We here at the ISCFC are experts in movies that borrow liberally from other, more famous movies, but even we, cynical as we are, were a little taken aback by just how many plot points this borrows from two famous entries in the same franchise.
In 1981, the great Roger Corman produced “Galaxy Of Terror” which is famous for two things – being the first movie to rip off “Alien”, and for being the first job in Hollywood for James Cameron, who’d go on to give us “Aliens”. Corman clearly felt he’d not gone far enough, so in 1990 he gave us a movie which heavily borrows from both “Alien” and “Aliens”, but sadly doesn’t feature anyone who’d go on to greater fame and fortune (unless your definition of either term is very generous).
It doesn’t borrow every bit of story from those two, though, as it starts off, on Earth, in a definitely post-apocalyptic situation, caused by a virus, or germ warfare (it’s never really made clear) that wipes out 99% of the population and turns some of the survivors into “gargoyles”, huge rubber-suited monstrosities. Our heroes work for the CDC, and are in a base deep underneath the Mojave Desert (and one of the most famous locations in movie history, the Vasquez Rocks in California, are featured prominently in a few scenes); they’re in occasional contact with another base, but other than that, humanity appears to be pretty much done for. Every now and again, a small team heads out to try and find survivors, or maybe a dead gargoyle to do experiments on; no idea how long it’s been since the apocalypse.
In charge of the base is Hal – George Kennedy, who must have owed someone a favour; Andrew Stevens (more famous these days as a producer) as his second-in-command David, and Star Andreeff as Sue, who’s having a secret-ish relationship with David. Andreeff is a beloved regular here at the ISCFC, having appeared in “The Vampire Journals”, “Scanner Cop” and “Ghoulies 2”; but so is the “obviously the Sigourney Weaver replacement”, actor, Terri Treas as Linda. We’ve enjoyed her work in “Deathstalker 3”, “House 4” and the TV version of “Alien Nation”, and it’s definitely the ladies that get all the interesting stuff to do, too.
They find a survivor out in the wilderness! But she’s pregnant! And the foetus is developing at an insanely fast rate! Before we get much time to even take this in, we’ve had a moment of pure “Alien”, where the creature pops out of the woman’s stomach and escapes, growing to 6’6” remarkably quickly. The effect is pretty good, honestly, even a little gross.
The monster just seems to be mad, not hungry (which is weird, given how quickly he grew). Even though we establish very quickly that normal weapons do basically no damage to the creature and it could just walk up to everyone and kill them, we get a whole movie of it skulking in air vents and killing almost everyone in the base slowly. Oh, it kidnaps Sue at one point, and there’s a whole discussion after her rescue about whether her pregnancy is thanks to David or the monster.
Like so many B-movies of the era, the budgetary restraints show everywhere, from the use of the same three locations for almost all the running time, to the rubber alien suit (shown way too much in the back half), to the relative lack of action. It’s not slow, particularly, it could have just been a bit more action-packed? It would have been nice to have more of a sense of their predicament, how long they’d been down there, stuff like that.
I almost forgot the best actor! That would be Butch, an American bulldog who – in the credits – shares a last name with Andrew Stevens (so I assume it’s his dog), and he’s obviously delighted to be hanging out with his best friend. But he knows what to do, and falls down when the monster “hits” him, lays there covered in bandages for most of act 2, that sort of thing. He’s a good boy!
There’s not a ton more to tell you about “The Terror Within”, honestly. It’s a ripoff of “Alien”, with a healthy amount of “Aliens” too, set in an underground base, with an okay cast and a low budget. There is a sequel, which Andrew Stevens also wrote and directed, so I’ll guess we’ll give that a go?
But before we leave, I regret to inform you that despite the low levels of originality on display here, “The Terror Within” is but a silver medallist to the all-time great ripoff movie, 1989’s “Shocking Dark” (aka Terminator 2)”. Don’t let that title fool you! Here’s how I summed up the plot of that one:
A group of marines is forced to take a non-soldier along on a mission – a woman with curly auburn hair. They encounter a creature which doesn’t kill them immediately, but takes them away and stores them in a gooey webbing, where they beg to be killed. They rescue a small girl who’s survived in the hostile environment for some time. The soldiers have radar trackers, and at one point they’re detecting signals from monsters who should be in the room with them, they’re so close. The corporation representative tries to trap the female and the kid in a room with the monster, and turns the camera off so no-one knows what he’s doing. While setting off the base’s self-destruct mechanism, the woman gives the girl a wristband that will allow her to be tracked, seconds before she falls down a long slide and out of sight.
So it’s not even the most unoriginal. Sorry movie! Unless you’re jaded and have seen all the other VHS tapes ever released, don’t make too much of an effort to get hold of a copy of this.
Rating: thumbs down