Terror (1978)

JULY 4, 2010


Had I realized Norman J. Warren was the director of Terror, I would have watched it sooner, having been smitten with his work after Alien Prey and Inseminoid. And while it’s not as genuinely good as Prey or batshit crazy as Inseminoid, Terror is still another win for the man, and further cements my belief that the Gorehouse Greats set is the best DVD purchase I’ve made in years (it also has Warren’s pretty good Satan’s Slave and the awesome Blood Of Dracula’s Castle).

This one’s sort of like a British Suspiria, with a bunch of crazy murder scenes and not a lot of coherency. In fact, I even rewatched a good chunk of the movie due to not taking notes when I watched it the first time (this review is posting 4 days later), and I still hadn’t the slightest clue as to why the spirit was killing these folks. It’s introduced as a curse on a particular family, but either I am misreading their genealogy or the ghost simply got bored with that and started killing folks at random.

But who cares? You get a cop being run over multiple times, an Exorcist-esque tumble out a window that results in an impaling, a beheading or two, and a final kill in which our last remaining character of note (the would be “final girl”) is impaled after being flung across a room. Then the movie just ends without any sort of final reveal or explanation. In fact the last reel of the film doesn’t have any dialogue at all, if memory serves.

As with most of Warren’s films, the pace could be improved, particularly in the first big kill scene, which goes on for about ten minutes. In a climax it would be OK, but as this is a horror movie and she’s a thankless character going off into the woods by herself - we know she’s dead. No need to drag it out (especially in a film this baffling - this is time that could be spent explaining what the fuck is going on). There are also a number of endless scenes involving the filming of a sex comedy (the main character is a producer), which just pad/waste time, especially as there is surprisingly little nudity in the film.

On the plus side, it seems to be intentionally funny at times, which is unique to this film out of the four from Warren I have seen. I particularly liked early on when a guy gets blown off, so he says “What should I do, kill myself?” and everyone in earshot says “Yes”, but not in unison, which makes it funnier. And even though they kill the pace, the snafus when trying to film the movie are pretty amusing, like the guy who doesn’t understand that his line is supposed to be a double entendre.

There was also a bit of irony in one scene, when an actress bemoans that she should be trying out for MGM movies. Movie nerds of course know that MGM is currently falling apart at the seams, delaying The Hobbit (which cost them Guillermo Del Toro) and putting the next Bond film on hold indefinitely (costing them Sam Mendes and possibly Daniel Craig). It also means that the release of such films as Cabin In The Woods and the Red Dawn remake may be a long way off, similar to when Orion went bankrupt and managed to dump films into theaters 2-3 years after their initial release dates. But the comment in Terror reminded me that at one time, MGM was sort of THE big studio, the one the others were afraid of. A shame, really. I blame Windtalkers.

Back on point, I think if you like Argento’s stuff you might enjoy this British take on his style, even if it’s closer to ripoff than homage (he even brings out the crazy primary colors during the kill scenes). And it continues my appreciation of Warren, who apparently made all of his career choices based on what was successful the year before, but yet brought something unique to each one (in this case, the intentional humor). By the end of HMAD I hope I can say I’ve seen all of his films. And the ones they’re ripping off.

What say you?

P.S. The transfer on the Gorehouse Greats set is anamorphic and looks pretty good for something that cost me like 70 cents. Mill Creek has come a long way from the universally awful looking Chilling Classics set!

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