Directed by Andrew Kuehn
Starring Donald Pleasance, Nancy Allen and a cast of thousands!
Released October 26, 1984
Donald Pleasance (Halloween) and Nancy Allen (Dressed to Kill) play two of the worst theatre patrons ever as they narrate a documentary about scary films while showing clips and scenes from classic monster movies of the 30s up to the nasty slashers of the early 80s while covering topics such as how sex gets you killed in these movies and how do they do those darn effects?
Fans of television, especially sitcoms, have come to know what the term “clip show” means. A few scenes are filmed with clips from previous episodes are used to pad out an easy episode. Despite the fact that “Terror in the Aisles” is presented as a documentary, it’s basically a clip show. Donald Pleasance, known to most genre watchers as Dr. Sam Loomis from Halloween, and Nancy Allen, who I remember more from Robocop than anything scary, introduce segments and narrate over certain clips to explain many of the familiar horror tropes that we’ve come to know over the decades.
Though the film is presented by Universal Pictures, who obviously dug into their vaults to provide a large collection of their own films, they also got clips from other companies as well so the film covers a large gamut of sub genres of horror, or “terror films” as they call it to tip toe around the fact that not every clip is from a horror film, but the occasional action film like Sylvester Stallone’s Nighthawks or Dustin Hoffman’s Marathon Man. That’s fine because the dental scene in Marathon Man is tense as hell even after all these years. But the majority of the scenes are from now-classics like Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Psycho, Carrie, Jaws, Night of the Living Dead, The Thing, and so on. Some of your favourites may not show up because Terror in the Aisles was released way back in 1984, Halloween had a head start so Michael Myers is featured prominently though if you blink you’ll miss Jason’s quick scene and Freddy wasn’t even known to audiences until two weeks after this was released. But those guys have their own documentaries at this point, so that’s fine.
The film feels a bit long (it’s only 84 minutes!) since it throws so many scenes at you in quick succession, you’re getting a lot thrown at you but where the film is merely okay as a documentary, it’s a great primer for those looking to get into scary films or to show someone what the older style of horror films used to be like compared to the newer scary films that are released. You may not want to watch all of the films individually but seeing the major scenes from some of the most popular films of the time will get you caught up pretty fast and who knows, newer fans may find an appreciation for the old films.
That’s the big take away for me in this film, while it does show the scary stuff, there’s a lot of information and background in some segments that show off how effects are done or delving into real life stories that inspired these films. Early on, the film even tries to answer how people can watch these vile scenarios play out on a big screen. With a bit of a wink, the film states that maybe it’s because we’re sick bastards and at least in my case, I can’t disagree with that.
Story: 6 – It comes off a bit long and the pace goes from frantic to sluggish at times, but the film is a decent introduction to some of the older, classic scary films from the 30s to the early 80s.
Blood: 6 – Not surprisingly the film is edited so it’s not wall to wall blood and gore or the movie may have never been released. There’s a decent amount but the film goes to lengths to show that movies don’t need blood to be scary.
Nudity: 8 – Well there is a segment about the popular horror trope of having sex in films gets you killed and thankfully the 70s and 80s provided ample T&A.
Overall: 6 – It’s a decent documentary for its time, but it’s a quick way to relive the classics or introduce someone to those very classics we love.
-The film did have to be edited to avoid an X rating, though none of the films it shows ever got higher than an R.
-The television version of the film contains clips from even more films that were used to replace the more violent scenes not acceptable on TV.