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Popcorn Fall

Popcorn Pictures

Reviewing the best (and worst) of horror, sci-fi and fantasy since 2000

  • Andrew Smith

The Terror Within (1989)

"It wants to get out"


A plague has destroyed most of the world's population aside from small groups of survivors who have holed themselves up in underground military bunkers across the planet. When a routine patrol to the surface to look for food come across a human settlement with a pregnant female survivor, it appears that a cure has been found. They take her back to the bunker but they discover that the woman is pregnant with the baby of one of the hideous gargoyle-like monsters that roam the planet's surface. After a failed abortion, the baby rapidly mutates into a full-grown monster which then begins to kill the group off one-by-one.


Roger Corman had been producing these low budget Alien rip-offs since the early 80s and so by this point, the clockwork, almost-cumbersome nature of proceedings had been perfected down to a tee. The Terror Within may change the setting from outer space to underground but, save for obligatory shots of the desert as opposed to the stars, the results are almost identical - cheap industrial sets, copious gore, sleazier undertones and a clear set of eyes on Ridley Scott's seminal sci-fi horror classic.

There shouldn't be much point in trying to review a film like The Terror Within. It's a blatant Alien rip-off which cuts down on the expensive eye-candy (all those shots of the Nostromo drifting through space for instance), avoids spending too much money on high profile actors, skimps on the non-essential character-building story and ramps up the more exploitative elements such as the gore, the alien and the suggestion of alien-human rape. With Roger Corman on board as producer, you at least know what you're going to get. And The Terror Within pretty much delivers on all three of the latter - only it's been done better before, even by Corman himself. His far superior Forbidden World puts this one to shame. This feels tame and lacklustre in comparison.

The Terror Within has clearly been built up around a number of set pieces or ideas and so the script suffers from a stop-start cycle. For every action sequence, there are at least three sequences of people sitting around staring at computers or walking around the corridors looking for the creature. Whilst I understand the need for such sequences (especially the walking scenes) to establish the setting, the technology and maybe create a bit of tension as you wonder what is around the corner, there are just too many and there's no pay-off to them.

The sets are also way too bright and fail to create any sort of atmosphere or intimidating location. There's no illusion that the creature could be lurking in the corner of the room or strike at any time. As is typical of these films, there is also an obligatory ventilation shaft scene where one of the cast encounter the creature in a tight spot. However, everything is way too bright and 'in your face' which is the problem with the film. There's no chance for the audience to use their imagination and picture in their head what is happening - the film spoon feeds everything in at a rapid rate.

The monsters in here kind of reminded me of the monsters in the recent Feast films - not only big, shabby and horny but sharing a similar kind of look. Unfortunately the suit never once manages to convince anyone that it is anything but a guy dressed up, Even more so when director Thierry Notz has decided to shoot the creature in brightly-lit sets most of the time. Keeping it in the dark would have worked wonders given that the guy beneath the make-up seems to be quite tall and intimidating. The origins of the gargoyle creatures is never explained - are they mutated humans or a new form of life brought on by the plague? They're not too fussy when it comes to killing and some of the kills, while rather routine, are at least caked in splatter.

Andrew Stevens plays the hero role and he's not too bad for this sort of nonsense in a low-rent action man sort of way, so much so that he was brought back to write and direct the sequel. It's George Kennedy who is the most famous name in the cast but at this point in his career, he was just taking any roles for cash and his appearances in the horror genre around this time are rather embarrassing. It's not his fault - Kennedy seems to be trying to lift the material - but the character he's lumbered with comes off as cold, detached from the other survivors and rather useless.


Final Verdict

The Terror Within is a crude relic of 80s low budget horror which is designed to pander to the lowest denominators of the genre at the cheapest possible cost. Cheesy and entertaining if you like your brainless Alien rip-offs but there are far better examples out there to enjoy.


The Terror Within

Director(s): Thierry Notz

Writer(s): Thomas McKelvey Cleaver

Actor(s): Andrew Stevens, Starr Andreeff, George Kennedy, Terri Treas, John Lafayette, Tommy Hinkley

Duration: 88 mins


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