“The Video Dead” has its fans–certainly someone at Scream Factory thought it was worth the time and effort to assemble the materials to make this movie look as good as it does over 25 years later. But it’s really a movie of loose parts that betray the helter skelter way the film was put together on a shoestring budget by friends and locals out in the woods. This no-budget film (but it’s got heart, I tell you) focuses on the Blair siblings, would-be aerobics instructor Zoe (Roxanna Augesen) and slacker Jeff (Rocky Duvall), encounter a bedeviled boob tube that spits out zombies when they move into their new home.
Writer-director Robert Scott went on to a fairly busy career as a second-unit director, while nearly everyone else associated with “The Video Dead” pretty much made this their one and only shot at a film career (or limped along with roles of distinction like “Biker Chick” or “Casino Owner” in similarly modest movies). I’m pointing this out because “The Video Dead” has way more effort than talent, using modest gore effects to pad the meandering story along until a surreal dinner party at the end shakes the lethargic proceedings loose for a minute before one final twist at the end.
Ted Nicolaou’s “TerrorVision” is substantially more successful, even if its targets feel like easy ones: consumerist Valley life middle class-types getting their gruesome ends thanks to a freaky, slimy monster from outer space. Where’s “The Video Dead” could have been elevated by a cast that was maybe a little more enthusiastic, “TerrorVision” is filled with a collection of pros going nuts at the chance to be slimed, devoured, and go full camp.
“Eating Raoul” and one-time Warhol Factory girl “Mary Warnov” is perfectly matched with “Phantom of the Paradise” actor Gerrit Graham as a pair of swinging parents who are so set on getting their evening of kink on that they don’t realize the problem with their satellite dish is extraterrestrial in origin. That problem would be an overgrown E.T. accidentally dumped onto our planet and beamed through the airwaves of the Putterman home.
Sure, Nicolaou, a frequent collaborator with low-budget producer Charles Band gets most of the period details wrong (like some other horror movies from the era, it conflates punk with metal), but the production, shot in Rome in the garish set that made up the Putterman household feels right even if it’s textually wrong. The gross-out gags work perfectly with the story of a haplessly disconnected clan that, sorry, won’t get it together in the final act to save themselves (like “The Video Dead,” “TerrorVision” delivers its bleak ending with a wink).
So now that I’ve (hopefully) convinced you to see “TerrorVision” (and to stick around for “The Video Dead” since it’s on the same disc anyway), what’s Scream Factory’s Blu-ray like?
It’s been a few weeks since I’ve dug into the tech aspects of a disc but Scream Factory should be commended for getting both movies looking as good as they do. “TerrorVision” was probably an easier deal given what were likely better materials, but “The Video Dead” looked rough the last time I watched it on a standard DVD a few years back. The latter film benefits from natural skin tones and good detail (although it’s to the detriment of the zombie makeup effects which look extra rubbery as a result). I didn’t get a chance to see “TerrorVision” back in its DVD days on the MGM disc, but it obviously looks a ton better than the battered VHS I rented back in the day.
Both films are included on the same disc and you can select each from the main menu into their own sub menus. Even with both movies on the same disc, Scream Factory didn’t skimp on the special features (although it’s unfortunate that neither film’s trailer is included).
- Audio commentary with Ted Nicolaou and actors Diane Franklin and John Gries: It’s always a pleasure to listen to a commentary where everyone assembled was so excited to have worked on the project. The trio discuss how each was attached to the project, shooting in Rome, point out some of the effects gags you might have missed, and having to keep child actor Chad Allen out of frame anytime there were nude statues.
- Monsters on Demand: The Making of “TerrorVision” (34:22, HD): A retrospective with the cast, Nicolaou, and producer Charles Band discussing the making of the film and its legacy. Hey, someone put Mary Woronov in more stuff–she’s a hoot!
- Posters/Stills gallery
The Video Dead
- Audio Commentary: Filmmaker Robert Scott is joined by editor Bob Sarles, and special makeup effects creator Dale Hall Jr. on one track for a more technical chat while stars Roxanna Augesen, Rocky Duvall, production manager Jacques Thelemaque, and makeup assistant Patrick Denver have a more lively conversation about their time on the film which took something like a year to shoot. Definitely check out the second commentary which provides some lovely insight into the joy and exasperation of shooting on a budget.
- Pre-Recorded: The Effects of ’The Video Dead’ (11:49, HD): Hall and Denver lend some insight into how they created some of the makeup and special effects for the film, including some on-set incidents (one actor fainted in their makeup) and cobbling together other effects with shoestring, wire, and whatever else was at hand.
- Outtakes (1:51): Workprint-quality scenes of the cast and crew goofing off.
- Behind-the-scenes Still Gallery: A collection of high-quality stills from the shoot including some of the makeup and special effects getting put together.
- Poster & Still Gallery
Scream Factory’s “TerrorVision”/”The Video Dead” Blu-ray/DVD combo is available now.