Terror Inside? Whoop-doo!
In Seinfeld: Episode 8.13: "The Comeback", Kramer rents the VHS tape The Other Side of Darkness and quips, "It went straight to video! That makes me the premiere!" Well, the same thing has happened for Terror Inside, the latest Corey Feldman thriller. It bypassed theater screens across the country to make its debut on good ol' fashioned DVD this past June 15th. Last night, me and my dogs Rydell and Twoey decided to throw a Wood Floor extravaganza in honor of our favorite 80s teen idol and his latest dumpster-diamond masterpiece. Yes, we held our very own premiere for the film.
There were no stars or celebrities in attendance. Neither Feldman nor director Jozef Lenders returned my calls. I couldn't lock any advanced interviews. Instead, it was just me, two dirty mutts, an upswept plank-board floor, the couch, a couple Busch beers and the remote. If you've ever been to a real live Hollywood premiere, you'll recognize that this is the ideal location and comfort for a movie party. When you head into Westwood for a glitzy red carpet chuggle fest, you have to wait until all of the talent is inside and seated before the movie starts (which can go two hours or more past its intended show time). You have to applaud every single last name in the credits. You have to fake laugh through the horrible jokes because one or more of the film's stars may be sitting right beside you. And you have to contend with Geoffrey Lewis kicking the back of your seat like a five year old for the entire duration. It's ugly and quite unbearable. My couch, on the other hand, is comfortable and in reach of cold brews. People aren't jibber jabbering through the scariest parts of the film. And I can start the movie anytime I want to. But the pièce de résistance of this experience is my brand new Epson MovieMate DVD projector, which some of you may have noticed pops up on this site occasionally as an ad. It's on sale at Best Buy.
This is in no way an advertisement for Epson's little whirlwind gizmo. An amazing piece of plastic. I paid $699 for it with a credit card after reading the user-reviews (but if the apocalypse happens, hey, its free!). I was skeptical until I got it home. Its glowing five star rating proved to be quite truthful in an age when you can't quite trust anything or anybody. It came straight out of the box, plugged into the wall, and turned the expansive wall space over the duct-and-painted fireplace into my own living, breathing movie theater. Sure, some people love their 55-inch plasma screen television. But for me, it's all about the projected light at 120 inches. Sitting, watching this magical glow shower down upon me brings back the joy I once felt at the local stand-alone cinema. The picture is made of crystallized sharp edges and bright colors (even projected against a foam-green wall). It's quite the sight to behold, and something you'll have to experience for yourself. I can't recommend this amazing contraption high enough. Especially if you are sick and tired of the loud and obnoxious scene happening at the local Maitreyaplex.
Alas, perhaps, Terror Inside is not the best way to utilize this new toy created solely for lovers of the true cinematic experience. Its best used to watch all of the classics you've always wanted to see on the big screen, especially since you don't live close to a revival house like The New Beverly. Still, the idea of my own private Hollywood premiere was too much to resist. Despite the fact that Terror Inside's trailer told me I'd soon be regretting it. This hastily assembled montage of clips does nothing to sell the experience home. There is not one moment or scene in the trailer that makes a sane person think, "I have to rent this right now!" Nor does the cover of the DVD convey a quality experience to share with friends. It does not inspire hope. This looks like dog shit from the word go. Problem is, I remain a huge Corey Feldman fan. And I will watch anything the guy does. Anything (as this goes to prove).
From the moment he walks on screen, Feldman is a bright spot in a dismal wasteland of bad edits and poor set decoration. In his late thirties, the actor still remains a youthful cad. He has an undeniable edge and a magnetic persona that could be utilized with great proficiency if given the right job. Terror Inside is not that job (maybe Lost Boys 3: The Thirst is?). He can be incredibly funny, and retains that odd movie star quality that is rare in this day in age. Its too bad that he's reduced to slinging a corny fake Southern accent and displaced cowboy hat in what could be described as one of the oddest performances of the year. If it were not for Feldman, this project simply wouldn't exist. Neither would Susie Feldman's (or is it back to Sprague since the divorce) burgeoning career as an actress.
