TerrorVision/The Video Dead Ted Nicolaou & Robert Scott

TerrorVision/The Video Dead Ted Nicolaou & Robert Scott
6
Even though The Video Dead Blu-Ray comes with two separate commentary tracks and an interview with the make-up effects creator, there's really nothing about it that appeals, even in a nostalgic sense. Sure, the discomfortingly amateur composition of every single shot and scene has a backyard camcorder vibe that's mildly amusing. And even the narrative, which basically follows a travelling television infected with zombies — T.V. rots your brains, folks — from town to town, where death by washing machine and strangulation rid the world of passive spectators, is amusing in concept. But the lethargic pacing and earnestness of it all make it difficult to outright mock. It's more pitiable than ripe for derisive slams, especially when accompanied by an enthusiastic commentary track about how pleased everyone was with their work. Fortunately, this bit of '80s badness is paired with the far more stylized and clever TerrorVision, which in its own self-conscious, camp comedy way was far too ahead of its time, slyly criticizing its cultural climate while respecting the audience enough to let them in on the joke via tongue-in-cheek, self-deprecating jabs. Utilizing a hyper-realized '50s nuclear family structure, with full pre-Far From Heaven fake smiles and melodramatic scenarios, the almost cartoonish sets are distorted with vaguely (and sometimes overtly) sexual artwork and designs, while the modernist costuming gives off an eerie B-52's vibe. The parents (Mary Woronov and Garret Graham) are swingers that show little interest in their Cyndi Lauper-wannabe teen daughter (Diane Franklin) and Rambo-inspired son (Chad Allen), which works well with the admonitory advent of satellite television. The threat is that of projected space rays into a distorted variation on the nuclear home, made extremely literal when a giant slimy monster enters their house and starts eating everyone. Jokes about neurotic actors and mistaken sexual orientation demonstrate director Ted Nicolaou's respect for an educated audience, just as the garish presentation deliberately eschews reality to remind the viewer to assess what they're watching — E.T. jokes and all — rather than taking it at face value. Unfortunately, as pointed out in the extended, rather compelling "Making of" included with the Blu-Ray, this movie was buried when it came out and was globally panned by critics. Weirdly, if it came out today, there would be a larger pool of people that would understand and appreciate the joke. (Shout! Factory)