Shocking Dark (Terminator II) (1989)
Shocking Dark (Terminator II) (1989)

Genre: Sci-Fi Horror Running Time: 1 hr. 30 min.

Release Date: May 1st, 1989 MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Director: Bruno Mattei Actors: Cristopher Ahrens, Haven Tyler, Geretta Geretta, Tony Lombardo, Mark Steinborn, Dominica Coulson, Clive Ricke, Paul Norman Allen

 


 

V

enice, before the year 2000, was full of public squares, museums, and churches, overflowing with tourists. But it’s threatened by the high tide, with vast amounts of seaweed killing off the oxygen in the water, propelling the once bustling town toward an ecological disaster. As the years pass, a giant toxic cloud settles over the region, forcing the government to proclaim it a disaster area – a dead city.

Some time later, purification workers stranded in an underground network of tunnels at Shelter 65 send an SOS to officials, but communications are dodgy and security cameras are malfunctioning. Henry Raphelson (Al McFarland) and his team have been documenting strange behaviors, including sightings of alien creatures. But perhaps these are mere hallucinations brought on by the noxious environment.

Nevertheless, Operation Delta Venice is initiated, with former soldier Samuel Fuller (Cristofer Ahrens) from the Tubular Corporation heading up the rescue. He’s joined by scientist Sara Drumbull (Haven Tyler) and a 6-person platoon of Mega Force troops specially trained for these kinds of extractions. As they descend into the subterraneous labyrinth, they encounter Raphelson’s assistant, Drake (Clive Ricke), who demonstrates hostility and inhuman capabilities.

From the very first spoken words, audiences are assaulted with extreme overacting – and plain bad acting. It’s actually so terrible that one gets the sense it’s being done this way on purpose, as if part of a “Saturday Night Live” sketch. And yet, the story proceeds, somehow oblivious to the outrageous deficiency of talent. The performers are so pitiful that the dialogue seems almost irrelevant, particularly when they yell their lines (or just scream and scream and scream), phonily, for protracted lengths of time. As a result, the scripting is absolutely hilarious, from the utter insincerity to the laughable background commentary (intended to be small talk or acknowledgements of camaraderie), generally laden with uncoordinated expletives.

The only components that aren’t outright deplorable are the sets, which couldn’t have been built for this movie, as the budget wouldn’t have allowed for it. Instead, the locations are clearly part of some existing factory or other infrastructure (in reality, a partially-functioning nuclear plant, as well as underground stretches of Termini station). And with decent lighting (at least “Shocking Dark” looks like a movie, for the most part), they provide an amusing battleground for extraterrestrial horrors (or genetic/enzymatic mutations, as it turns out [“We’re going to turn into something weird?”]). The special makeup effects aren’t all that shabby, either. But not so convincing are the cheap uniforms, which don’t even look advanced enough for the original “Star Trek” series; hysterical supplementary actions to fill empty spaces on the screen, such as a guy practicing routines with nunchucks; and futuristic technology/weaponry that must have been cobbled together from toys.

There’s certainly some fun to be had in ridiculing the awfulness on display, but the frequent references to – or rip-offs of – “Aliens” are entirely too offensive to dismiss. From cocooned victims to a motion tracking device to tough-talking marines (led by the insult-spewing Koster, played by Geretta Giancarlo Field) to a Newt counterpart to a lab that has its lights cut by the monstrosities, the theft of ideas is virtually uncountable. And many of the characters paraphrase complete conversations or are used to replicate shots from James Cameron’s sci-fi epic, blatantly stealing remarks, mannerisms, framing, and movements (and even a few musical cues!), quite recognizably mimicking the actions of Ripley, Bishop, Hudson, Apone, Hicks, Burke, and more. Toward the finale, the unbelievably copyright-ignorant appropriation extends to “The Terminator” as well. Therefore, it’s not at all surprising that this Z-grade Italian schlock was originally released as “Terminator II,” and has been advertised in other parts of the world as “Aliens 2” and “Alienators.”

– Mike Massie

  • 1/10