Monday, 10 October 2011

Terror (1978)

The most important thing you need to know about Terror is that it’s not supposed to make sense, and why should it? After all, it's a late-1970s British horror film inspired by Dario stream-of-scary-visual-consciousness-sometimes-when-he-was-good Argento. Once you understand that you realise that it doesn’t matter that the opening is meant to be a film within a film but then the witch that reappears at the end looks exactly like the presumed actress playing her in the prologue sequence. It doesn’t matter that pretty Glynis Barber gets chased through the woods and stabbed to death even though she has nothing to do with the family curse that’s just been explained to us. It doesn’t matter that Michael Craze discovers her pinned to a tree with a knife through the throat and then he disappears from the picture never to be seen again. It doesn’t matter that most of the victims have absolutely nothing to do with the aforementioned curse and don’t deserve to die, or that there’s a prolonged suspenseful sequence set during a rainstorm that climaxes with the appearance of Peter Mayhew and his big moustache. What matters is that the opening witch burning sequence is splendidly put together and stands up well even today, that most of the murders are very well staged, and that most of the actors and actresses concerned acquit themselves sufficiently during their screen time that you’re sorry to see them get horribly killed. What matters is that there are some great set-pieces, including an Argento-worthy scene set in a film studio where James Aubrey gets attacked by film canisters (SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER, apparently, and that’s probably the only time that film’s going to get mentioned on here) and flung down a flight of stairs where he meets a fate similar to that suffered by Irene Miracle’s Rose in Argento’s INFERNO which that director made two years after this. What matters is the ‘How the hell did they manage that?’ bit where a car floats thirty feet above the ground. What matters is the completely crazy climax, shot for pennies but which still looks fantastic, where a bloody great sword shoots through the air to staple final surviving cast member Carolyn Courage to the fireplace with an emphatic ‘No-one, but no-one, gets out of this film alive’ before Ivor Slaney’s weird, spooky, deliciously unsettling synthesiser music kicks in again, the music that at the start of this delirious movie has accompanied what must have been one of the most unsettling title sequences cinema audiences of the time had seen, in which several of the horrifying set-piece murders are played out in slow motion, blood splatters and all. Director Norman J Warren has freely admitted that TERROR was put together by writing down scary ideas and sequences and then handing the finished shopping list to screenwriter David McGillivray who quite sensibly must have realised that to try and work everything into a story that made sense probably wasn’t the way to deal with the material, and he was right. TERROR should be approached with a big bag of popcorn and a love for this scary, surreal, crazy and sometimes outright daft genre of ours, because it deserves no less.


  1. Michael Craze should have been much more involved with this film, if for no other reason than simply his name!

  2. It IS a great surname. He was also in Satan's Slave and, I believe, Dr Who for a while prior to his Norman J Warren career.