Judge Steve Power references Canadian television programming in this review. Talk about an experiment in terror.
They Caused it. Now They Must Kill It!
You can't toss a rotting corpse in a video store Horror isle without knocking over 150 flicks about some sort of super virus outbreak or the walking dead. Enter The Terror Experiment, a "star studded" flick about some kind of super virus outbreak, and what looks an awful lot like the walking dead. Does this one go for the jugular, or does it shamble to the grave?
Facts of the Case
In a nondescript building belonging to the Federal Government, a disgruntled Army vet, in an act of terrorism, triggers the outbreak of an experimental viral weapon. In short order, the virus has infected the vast majority of the building's occupants, turning them into zombies (No, they don't say "zombies" per se, but yeah, these are zombies). There's a group of survivors on the upper floors who need to get to the roof and escape before the zoom…"infected" feast on their tasty flesh, and the Army guys parked outside decide to nuke the building from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.
It's easy to come down hard on an amateur's work; they often lack the resources and skill to carry their project through the rigamarole of crafting a finished motion picture. These by-the-seat-of-your-pants efforts play to a delicate balance of originality, creativity, and having more ambition then brains. Sometimes they succeed. The Terror Experiment is the work of seasoned professionals, with a modest budget, some solid gear, knowledgeable support staff, and experienced actors who have, in most cases, displayed some degree of talent within their body of work. Here, none of it makes a lick of difference, and that, my dear friends, is when I can safely break out a hammer and proceed to drub this thing into the ground. I'm just going to tell you straight up; this flick blows. From top to bottom, we're looking at a bland, lifeless wreck of a picture.
The screenplay consists of a hodgepodge of horror ideas cribbed from some of the better outbreak/zombie flicks of the last decade, but it always feels like an un-original, third of fourth generation dub of a flick you've already seen. Beyond that, the direction of George Mendeluk (a long time television director) lacks any sense of urgency or terror, instead languishing in boredom and trudging along aimlessly for the duration of the film's 82-minute runtime. You can't even get a few cheap laughs out of this thing, as it's all played so damned earnestly.
C. Thomas Howell (Red Dawn), Jason London (Dazed and Confused), Robert Carradine (The Big Red One), and Judd Nelson (The Breakfast Club) all provide some semblance of "Woah! It's that guy from that movie!" recognition, but the script gives them little or nothing to do, no meat to chew on, and in some cases, just turns them into walking exposition. I'd blame the characters they play, if there were any. These thinly veiled horror tropes drone on throughout the picture, little better than the zombies they're being chased by.
Anchor Bay's disc is passable, if only because it does about as well as it can. The 1.78:1 source looks to be HD video, and this disc looks about as good as one can expect from 1080p Blu-ray. It's a soft, flat, lifeless image, but I didn't really notice any overt flaws in the authoring. The TrueHD 5.1 Surround mix is pretty awful, filling the entire soundstage, but lacking any real intensity or direction. And the foley work is just plain horrible. This feels like early '90s Canadian television, which may mean nothing to you, unless you grew up watching Canadian TV shows, in which case I'm sure you get my point, and a cold shudder when you read that sentence.
The only bonus feature is a commentary from Director George Mendeluk, which is affable enough, though I don't think he really got the flick at all .He certainly seems to think he's crafted a better picture than the one I watched.
Honestly, I've had about enough of this. Zombie movies are just like their namesakes: They continue to rise from the dead, to groan, moan, and generally cause pain to those of us brave enough to dive into the fetid waters of Romero's spoilt remains. Sure, some original ideas come along now and again, and you occasionally come across an effort where the writers immigrate from outside the genre and really turn in something special (I'm looking at you, The Walking Dead). But for every decent shambler that comes along, you have a hundred horrible train wrecks. The Terror Experiment makes that one hundred and one. If you have to own EVERY zombie flick ever made, ignore this one. Just call it an "outbreak movie" and stroll on, whistling happily.
Go for the head, destroy the brain. Guilty!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
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