Mary Woronov

TerrorVision (1986, Ted Nicolaou)

TerrorVision is a masterpiece of pragmatism. Writer-director Nicolaou works the low budget to the film’s advantage–whether it’s the fifties sitcom nuclear family only with Mom and Dad swinging or how the monster from outer space is cute, even though it’s a disgusting space mutant, with the cuteness makes up for the limited special effects. Or the sound stage “exterior” backyard scenes, which just adds to the sitcom feel. But Nicolaou keeps it in line–TerrorVision never looks cheap, it just looks absurd. If things get too silly on screen, Nicolauo and editor Thomas Meshelski bring in some almost comically gross and ominous space monster noises.

The performances take a similiar, exagerrated approach. The first act quickly introduces the family–Gerrit Graham is the TV-obsessed dad, Mary Woronov is the fitness freak mom, Bert Remsen is the annoying, paranoid grandfather, Chad Allen is the all-American kid, Diane Franklin is the punk rock daughter. Graham’s gesticulation is hilarious. Woronov works great with the other actors. Remsen is fine. He’s all much, but he’s fine. Allen’s a decent kid lead. Franklin’s fine.

All the performances are fine. Whether or not they’re good is immaterial; when Allen’s solid in his scenes with an M–16 pointed at a giant slimy space monster, the importance is the effectiveness. TerrorVision very clearly delineates its limitations in the first act–being effective, within the budget, is more important than being ambitious.

Jon Gries is fun as Franklin’s metalhead boyfriend (with a lot of Ted Logan’s intonations and catchphrases). Jennifer Richards riffs well on the Vampira/Elvira monster movie host. Both Graham and Woronov are good, especially after they work up some rapport. Remsen’s nowhere near as funny as he needs to be as the survivalist gun nut.

The leads–Franklin and Allen–are uneven, both in script and performance. Franklin’s fine but not fun. Gries’s character gets all the personality, Franklin’s functional; she’s around to get him in the door. Literally. She brings him back to her house after the monster has been unleashed. But Nicolaou doesn’t write Franklin any personality outside the caricature (with one exception). It’s similar but different for Allen. He never gets to reflect on the events going on around, which turns out to be a smart scripting move. It lets Nicolauo use avoidance to ratchet up the absurdity.

Nicolauo aims for a fun spoof of a spoof and delivers. It’s silly, it’s gross, it’s fun. Maybe the strangest thing is how good William Paulson’s alien makeup is compared to the rest of the effects; in the midst of goofy alien gore, the mask for Paulson’s alien cop looks phenomenal.

It’s another one of TerrorVision’s many, often pleasant surprises. Nicolauo knows the film’s limits and he does a lot within the constraints.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Written and directed by Ted Nicolaou; director of photography, Romano Albani; edited by Thomas Meshelski; music by Richard Band; production designer, Giovanni Natalucci; produced by Albert Band; released by Empire Pictures.

Starring Chad Allen (Sherman), Diane Franklin (Suzy), Gerrit Graham (Stan), Mary Woronov (Raquel), Bert Remsen (Grampa), Jon Gries (O.D.), William Paulson (Pluthar), Sonny Carl Davis (Norton), Alejandro Rey (Spiro), Randi Brooks (Cherry), and Jennifer Richards (Medusa).


Silent Night, Bloody Night (1972, Theodore Gershuny)

Silent Night, Bloody Night is notable for three things. First, but sadly not foremost, is Adam Giffard’s daytime photography. Not much of the film takes place during the day, but when it does, Giffard makes it look fantastic. Even though he’s shooting questionable settings… which contributes to the second notable item.

Director Gershuny is not asking his audience for the willful suspension of disbelief. He’s asking the viewer to be pretend dumb things are not dumb. For example, those nicely shot daytime scenes? Patrick O’Neal is walking around, telling his dimwit Swedish squeeze (Astrid Heeren), about the beautiful town. It’s a dump. They’re parked next to a wrecking yard. It’s a dump.

But Gershuny also asks the viewer to ignore the stupidity of the script. The whole film–which is basically Eight Little Indians (I did count characters, but had guessed eight before I counted)–centers around this horrifying incident in the past. Except the incident is really outrageous and nonsensical as to how it plays into future events.

Finally, the film was dubbed–apparently entirely–in post-production. Tom Kennedy’s editing is bad enough, but he and Gershuny did a terrible job cutting in the audio. Especially when it sounds like O’Neal is in an echo chamber.

As for the acting, Mary Woronov is easily best. She’s not very good, but she’s all right. Fran Stevens and Walter Klavun–oh, and Heeren–they’re all awful. James Patterson isn’t bad in one of the sillier roles.

It’s a bad Night.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Theodore Gershuny; screenplay by Gershuny, Jeffrey Konvitz and Ira Teller, based on a story by Konvitz and Teller; director of photography, Adam Giffard; edited by Tom Kennedy; music by Gershon Kingsley; produced by Ami Artzi and Konvitz; released by Cannon Releasing Corp.

Starring Patrick O’Neal (John Carter), James Patterson (Jeffrey Butler), Mary Woronov (Diane Adams), Astrid Heeren (Ingrid), Fran Stevens (Tess Howard), Walter Klavun (Sheriff Bill Mason), John Carradine (Charlie Towman) and Walter Abel (Mayor Adams).


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