Wednesday, 22 February 2012

The Terror Experiment

I have to thank my friend over at Bad Film Friday for tipping me off about The Terror Experiment (2010) after spotting a helicopter explosion in the trailer. “Let me know if it’s as bad as it looks,” he said. Maybe I shouldn’t thank him just yet.

So, what we have here is a made-for-cable conspiracy thriller meets zombie movie starring two, ahem, giants of the 80s Brat Pack: C Thomas Howell and Judd Nelson.

The plot involves the sinisterly named Concerned Citizens Alliance (‘Angry  housewives of the world unite!’) who set off a bomb in a Government building to further their ill-defined political agenda.

Unfortunately, the building is home to a top secret laboratory where a deadly chemical weapon is being developed. The explosion releases the toxin, which turns anyone exposed to it into a homicidal zombie. It’s basically Die Hard with zombies.

Outside, Howell and Nelson try to contain the situation. Howell’s ‘Honest Joe’ local fire chief wants to rescue the survivors trapped inside, while Nelson’s shady Government agent just wants to blow-up the building and destroy all evidence of the experiments. With the building locked-down, a small group of survivors battle to stay alive while trying to find a way out.

This group form an identikit cross-section of survivors you’ll be all too familiar with from movies of this ilk. There’s the selfish sleaze, the suspicious scientist and several squawking make-weights who are only there to provide zombie fodder. The only two likeable characters are the ones who get to stumble out the building alive. Quelle surprise.

Naturally, our two heroes Cale (Jason London) and Mandy (Alicia Leigh Willis) are attracted to each other. Unfortunately, there’s the small problem of Cale’s ball-breaking ex-wife who‘s also trapped in the building. She becomes an even bigger problem when she turns into a zombie and tries to strangle Cale. Luckily, Mandy turns up just in time and shoots her dead. You really do find love in the most unusual places.

Overall, this film was the worst of all worlds – generic and competent. It wasn’t bad enough to become entertainingly funny and lacked the imagination or flair to make it more memorable. Still, there was one highlight and I’m glad to report it involved a helicopter explosion.

As part of the film’s aspirations to be Die Hard with Zombies, we’d already witnessed a scene where one character leaps to safety using a fire hose. In a further appropriation from the action classic, a helicopter is blown-up as it circles the roof of the building.

With the zombies controlling the lower floors of the building, the survivors head to the roof in the hope they might be rescued. However, the Concerned Citizens Alliance (‘Say no to fortnightly bin collections!’) have predicted such a development and laid a devious trap involving a bomb and a balloon filled with helium.

When a helicopter comes in to land on the roof, the downdraft of the rotors pushes down the floating balloon which had been holding a lever up. The piece of metal drops down, completes the circuit and triggers the bomb – destroying the helicopter.



Artistic merit

After such an elaborate set-up, director George Mendeluk understandably draws out the finale to the sequence.

The chopper isn’t immediately destroyed – rather, the bomb’s blast makes it catch fire, much like a marshmallow that’s been held too close to a barbecue.

The pilot futilely wrestles with the joystick. We get to enjoy a few more moments of the chopper wrapped in flames before it finally explodes – sending debris and rotor blades spinning towards the camera.

Exploding helicopter innovation

We’ve seen plenty of choppers blown-up by explosives, but this is first one we’ve seen with a balloon trigger. Such ingenuity deserves a bigger audience than the one this film will ever find.

Positives

There’s one absolutely laugh out loud scene in this film. At various points the survivors, who’ve sealed themselves in on one floor, need to dart off to other parts of the building. To stop the security door closing permanently behind them, they place a bit of gaffer tape over the tongue of the door lock.

Later, with the zombies hammering away at that very door, one of the characters reassures everyone by saying: “Nothing’s getting through that lock.”

Well, that’s assuming none of the zombies has a credit card with which they can pop the lock in the time-honoured traditions of 70s and 80s TV series.

Negatives

It’s hard to know what got Howell and Nelson involved in this film. All their scenes are in the back of a mobile command centre outside the building and they don’t get to tackle any of the zombies.

It’s like the film’s going on around them but without them being remotely involved in it. Maybe they took the roles because it was a chance to shoot the breeze about the 80s.

Favourite quote

I love the contradictory logic of this line: “You’ve heard of Area 51? It’s been top secret since the 60s.”

Interesting fact

The film seems to have numerous alternative titles. It’s also variously known as Infected and Flight Or Fight.

Review by: Jafo

4 comments:

  1. Great review. "We’ve seen plenty of choppers blown-up by explosives, but this is first one we’ve seen with a balloon trigger." Love it! I'm tempted to watch it now!

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  2. I'm not sure if this one's available here in the States yet, and I'm not sure overall if I'd want to check it out, but the chopper explosion sounds intriguing.

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  3. Badfilm - I really can't recommend checking this out that much. It's very routine, sure you'd fine some stuff to enjoy but knowing some of the other films you like this really doesn't compare.

    DTV - I reckon this has got to be available in the States. Probably has one of the alternative names there.

    One thing that I didn't really go into in the review was the totally irrelevant conspiracy sub plot. It's lazily thrown-in, and never expanded. It's window dressing to add another dimension to film.

    Really not a film I'd bother with.

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  4. Fuck! C Thomas Howell looks old these days.

    Those tanning pills really have aged the skin haven't they?

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