I imagine the sequel to “The Terror Within” was born thus. Star Andrew Stevens and producer Roger Corman are sat having lunch, discussing the boffo box office that their “Alien” rip-off did; Corman would naturally like a sequel. Stevens says yes, but only if he can direct; Corman agrees, but also wants him to write it. Stevens thinks about it for a second, and goes “can I just re-use the script from the first movie?” to which Corman laughs and goes “go ahead! It’s not like it was original in the first place!”
My wife asked me this morning what I thought of “The Terror Within 2”, to which I replied it was a cheaper, stupider cover version of part 1; although it felt a little strange even having an opinion about it, as the plot and setting are, essentially, the same, but we’ve got a few interesting things to talk about, plot holes to drive through and a few weak jokes to crack, so let’s begin.
Actually, before we begin, there’s a “huh?” credit, and that is the cinematographer, one Janusz Kaminski. He’s won two Oscars (“Saving Private Ryan” and “Schindler’s List”), been nominated a few more times, and also worked on “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”, “Jerry Maguire” and many many others. Of course, we here at the ISCFC remember him most fondly for his work on the Vanilla Ice vehicle “Cool As Ice”, but if you wondered why this otherwise bargain-basement movie looked way better than it had any right to, you have this guy to thank.
Okay! Dr David Pennington (Stevens) is travelling through the desert-y mountain-y region between the Mojave and the Rocky Mountains – at least, that’s what the movie claims – once again with his brave dog Butch by his side. Butch was our favourite in part 1 and he’s similarly excellent here, just happy to be walking along with his friend – there’s a nice scene where the actors stop but Butch carries on walking, clearly because his bowl of water is behind the camera and he’s thirsty. His female companion from part 1 is no longer with us but he soon picks up a new lady friend, Ariel (Claire Hoak) after happening upon her and her brother getting attacked by gargoyles. They’re in love and getting naked incredibly quickly, then what seems to be the next morning (but could be a month?) she announces she’s pregnant, that she “just knows”.
For those of you who saw the issues with gargoyles impregnating humans in the first movie, you may be wondering “surely they’re not going to go the same route?” to which the answer is…well, you can guess. Anyway, while they’re on their way to the Rocky Mountain CDC base, we see the people up there, trying to make a vaccine for the virus that killed so many people. There’s “That Guy” actors par excellence Chick Vennera, Burton Gilliam and Renee Jones, and Andrew Stevens’ mother Stella is there too. The great R Lee Ermey, presumably enjoying the opportunity to play a non-drill sergeant role, is in charge of the base.
It’s right around here where you can tell an inexperienced director is in charge. They just kept adding storylines! We have – David and Ariel walking through the wilderness; a finger chopped off a gargoyle still being alive, but no-one pays it the slightest attention as it grows and mutates and kills a mouse and eventually breaks out; Ariel getting raped by a gargoyle; one of the science ladies betraying everyone else; there’s a cave with a whole group of people surviving in it; and then there’s the inevitable battle against Ariel’s mutant baby, and the thing that the severed finger turned into. Oh, and the cave-people kill Butch, which does sort of trigger a John Wick-style response from David (spoiler because I know some people don’t like watching movies where dogs die).
If I don’t focus, this review could be as long as the movie. Let’s give you a few of the wilder plot holes, though. The cave-people seem pretty friendly, although they’re obviously not – they let David and Ariel sleep there, then offer to take David to pick some peyote (for the vaccine). While he’s gone, they take Ariel to another cave to be an offering to the local gargoyle, and the two people accompanying David try to kill him. Er, why not just kill him in his sleep and chain her up?
My favourite, though, and the thing that must have had Corman scratching his head when watching the finished product, is why David lets the same thing happen in this movie as happened in part 1. She gets pregnant from the gargoyle, her belly grows in hours, the last time this happened the baby killed everyone he knew, so…he’d be all for aborting that foetus or killing it as soon as it came out, right? Nope! He just sort of vaguely hopes it all works out, like neither he (the character) or he (the writer / director) had ever seen the first movie.
The monsters, when we see them, go so far beyond bad as to be laughable. I mean, they could have just borrowed the rubber suits from part 1, but no! They, instead, chose to just cover a normal guy in red goo, tape half a horn to his head and just leave it at that. Seriously! Is this worse or better than the gun effect? The gun effect is, basically…nothing. You see a gun, and hear the sound of it firing, but no-one either had an actual prop gun that looked like it was being fired, or bothered adding the effect in post (or hiding the barrel of the gun from actually being on camera). It’s so weird and so distracting, and I’ve got no idea why no-one noticed it or cared.
It’s a curious mess of a movie. The acting is fine, the direction is okay for a first-timer, and the cinematography is, of course, excellent. It’s just got too many subplots that don’t add anything, and really needed a few more script drafts, or someone to read it and go “hey, Andrew, why is this happening?” at some of the odder choices. Also, they really should have cut down on scenes that were identical to scenes in the first movie – like the camera getting shredded outside the base, which actually (I think) used the same footage from part 1.
If you really want to see another movie where a weird mutant (that feels the need to sneak everywhere, despite being largely indestructible) chases a group of scientists round an underground base, then go ahead and watch this. But if you’re just a person who likes cheesy movies AND ALREADY SAW PART 1 WHICH IS IDENTICAL, then maybe give something else a try.
Rating: thumbs down