The film pretends to be a precursor to last spring's great little horror surprise The Crazies. It purports itself to be a thriller about a virus that makes people go insane. But director Jozef Lenders has absolutely no concept or understanding of proper storytelling techniques. The film is whatever it wants to be at any given minute, and before the opening prologue is set into motion, we're faced with a dumpster gem on par with Troll 2. They simply don't make movies like this anymore. And it too, like Troll 2, benefits from having a foreign director who obviously didn't know how to communicate with his cast. Which creates this burgeoning canyon of off-moments.
There is a great disconnect here. You can sense Lenders is barreling forward with a keen notion that he is making something worthwhile and terrifying. While the actors on the other hand, know instinctively, without a doubt, that they've found themselves emerged in sinking mud. Feldman wonders aimlessly through scene after scene with a look on his face that screams, "Is anybody going to give me some direction, here?" Oddball moments are set up, and weird, quick cut-aways are utilized to pad the runtime. Action scenes are stapled together with rancid jump cuts that should make any schlock connoisseur proud.
Early on, we find Feldman rocking on the back porch at an angle that makes him look like a little person. He has a bizarre smile on his face, and his eyes are closed. His hands on top of his head. He seems oblivious to the camera, and I'm sure he didn't know he was being photographed. Not until he sees this particular cut of the film, anyway. It's equal parts embarrassing and, perhaps, one of the funniest moments seen in 2010. The clip has nothing to do with the story whatsoever. It reads as though the director was trying to get more footage of Corey, and snuck around photographing him while he napped on the make-shift, middle of nowhere set. As there are more instances of this to come as the film rolls on.
Trying to investigate Lenders as a director is distracting. His own personal website comes with a Malware warning that claims to contain malicious software. Perhaps it downloads Terror Inside directly onto your computer? I didn't want to find out. His bio on Facebook reads: "Born in a log cabin and raised by wolves until he became tall enough to hold a camera, Jozef is dangerous when provoked and can be heard howling at the moon on leap years." This fits in nicely with the themes presented by his only film to date. The stolid thing moves at a languid pace, which is typical of Norwegian-centric art. Its as though his only concern was working with Feldman, and the actor's presence certainly makes up for some of the cinematic atrocities witnessed in Terror Inside's grueling 90 minute runtime.
Corey isn't the standout here, though. That dubious distinction goes to Joe Abby, a tree trunk of a man with a blaring, obnoxious delivery style and a shoehorned persona. He's astringent and unlikable from the get go, but he starts to grow on you like a mean fungus. His character is unnecessary. And bug-eyed. Almost a blight. But the set-up hinges on his work as a core driller. And he's kept around because he is quite entertaining in a "God, this is the most horrible thing I've ever seen" kind of way. We're introduced to this strange little man with a barrel chest right off the bat, as he scoops a slimy poop-shaped bit of dirt out of the ground and sends it to a lab to be tested. The soil infects his ear with dripping goo, and it seems as though he might turn into a zombie of some sort at any minute. He does eventually infect the small Florida town he currently calls home with a virus. But not in any way you'd expect.
This is supposed to be a horror flick, but the only scary thing about it is the runtime. We get an occasional glimpse of blood, but its mostly rubber cement dangling from ears and fingers that provide the intended gross-out moments. Joe is a drifter. He's come to Mont Verde for some peace and quiet, and a view of the ocean (there isn't one). He's also fallen in love with the town's sole waitress Maria. Sadly, her heart belongs to Feldman, yet she's torn between the two. As my girlfriend succinctly put it while watching the film, "If these are my two choices...Kill me now." And that about sums up the total weight of what is about to play out from this point one.
