Tuesday, December 21, 2010

TerrorVision: A Terrifying Look at the 80s

“I dance by the light of the TV screen

All night long

I watch the Medusa’s eyes turn green

But my own reflection I’ve never seen.”

What is TerrorVision? Is it the nickname of the alien program that plays when the Putterman’s get their new “pet?” Or maybe it’s the name of the newly found system of broadcasting alien transmissions through any given television set? Or perhaps TerrorVision was the name given to what the movie is about… a horrifying satirical look into the 80s living standards and pop culture. I’ve always asked myself why the film is so colorful, and why it’s cartoony looking but I think it’s because the filmmakers were trying to poke fun at the 80s and trying to make the film be as absurd as possible. TerrorVision is pure 80s hyperbole. If you look at the Putterman family you will notice things that make them the spitting image of what a typical 80s family was like only taken to the extreme. However, before I even talk about the family conventions I have to talk about the family members and what they symbolize in this age of MTV and rebellious youth.

The parents of the film seem to be yuppies that happened to have had kids. The dad is so preoccupied with looking good even if it means dousing himself in cologne and wearing tacky neck jewelry. He is always wearing clothing that only upper crush men wear such as a pink leisure suite, an ascot or wide popped shirt collars. His hair is thick and very big and he seems to have an overwhelming love himself and his wife. Speaking of which, his wife is the typical yuppie housewife. She is very cautious about her figure so therefore she has been bitten by the exorcise craze, she seems to like thin fitting dresses and she styles her hair to look like a doll. Both of them seem to be more worried about looking good in front of their house guests, or in this case social sexual partners, and expensive luxuries rather than their kids. Though, surprisingly they love their kids but they don’t show it the way normal parents do. The dad also seems to be some sort of twisted vision of a 50’s father who has a wide variety of slang like “Holy tomatoes.”

The daughter and her boyfriend O.D. seem to be the more… colorful bunch of this dysfunctional 80s family. She has taken the liberty to dress herself in mismatched clothing, wristbands, leggings, a wide assortment of bracelets and necklaces, and her hair has been dyed into so many colors that it looks like rainbow vomit. She is playing the role of a daughter, or an ‘angry girl,’ who has watched MTV way too many times. She is into hard rock but has not sense of head banging and she is embarrassed of her parents, which I find quite ironic. Her hair is huge and matted and fits with her Cyndi Lauper persona that she has. Her boyfriend, O.D., is overly dressed in leather, studded clothing and jewelry and has a tattered W.A.S.P. t-shirt… essentially playing the role of the rock-punk-rebel. He has so many studs and chains that it makes John Bender cringe but doesn’t have personality to fit. He acts like a stoner musician and keeps saying stuff like ‘dude,’ ‘radical’ and ‘little man.’ He is a walking parody of the rock ‘n roll punk movement that was going on the 80s. This was previously seen in Return of the Living Dead.

Now lets talk about Sherman Putterman, our hero and black sheep of the family. He is about 12 years old and he is the member of the family that embarrasses both the parents and his sister because he has a problem. See, he is a gun-crazed but ignorant boy who doesn’t really know what violence really is. Throughout the film he tries to warn everybody about the monster in the TV but the parents dismiss him because they thing he is having another “episode” and needs to take his pills. Sherman is what Generation X is… a generation that has been subjected to all the violence and morbidity on TV and they need pills to bring them back to reality. We can infer that Sherman is ADD or ADHD or possibly some form of very mild psychosis since he has a history of believing things that aren’t real. He is your typical youth in rebellion despite his mental handicap. If he were in the 00s, he would be the type of kid that sits home after school and plays extremely graphic video games, wants to join the army so the he can kill things and takes pills to make him more calm.

The Putterman home looks fairly normal on the outside but once you get inside it’s like walking through a Greek or Roman palace. There’re vases of ancient Greek gods on them, water fountains with stone cherubs, stone statues of angels and a giant Jacuzzi that’s synched to the music system. The home is lined with fancy décor ranging from pink marble to finished stone banners on the wall. Perhaps the home is meant to look like a palace or as the man of the house would say, “the love palace.” Perhaps the filmmakers were poking fun at the upper crust society and how they are so rich that they are able to afford luxuries that are pointless. The father seems to have gotten a new satellite dish but doesn’t know how to work it… so why did he buy it? Maybe he wanted to feel important or maybe because he can. This, in itself, is lampooning the yuppie culture during a huge financial relaxation in the stock market.

I think one of the funniest aspects of the house are the random paintings of violent, sadomasochistic sex that are strung about the house. They depict images of women and men engaging in S&M but they are drawn in sort of an Andy Warhol pop-art style. Hell, the parents themselves are comfortable with having sex with random people so maybe this is a commentary on the sex-addicted adults during this decade. We’ve already had movies that show this phenomenon but I think that TerrorVision subtly addresses it as well.

But perhaps one of the greats moments in this film is when the monster, or space doggy, is watching Earth vs. The Flying Saucers unknowing that Sherman is sneaking up behind it with a gun. I think it’s such a great moment because this monster, this thing, is gleefully watching saucers destroy Washington D.C. and I think that this scene has a lot of story to it. Considering that this film parodies the MTV generation, I think the filmmakers of TerrorVision are implying that those who watch all the pointless aggression on TV are rotting their brains and turning them into mindless creatures of violence. If we go further than that, maybe the monster also represents the monstrous things being shown on TV like the metal bands on MTV or the violent movies being shown.

I first thought that TerrorVision was a pointless but campy horror film that oozing with 80s cheese but after watching it again, I think it’s less of a horror and more of a dark comedy. It’s a comedy that puts the 80s on the line and blatantly makes fun of it. It’s not afraid to criticize the culture that it was conceived in and I believe that it’s an important relic of the 80s. Even though it’s bizarre and loony, people can learn what the 80s were like back than. Whether you believe that TerrorVision is a social commentary on the effects of the MTV generation, you can’t deny that it’s a film that you must leave your brain at the door for. It’s not a movie that should be taken seriously but I think the film is much more than just an alien flick… but a rare gem with a lot more luster to it than it puts off.


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