It's time to put another obscure anthology in the catbird seat. 1988's Terrorgram is a paint-by-numbers caucus, joining three tales of terrifying...terror by the hip. For all I know, they could have been sewn together ass-to-mouth, which wouldn't surprise me. We are in z-grade territory, after all. I'm not privy to concrete numbers, but apparently, the makers of Terrorgram had enough money to ensnarl a name actor. Well, his vocal chords anyway. The vignettes are introduced by the rumbling timbre of James Earl Jones. He is credited as The Voice of Retribution. Naturally, retribution is a recurring theme, and that's why I described the film as "paint-by-numbers." Just off the top of my head, I can't think of a genre anthology that doesn't involve snide, unsavory characters being accosted by just desserts.
There should be a bakery called Just Desserts. Hey, I should tweet that. Right...the title is literal. Each story finds the lead receiving a package from a mysterious delivery boy. It's a terrorgram. Get it? Get it??? We aren't treated to a wrap-around narrative, but between you and me, we don't need one. The opening segment is my least favorite. Allow me to trot out an itemized list.
"Heroine Overdose" ~ The misspelling is intentional. A sleazoid exploitation director storms off the set of his latest cinematic abortion. Upon retreating to his office for a tincture of flea powder (that's street slang for shabby China White, ya dig?), he collects his terrorgram. Oooooh! What's in the mystery package? His own scripts. He is directly transported to a Twilight Zone-esque parallel dimension where gender roles are reversed. It isn't long before he is antagonized by corrupt cops with big boobs, lecherous mechanics with big boobs and volatile bikers with big boobs.
This premonitory parcel wears out its welcome. It takes too long for the horror to kick in, although I did appreciate the hammy acting. There are several references to cult b-movies. I couldn't tell if the jabs at trash auteurs were fun-loving or demeaning. Either way, "Heroine Overdose" leaves a lot to be desired.
"Pandora" ~ A vainglorious TV reporter accidentally hits a little boy with her car. Fearing the adverse effect that manslaughter might have on her career, she drives away from the scene of a crime. Her terrorgram comes in the form of a jack-in-the-box, the same toy that her dead pedestrian was clutching at the moment of impact. This is a vast improvement over the first yarn. The gore is grisly (love the zombie make-up), the lighting is moody and the ending has "EC comics" written all over it. We're batting .500; will Terrorgram's denouement nudge our average skyward or earthward?
"Veteran's Day" ~ Eric is a dickwad. Years prior, he outed his friend as a draft-dodger. Said friend would go on to perish in Vietnam, and you can probably tell where this is heading. Eric is forced to relive his fallen comrade's harrowing demise. The tone is much more solemn here. I detected shades of House, but unfortunately, Big Ben was a no-show. Again, the special effects are impressive. I don't have any nagging complaints, so I guess this is my favorite vignette. Eh, I'd say it's a toss-up. If you replaced "Heroine Overdose" with something respectable, I wouldn't have a problem with calling Terrorgram a hidden classic.
Meat Loaf had a point. Two out of three ain't bad. Writer/director Stephen M. Kienzle is clearly talented. Strangely enough, Terrorgram is the lone credit on his IMDb page. I would have liked to see what else he could conjure up, but I'm afraid we'll never know. I'm still nonplussed by the presence of Darth Vader's pipes. James Earl Jones should have played every role in this flick. And in Star Wars.
Posted by Dom Coccaro at 7:14 PM