Year Released: 1984
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 84 minutes
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Here’s one you’ll never, and I do mean never, see on DVD. Even the greediest blood sucker of a lawyer would age by about a million years trying to clear all the rights for every horror movie clip included in this thing.
Listing them would take about an hour for you to read, so I’ll simply describe “Terror in the Aisles” as this: Donald Pleasance and Nancy Allen narrate scary scenes taken from almost every important horror film made between around 1940 to the “modern” era of 1984, mostly sticking to a ’68-’84 timeframe.
Sitting at home watching this, all I could think of was that this should be a lame collection of unrelated and badly edited “BOO!” moments occasionally and lazily interrupted by Pleasance and Allen spouting bad text in order to collect paychecks. It should be one long commercial for the included films while providing a teeny-tiny modicum of advertainment in the process.
Hell, it was probably intended that way.
Yet, while “Terror in the Aisles” isn’t a documentary by any means, it also isn’t just a compilation either. A lot of care went into putting this thing together and it shows. I’ve seen almost every movie included in “Terror” more than once. Yet there’s something about the lulling spookiness of Donald Pleasance’s voice combined with swapping soundtracks from one film to another that allows you to see these movies with fresh eyes. Whether it’s the score from Halloween played over scenes from The Shining or Night of the Living Dead; or Donald explaining how Texas Chain Saw Massacre was based on the life of Ed Gein during the scene where Marilyn Burns finds the bone room for the first time. It works.
So for sixty minutes nothing important or even memorable is said, but it’s the way it’s said. Remember how Laurence Olivier delivered that acceptance speech at the 1979 Oscars that was so awesome it made Jon Voight go “My god…”. Listen to that speech again about 10 times, then you’ll see how utterly empty it is. He’s not saying anything except “Thanks Guys!”, but God damn he’s got some major flair and flamboyance in the delivery. What Pleasance does here is similar. He takes something inconsequential and makes it come across like the Sermon on the Mount just in the telling.
Sadly, Nancy Allen doesn’t fare as well. While Pleasance is doing everything except parting the Red Sea, she seems to think she’s hosting an episode of “Ripley’s Believe it or Not!” Luckily, the director saw this and she’s not in the thing all that often and when she is, she’s fine.
So for 60 minutes, this will be a very effective and hypnotizing film, especially if you’re a horror fan.
Then… things go a little south.
The downside to all this professionalism and style is that the spell it puts you under gets exponentially weaker as it plods along, culminating as a very bad music video set to an ever worse 80’s pop song. It’s not as bad as it could be, but it’s pretty damn bad.
Still, Donald Pleasance makes this a joy to watch. If you’re a fan, and you know you are, this is a rare treat and he’s in fine form. “Terror in the Aisles” is not great because it’s original or informative. It’s great because it’s fun as hell and helps you rediscover a lot of the films you loved.
Posted on October 31, 2008 in Reviews by Jeremy Knox
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