The history of the cinema is marked by classic scenes you love watching again and again. There’s Charlton Heston parting the Red Sea in The Ten Commandments, Rhett cussing Scarlet out in Gone With the Wind and pretty much every moment of Hoosiers and Die Hard. But one scene in particular is so perfect that it simply can’t be confined to a single film! Yes, I am referring to the shot of the explosion rushing up the elevator shaft in The Terror Within!
Exploding Elevator Shaft (as he’s is known in the industry) has a career more impressive than most of his co-stars! With a resume that includes his explosive debut in The Terror Within and well-received follow ups in such Robert Corman produced fare as Star Hunter, Unknown Origin and Alien Terminator, he’s the action scene equivalent of Charles Napier – a familiar face who can be relied upon to deliver a sturdy performance no matter how awful everyone around him may be.
And make no mistake, Alien Terminator isn’t going to be remembered for much other than it being at least one of four films Exploding Elevator Shaft appeared in. Sure, you’ll remember its story of a handful of scientists trapped in an underground lab with a rampaging monster trying to eat them. After all, research has shown that it’s the third most popular low budget action movie story after “cop avenges dead partner” and “kickboxer avenges dead brother.”
And while no one can deny how great it is to watch the same bargain basement stalk and kill movie again and again, but with a different cast of nobodies, Alien Terminator turns a surefire winner of a concept into a steaming pile of predictability (shower scene that seems only designed to showcase scientific advancement in artificial breast enhancement), technical ineptitude (we see you boom mike!), a story that forces characters to either stand around too long so the monster can catch up or to split up so the monster can attack them more easily, and a cast whose chief claim to fame is that they must have fit into the Earthtek company T-shirts the film’s production crew had printed up.
It’s the last day of a two year mission for the six scientists (well, one was a scientist, one was a doctor and I’m still not sure what the jobs of the other four were other than being Monster Chow) and it’s business as usual at the Biocom lab. One couple bickers, pretending they don’t like each other, another couple is pumping each other’s brains out, and the meth addicted Newton is accidentally making his biggest breakthrough as a result of his drug-induced clumsiness.
Newton injects his find into a rat and the next thing you know poor old Coach the doctor is having a very Alien-inspired breakfast where your standard issue monster larvae skitters out from his back and somewhere off into the rest of the complex.
To the surprise of absolutely no one except the morons who have been working with Newton for two years, Newton is actually working on a secret project for Earthtek to develop a biological agent to inject into soldiers to make them killing machines! (I don’t know which makes this movie feel more dated, the idea of using humans to do our killings in an era of drones or the hideous “virtual reality” sequence every cheesy early 1990s sci-fi flick was required to contain.)
And if the presence of a guy in a scuzzy looking hairy monster suit isn’t bad enough, the Earthtek director topside who is monitoring all this shuts down the environmental controls so that everyone will die and Earthtek won’t get in trouble for their illegal biological experiments. Worst last day on the job ever!
Alien Terminator then descends into aimless wandering through the same corridors and air shafts punctuated by characters coming up with typically moronic last ditch schemes to trap the monster and get the escape hatch open before they all suffocate. Talk of hacking Earthtek’s system to open the hatch and manually overriding the electronic doors are the order of the day.
I was never clear why they just didn’t set up their little hacker program and then run to the escape hatch to wait and see if it would open. Surely they could have simply barricaded the way they came and let the monster have the run of the rest of the facility. But no, this is the sort of movie whose story demands that characters almost get somewhere, but find some excuse to go back where they promptly run into the monster.
By the time Exploding Elevator Shaft finally makes his appearance (only after after a shot of the monster being blow up off a brick apartment building’s fire escape which was inexpertly inserted from another movie into this one), you’re promising yourself that you’ll never watch a movie again where characters shout into walkie-talkies about sectors and ventilation systems. (Film may qualify for HVAC course credit though. Please check with your appropriate state and local agencies.)
© 2015 MonsterHunter