The Terror Within (1989)
The Terror Within (1989)

Genre: Sci-Fi Horror Running Time: 1 hr. 28 min.

Release Date: January 20th, 1989 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Thierry Notz Actors: George Kennedy, Andrew Stevens, Starr Andreeff, Terri Treas, Yvonne Saa, John LaFayette, Tommy Hinkley




n apocalyptic chemical warfare experiment went awry, wiping out 99% of the Earth’s population with an ensuing plague. The few people that thrived above ground during the disaster have mutated into hideous gargoyles and seek out wandering humans for meat. John (Al Guarino) and Michael (Joseph Hardin) are two underground survivors who scour the desert wasteland looking for small creatures and snakes for food to bring back to the Mohave Disease Control center, a massive subterranean laboratory, buried 500 feet below the surface, that houses the few men and women (and Butch the dog) that were saved by a fortunate antidote. When their neighboring Rocky Mountain lab ceases all communication for weeks, the MDC subsisters, led by white-haired Hal (George Kennedy), struggle to maintain rations.

When John and Michael are attacked, David (Andrew Stevens) and Sue (Starr Andreeff) go in search of their bodies and discover a human campsite consisting of ten slaughtered males. The fact that they’ve managed to live above ground without the vaccine could prove to be the breakthrough the group has been searching for. Then they locate something even more surprising – a young woman, nearly mute and badly bloodied.

Medical officer Linda (Terri Treas) inspects the newcomer, Karen (Yvonne Saa), and ascertains that she’s also pregnant – a miracle considering that children have essentially been nonexistent since the plague. Wishing to keep it a secret, Hal orders Linda to terminate the baby at the first signs of any abnormalities; their limited facilities simply can’t handle any complications. When it is determined that Karen’s child is growing at an extremely rapid rate, the decision is made to remove the fetus. Scarily enough, it proves to be less than human, very much alive, and unexpectedly deadly – and when it escapes into the air vents, the crew must band together to hunt down the critter before it matures into a lethal monstrosity.

The acting is expectedly bad, ranging from mildly believable to downright ridiculous. Mechanic Neil, played by Tommy Hinkley, is supposed to be comic relief – perhaps even a counterpart for Bill Paxton’s Hudson from “Aliens” – but is easily the worst actor present. The cinematography also ranges from personal home video quality to theatrical B-movie. The sets, however, are quite decent, using desolate corridors, unfriendly metal walls, cluttered electrical stations, and flashing warning lights to create a devastated science-fiction environment.

The lighting could stand to be darker and scarier, as the abundance of brightness in many scenes detracts from the mystery and terror. When David slinks around the ship with his crossbow at the ready, each room he slides into is basked in glowing lights lining the walls and ceilings and flooding the hallways. It’s certainly unique but not horrifying – once the monster is revealed (clearly a man in a spongy suit, with a design created by Dean Jones), the light reveals entirely too much. No shadows are even visible. Fortunately, this changes around the halfway point, but becomes only slightly more obscuring.

Like most strategic (or low-budget) monster movies, the creatures aren’t immediately revealed, instead showing brief pieces of appendages or camera movements that represent a perspective through alien eyes. “The Terror Within” does serve up a few scenes of nastiness, including bloodthirsty attacks with odd, anatomically incorrect wounds, and an excessively bloody C-section, followed by an “Alien” birthing rip-off with a decidedly more rubbery looking mutant fetus. To add to the derivativeness, Andre (John LaFayette) totes a familiar flamethrower. But when the attacks begin, the supporting cast members are wiped out so fast that all the suspense (and creature fodder) is instantly over.

To replace the hunting of the humans one by one, the monster decides to try mating with the women. The plot to finally catch the creature is actually marginally clever, and by the conclusion, many of the initial faults are forgiven. It’s a cheesy, partially plagiaristic, Z-grade science-fiction horror flick, typical of Roger Corman productions, but it has its moments and isn’t without entertainment value for those looking for a fun, little-known alternative to the mainstream. Sadly, it had enough potential that it could have been so much better with just a bit of fine-tuning.

– Mike Massie

  • 6/10