Feldman's Allen works in a depressing office that looks like a broom closet and is decorated with an illuminated, plastic computer prop like you might find at Ikea to help sell their desks. He is introduced as a loaf. His boss yells at him nondescriptly, and it seems that Corey's job might be pertinent to the story. He has been clocking work hours for traveling, though he only does about one hour of work at his intended location. We never find out what he does for a living. Or why it matters. Only that he heads down to Monte Verde on the weekends to see Maria. On his first visit with us in tow, he arrives in a white dress shirt that looks as though its been splattered with blood. No mention is made why. (Maybe this is just Feldman's odd fashion sense playing tricks on us?) He takes his girl home from her job at the greasy spoon (the only eatery in town), ties her up, gives her some off-screen anal loving, and then returns to work. There, he explains that he's been caught earning money that shouldn't have wound up in his pocket. And that he can't return from Mont Verde for one entire month.
Oh, what transpires in a month! Joe, who seems to be going off his rocker and turning into a lunatic ala The Crazies, expresses his undying devotion to Maria by planting a rather uncomfortable and gooey kiss on her mouth. This not only infects her, but also the beautician next door (played by Susie Feldman). And everyone else in town. (Huh?) So, when Feldman returns exactly one month later, he finds that this small town population of mostly old women has not turned into flesh hungry zombies, but Hot Topic-loving, blue-haired punk rockers with a lot of tattoos and facial piercings. The ladies love wearing black leather and lace, and riding around aimlessly on motorcycles. For nearly thirty minutes, Feldman runs from one dusty, barely dressed set piece to the next screaming, "What the hell is going on?" He must say it at least fifty times.
Before long, Feldman is standing in Joe's trailer home, accosting him with more, "What the fucks!" Then the poor man can handle. By this point, we expect to find Abby a ravenous, ripped-up, bloody stump of a man. Nope. Aside from a few cigar burns on his arm, the guy seems rather indifferent to the disease that has supposedly consumed him. He guesses that Feldman has come to call him out as Maria's other lover. Nope, again! Feldman is ignorant, up until this point, about Joe's relationship with Maria. Even after finding out, he remains indifferent. Soon, they are racing around in Joe drilling truck with no great destination or purpose. This is inter-cut with a young scientist receiving the turdish, infected soil sample at his college. The chemist then proceeding to spread the disease it contains at a late night kegger. A scene that comes complete with an obnoxious shot of cleavage and spurting beer. Don't worry, none of this is important to the story.
It's filler. All of it.
Terror Inside can't really be described as 'so bad its good'. It goes far beyond that. Its so atrociously sprakish and amateurishly put together, you have to stare at it in awe and wonderment for the entire duration. Joe is a character that should turn into a zombie, attack people, and then die. Within the first fifteen minutes at least. Instead, he becomes the Corey Haim surrogate, acting as a weird buddy/best friend-type to Feldman's Allen. Instead of throwing off quips, he sits, disturbing in his mannerisms and pugnacious tendencies. Where Haim would have shot off a one liner, Joe sits, furiously pumping a cinderblock. It's just as funny, though. Maybe even more so.
Despite the fact that they are in the South, Feldman insists on wearing pale white foundation on his face, which, ironically, makes him look like a vampire. He compensates by donning a bolo tie, western shirt, and ten-gallon hat that is far too big for his head. He comes off looking like a little kid playing dress up. To top it off, he carries a strange Southern accent that isn't at all convincing. Midway through, he ditches his vocal tick, quickly explaining it away. He was talking like a hick to impress his girlfriend. Really? Okay. Sure. This sudden announcement comes when another actor seems to call him out on losing the accent in the middle of a scene. The rest is improvisation. Its desperately needed since good old Jozef didn't want to burn up any more of his film stock than necessary.
Terror Inside is chalk full of one take wonders and hilarious goofs. When a screw-up hits, the actors keep rolling right on through it. Which just goes to prove how much of a professional Feldman truly is. Sitting on the edge of the couch, aghast, one might wonder how he wondered in to this frightening mess. The answer seems to come quiet easy. He's here because of his ex-wife Susie Feldman. It must have been one of the few gigs offered that allowed her to tag along and earn screen time. She plays a pretty substantial character, and when left to her own devices, she's not particularly bad. She's not particularly good, either. But most known thespians would struggle under these work conditions. When we first meet her, she is Marry-Ann Lovely in a summer dress, depressed and looking to fill up her appointment book at the beauty salon across the street from Maria's greasy spoon diner. When the virus hits, she turns into a blue haired mall punk with a motorcycle fetish.
