My Two Cents (UPDATE) - Criterion's December BD/DVD Slate Announced http://t.co/rnqszzpQu9
TerrorVision/Video Dead, The (Double Feature)
DirectorTed Nicolaou/Robert Scott
Release Date(s)1986/1987 (February 19, 2013)
Studio(s)MGM (Shout!/Scream Factory)
Like the Scream Factory titles Deadly Blessing, Prison and The Nest, TerrorVision and The Video Dead are both two very obscure 80’s horror titles that were stuck in VHS hell for decades until these folks came along, spiffed them up, gave them a few extras and put them out there for the masses. With more titles still on their slate yet to be released and any number of unnamed titles still to come, chances are likely that horror fans will be shelling out their money happily for a chance to get their hands on these titles. I’ll go on record right now though and say that I hadn’t seen these two particular titles before, although I was familiar with their VHS box art as a kid.
TerrorVision, like a lot of horror films from the 80’s, definitely won’t flip your lid with amazing special effects, acting or anything else. What it will do instead is entertain you, if you’re in the right frame of mind. It’s that special kind of movie that’s more fun and adventurous than it is horrific. I would equate it to something like Explorers, or maybe even The Gate. Without it meaning to be, it aims its sights squarely at kids (which is odd considering the tone of the movie and what the parents’ motivation in the movie is). It’s got that horror cliché of crazy things happening around a kid that no one believes, which started in the 1950’s. Here’s the rundown: swinger mother and father (played fantastically dopey by Gerrit Graham and Mary Woronov) get a new satellite dish, and in the process, pick up signals from alien worlds. When one of the aliens comes through the TV and starts eating the humans, it’s up to the little kid to try and stop it, luckily with the help of his Cyndi Lauper-wannabe big sister (Diane Franklin) and her death metal boyfriend (Jon Gries). Produced by Charles Band and directed by Ted Nicolaou (the Full Moon team that produced Subspecies), it’s a fun romp with plenty of cheese to make it charming.
Film Rating: B
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B-/C+/B
When watching The Video Dead, on the other hand, you can clearly see exactly why it fell into obscurity. Definitely the weaker of the two movies in the set, it’s on par with Galaxy Invader as being one of the funniest bad movies out there. Both the dialogue and the acting are terrible, but funny at the same time. It goes without saying that I spent quite a bit of time laughing at this movie. Directed by Robert Scott (who’s known mostly for being an assistant director on various TV shows), the movie is about an otherworldly TV that plays the same zombie movie over and over again, and eventually, the zombies come out of the TV and attack, like zombies usually do. It’s up to two teenagers (whose mother and father are out of town), along with a strange man who’s dealt with these TV zombies before, to stop them. The movie almost passes as a garage band attempt at a zombie movie, but the difference here is that it doesn’t look that way. It’s been professionally filmed and seems to have had some kind of budget because the zombies actually look pretty decent, but everything else is awful. It’s a good framework, although it reminded me a lot of the infamously bad Things because of the way shots were framed or footage was edited together. Like TerrorVision, if you’re in the mood for something that’s so bad that it’s good, then The Video Dead is for you.
Film Rating: C
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/D+/B+
One thing’s for sure here. If the only way anyone has ever seen TerrorVision or The Video Dead has been on VHS, then this Blu-ray release is already a step up from that. As far as the transfer for TerrorVision is concerned, well, it’s a mediocre presentation. There seems to be a good deal of image detail, but everything else is lagging. There’s the lightest amount of film grain on the image, colors don’t pop quite as well as they could, blacks aren’t very deep and skin tones are very warm-looking. So the image detail as well as a stable and clean picture is really where this transfer’s strengths lie. On The Video Dead, the picture is marginally better but of the same ilk. There’s quite a bit of film grain, but it’s mostly even and isn’t noticeable all the time. Colors pop a bit better, skin tones aren’t as warm and blacks are a bit deeper. It also has a stable image but to my eyes it seems to be a bit filthier by comparison, but mostly just your normal film scratches and dirt. So both presentations won’t be of stellar quality, but serviceable enough to not warrant massive complaining from videophiles. These are low budget films, after all.
For both films, you get two audio options: DTS-HD 5.1 and 2.0. On TerrorVision, the 5.1 track is very high energy. There’s a lot of ampage to it, but not too much low end activity. It’s mostly a hard rock soundtrack and the music comes bursting through. Sound effects, especially those involving the monster, sound pretty good too. The only problem is that it’s a front-heavy soundtrack. You won’t find much envelopment but everything comes through loud and clear, especially the dialogue. On The Video Dead, you’ll find less reason to use your surround setup. The 5.1 is almost non-existent except for the front speakers. There are some ambient moments in the scenes in the woods, but nothing that really leaps out at you. Dialogue doesn’t sound too good either, but the sound effects do get a bit of a boost. As per usual, I recommend the 2.0 track over the 5.1, for both films. It’s how they were originally meant to be heard and the 5.1 tracks don’t do much anyway. There are also subtitles in English for those who might need them.
In the supplemental department (and on both Blu-ray and DVD), you have the option of selecting either film and each of the film’s set of extras will be found in each film’s own separate menu. For TerrorVision, you’ll find an audio commentary with writer/director Ted Nicolaou and actors Diane Franklin and Jon Gries, the Monster on Demand: The Making of TerrorVision documentary and a poster and still gallery. For The Video Dead, you’ll find two audio commentaries: one with writer/producer/director Robert Scott, editor Bob Sarles and special make-up effects creator Dale Hall Jr., and the other with stars Roxanna Augesen and Rocky Duvall, production manager Jacques Thelemaque and make-up assistant Patrick Denver. There’s also the Pre-Recordead interview segment, outtakes, a behind-the-scenes still gallery, a poster and still gallery and the film’s theatrical trailer. The DVD is mostly identical, except for a couple of small instances. It features audio in Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 and the original screenplay for The Video Dead in PDF format. Oddly enough it doesn’t contain the outtakes found on the Blu-ray from that film.
I’m just happy that these titles are resurfacing and being given a second chance. It’s much better than a lot of the Direct-to-DVD crap coming out these days, and comes from a time when filmmakers didn’t have much to work with in order to get something made and get it out there. So in my estimation, TerrorVision and The Video Dead are a perfect duo for a double feature presentation at your next Halloween movie party. Very much recommended.
- Tim Salmons