I’ve been finding some crazy movies in the Amazon Prime Dungeon lately. This one is an obscure post-apocalyptic rubber monster movie from the tail end of the ’80s starring Andrew Stevens, King of the Skinemax Softcore PsychoThrillers, and Academy Award Winner George Kennedy. Yeah, we need to check this out.
The Terror Within (1989)
This movie was a welcome surprise. It’s incompetent and self-serious enough to be entertaining, but also self-aware enough to be intentionally funny. I have to say this is one of Roger Corman’s better films. Sure, there’s some Drooling Tooth-monster rape, but it’s more tastefully done than in his other films like Galaxy of Terror and Humanoids From the Deep. This one is a post-apocalyptic sci-fi sort of thriller. End of civilization means it’s cheap to film. This movie apparently grossed $858,591 so unless the slime and blood budget was out of control, it probably made a profit.
About 90% of this movie takes place in a bunker underneath Burbank. Legendary tough guy actor George Kennedy plays the George Kennedy role, the gruff, imposing leader of a scientific team holed up in that bunker. We are introduced to Andrew Stevens hunting rats with a crossbow. This movie came out about the same time as Kennedy’s late career renaissance as Ed from the Naked Gun movies. It’s also right before Andrew Stevens’s career turn as star of about 800 nekkid Fatal Attraction/Basic Instinct rip-offs.
So they get a distress signal from a Rocky Mountain team that they’re under attack from “gargoyles.” At this point I’m thinking, “Holy crap, this is a long forgotten gargoyle movie? Where has this been my entire life?” And then suspicion started creeping in, “I wonder how they are going to make them fly around? That must cost a couple bucks, pre-CGI.” Then I remembered this was a Roger Corman movie, so yeah, no winged gargoyles. Instead we get an homage/rip-off to the great Slime Monster movies of the ’80s, The Thing and Alien.
Andrew Stevens arrives too late as the Rocky Mountain team is all dead, but he finds a shell-shocked babe in the Bronson Caves in Griffith Park. He unwisely takes her to the underground bunker where she promptly gives gross birth to an Alien stomach-burster. But don’t worry, it will grow into a full-blown Gargoyle in about five minutes of movie running time. Andrew Stevens plays the ostensible handsome lead, but his character is kind of a cowardly jerk. I think this was a winking acting choice and I approve. So we get scenes like when Andrew Stevens and his black buddy argue about who has to climb the ladder to the outside world where the gargoyles are gathering. Then in another funny bit, Steven raises his periscope to check if the coast is clear above ground and promptly gets it yanked away from him by a Gargoyle and they get into a brief tug of war.
Then we get a good look at the Gargoyle and it’s basically a C.H.U.D. with distended gums and pointy teeth. It likes to jump out and eat people like an Alien Xenomorph but, you know, slower moving and goofier looking. As I mentioned before, the C.H.U.D. gets a bit rapey and there’s a brief, completely out of place discussion about abortion. Then the movie comes out pro-abortion when Andrew Stevens’s girlfriend kills herself and gives birth to a stillborn C.H.U.D-ling. That was all pretty gross and gratuitous.
From there, it’s a dwindling cast movie as the C.H.U.D. takes out the crew members one at a time. At one point, they rig up a laser gun to kill the C.H.U.D. They blast it to no effect. Then the black guy makes the hilarious observation, “That drained a quarter of our power. We only get four chances with this thing.” Thanks, Captain Math, I couldn’t figure that out myself. At this point, George Kennedy clearly got bored of this movie as he rushes at the C.H.U.D. and gets himself neck-snapped.
Andrew Stevens gets injured fighting the C.H.U.D. and so does his dog, Butch. So in a show of late 1980’s Feminism, cult film actress Terry Treas gets the Sigourney Weaver role and has to go toe to toe with the C.H.U.D. while Andrew Stevens nurses his boo-boo and has to sit in the control room watching cameras and pressing buttons.
THE BOTTOM LINE
I know I’ve criticized Drooling Tooth-Monster rape in cheap, tacky sci-fi movies before as it’s pretty exploitative, so I won’t let this film off lightly. But Drooling Tooth-Monster rape aside, this movie is pretty entertaining. Sure it’s over-lit and under-acted, but that’s part of its charm. It moves along pretty quickly, shows a lot of C.H.U.D. attacks and is cheesy good fun. I’d say it’s worth checking out, especially if you are an ’80s monster movie completist. Apparently Andrew Stevens wrote/directed and starred in The Terror Within 2, which I need to see immediately.
Terry Treas zaps the C.H.U.D. off a ladder onto a giant industrial fan where he gets Cuisinart-ed into mulch. I give it about an 8 out of 10 on the Kill-O-Meter for grossness and creativity.