source is so compressed you would never know that ET and The Thing (both referenced in the series) were considered diametrically opposed products in the “summer of ET” and that The Thing did comparatively poorly at the box office.

    1. Alex Good Post author

      Things do go around. I was just talking to a young fellow today who was telling me how the ’80s were the last decade when there was good music. But he wasn’t alive at the time.

      I’ve never heard of Neon Maniacs. Now I’ll have to check it out!

  2. Tom Moody

    I suppose now you could think kids riding around on bikes without parental supervision and communicating with walkie talkies happened in the ’80s when it was really just movies that were nostalgic for the’50s and ’60s.


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