The ruse comes when Feldman is required to share screen time with his significant other. As great an actor as he may be, he melts into a wisp of blathering stupidity in her presence. Which does neither performance any good. He loses every single ounce of his talent. Its as though she sucks it straight out of him like a vampire. Through a straw. The scene in question is made even more worse by its contents. Corey is chasing after Susie in the drilling truck. She is on a motorcycle. She crashes, shredding her leg to the bone. After she is subjected to one of Feldman's signature "What the hell is going on!" tirades (seriously, take a shot of tequila for every time he says this perfected line, and you'll be in a liquor coma for days), the girl peels herself off the asphalt and limps like a goof into the house. She turns the stereo up so loud, your own speakers will begin to tweak out, and she sits, pouring salt directly into her wounds. Her face is decorated with studs and loops. She's a goddamn mess. As Feldman glides into witness this trainwreck, he, himself, can't contain his smirks.
Seconds later, a body double is subbing in for Susie. (We know this because for the next thirty seconds we never see her head). The girl rips off her shirt showing off ample breasts. She proceeds to cut off her supple nipples with a pair of scissors, and then jogs outside, where she throws herself feet first into a wood chipper. Which streaks blood against the house. It's quite amazing. And must be tough for Feldman to watch, as it sums up his "public" relationship with this woman to a T.
But we haven't seen anything yet. Instead of running to get the cops, or alerting the next town over after witnessing this small population all take their lives in a church, Joe, Corey, and Maria (who has scrapped off all her toenails on the asphalt) just wait it out, hoping things will blow over. There is a magical scene that finds Joe tossing an ice cold bottle of labelless Miller High Life on Feldman's testicles. He gives this priceless, erotic-shock look of pleasure. Before declaring, "I have the virus too! And it makes me love pain!" Its moments like these that put this compost dust in league with the much beloved Troll 2.
Soon, a government official is jaunting about town looking for more of the soil sample. He wants to use it to rule the world. He sneaks into Maria's house, where the gang is napping after a hard day of running around screaming, "What the hell is going on!" And he gases them. They escape, chase him down in one of the worst filmed climaxes ever seen in a B movie, and suddenly, the military is there. And the cops. The natural gas that was leaked into the house cured Joe, Corey, and Maria's sickness.
By now, the film has us, the audience, sounding exactly like Feldman, "What the fuck is going on in this movie?" Everything is coming up roses. But, low and behold, another sneaky character is making off with the soil sample in a silver briefcase. Clearly setting up a sequel. The credits roll out with a hillbilly picking Joe up in a limousine. Why? Because Jozef Lenders rented it for his star couple, and he didn't want it to be a complete waist.
As far as film premieres go, even my two dogs fell asleep before this was over. Yet glowing against the wall in giant shades of doo-doo brown, I had to admire its velocitude. Its dumpster-like way of making me smile. The big screen only gave away its shoddy production quality at a higher rate of squelch. But the Epson MovieMate also made it a more intimate experience. For ninety miserable minutes, I, too, felt like I was trapped in this town with a strange virus that turns its victims into Hot Topic's best and most loyal costumers. Will I ever watch Terror Inside again? Probably not. But that won't stop me from giving it praise. It surely has to be the Best Worst Movie of 2010.
Terror Inside? Whoop-doo! My new Epson Moviemate? Whoop-fucking-doo!
Eat food! Kill grandma! Keep on enjoying your summer outside! I'm going to head into the living room and watch Young Guns II. Trust me, its better than anything at the local Maitreyaplex this off July weekend. Who knows, maybe I'll feel the same way about Predators in about fifteen years time.