You’ve seen them in the bargain bin at the big box store. The movies that feature one or two names that you recognize but just look terrible. For every successful and well-made movie like DAWN OF THE DEAD or TWENTY-EIGHT DAYS there are far more like THE TERROR EXPERIMENT. These are movies that come out just to cash in on the hype of the larger more marketable films. Once in a great while there is a decent movie inside that budget packaging – but far more likely you are going to find a movie that simply sucks away your time, never to return. Sadly, THE TERROR EXPERIMENT is one of the latter.
A decent plotline for a low budget film, THE TERROR EXPERIMENT is the story of a terrorist bombing at a non-descript “federal building” which results in the quarantine of the building. But the bomb set something else terrible in motion, releasing a pathogen that turns anyone who comes into contact with it into a kind of rage zombie that then attacks anything near it. Our main storyline follows Cale (Jason London, who has recently fallen into obscurity but who you’ll recognize quickly from the far superior DAZED AND CONFUSED). Cale is our hero, a divorced IT/security specialist who works at “the federal building”. To raise the stakes, his wife also works there and their daughter’s daycare is on one of the lower levels.
When the bomb goes off, there are few survivors but they inevitably team up. When they find Cale, who knows the building well and has a safe room with cameras showing the carnage on the lower floors, they try to come up with a plan to get out of the building. But while Cale is focused on finding his family, the rest of the group simply wants to escape with their lives. As he fights his impulses to put himself and the others in the party at risk, there are lengthy close-ups on London’s face as he makes a “I hope my family is okay. I’m so totally tortured by this dilemma. Can’t you see how tortured I am?” face.
THE TERROR EXPERIMENT starts off with a nice (if poorly acted) set up. But it quickly falters by trying to extend beyond the film’s means. Instead of focusing on the human element within the building, we are given a host of characters who are about as interesting as watching paint chips dry in the sun. Stereotypes are fine in some movies as a satirical statement or as a farce. This is not what THE TERROR EXPERIMENT is going for, however. When we should be rooting for them, we’re just hoping the movie will end.
Presented by veteran TV director George Mendeluk, THE TERROR EXPERIMENT not only re-treads ground that has been fully explored in better films – it offers absolutely nothing to the genre. With some small, simple turns from relative celebs C. Thomas Howell (E.T.), Judd Nelson, and Lochlyn Munro (a recent guest on television’s CASTLE), I expected more than the film is ever able to deliver.
Video: (1080p, 1.78:1 Widescreen) The video is decently presented but nothing special. Blu-ray does very little for this THE TERROR EXPERIMENT’s presentation which comes across as cheap and unfinished.
Audio: (English Dolby TrueHD 5.1) The audio is well presented and gives a nice edge to THE TERROR EXPERIMENT when you forget about what you’re seeing on the screen.
Audio Commentary by director George Mendeluk The sole special feature on the Blu-ray, this is a pretty decent commentary and was surprisingly insightful to the process of putting together this film. If THE TERROR EXPERIMENT was slightly better this could almost elevate the disc to rental status.