Galaxy of Terror (1981)
Galaxy of Terror (1981)

Genre: Sci-Fi Horror Running Time: 1 hr. 21 min.

Release Date: October 23rd, 1981 MPAA Rating: R

Director: B.D. Clark Actors: Edward Albert, Erin Moran, Ray Walston, Bernard Behrens, Zalman King, Robert Englund, Taaffe O’Connell, Sid Haig, Grace Zabriskie, Jack Blessing

 


 

“T

here’s no horror here we don’t create ourselves.” The oracle of the game faces off against the planet master of Xerxes, pondering a mysterious happening on a territory on the outskirts of the solar system. It’s decided that Mission Commander Ilvar (Bernard Behrens) will govern a rescue mission, though space exploration war hero Captain Trantor (Grace Zabriskie) of the C.S.F. believes she is the one in charge. Ignoring hyper-jump presets, she blasts her ship (the Quest) toward the target destination, resulting in a thoroughly panicked, disoriented crew; a bumpy flight; and a crash landing.

The cold open and the introductory sequence are utter nonsense, constructed as if several incompatible concepts were slapped together without consideration for continuity or comprehension. Fortunately, once the Quest’s search crew begins exploring the dark, windy, harsh, wreckage-blanketed terrain of an alien world, the film grows more serious and slightly more understandable. The environments, the costumes, the ship designs, and the jump-scares are obvious derivations of “Alien,” yet it’s amusing to see an intermittently effective copycat, especially considering the low budget (from Z-grade maestro Roger Corman).

Baelon (Zalman King) takes charge of the team investigating a downed vessel, the Remus, trying his best to control the nerves of his subordinates – in particular, the panicky Cos (Jack Blessing). Alluma (Erin Moran), Cabren (Edward Albert), cook Kore (Ray Walston), tight-lipped Quuhod (Sid Haig), and medical officers Dameia (Taaffe O’Connell) and Ranger (Robert Englund) are in better control of their emotions, though once the sudden, unexplained deaths start to occur, no one is safe from hysteria. And a nearby pyramid-like structure – the source of severe equipment interference – proves to be a hell from which these unprepared explorers can’t escape.

Rappelling down into a mysterious, organic, extraterrestrial abyss; slimy appendages darting out from the shadows; uncommon humidity and steam; a suspicious employee who may not be a typical crewman; and a small, fearful group unable to come to terms with their deadly situation, struggling to work together against a common enemy, are but a few of the ideas that are a little too reminiscent of “Alien.” But creative – or utterly odd – death scenes and bloody violence tend to win out over the continual familiarity and senselessness of the plot. Just when it seems intelligible that the assemblage would split up in an attempt to locate survivors, the happenings grow even kookier.

Creature designs and copious amounts of goo look good on the screen (James Cameron served as a production designer), but they’re unable to enhance a story this poorly arranged. Nevertheless, “Galaxy of Terror” does boast a giant-alien-worm rape scene that is unlikely to be duplicated – or forgotten. Other monster moments are better executed, largely because the viscous antagonists are appropriately obscured; it’s generally a wise decision not to show shoddy boogeymen in bright lighting. As the survivors dwindle, succumbing to somewhat personalized horrors and paranoia, the film takes on a few elements that would be reused to far scarier degrees in “Event Horizon.” But the end revelations revert back to the inanity from the start, concluding with a series of frustratingly unanswered questions (along the lines of “Zardoz”). There’s potential here, but it’s considerably squandered.

– Mike Massie

  • 2/10