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Terror (1979)

Courtesy of Norman J. Warren

Main image of Terror (1979)
35mm, colour, 87 mins
DirectorNorman J. Warren
Production CompanyCrystal Film Productions
ProducersRichard Crafter & Les Young
ScreenplayDavid McGillivray
NovelLes & Moira Young
CinematographerLes Young
MusicIvor Slaney

Cast: John Nolan (James Garrick); Carolyn Courage (Ann); James Aubrey (Philip); Sarah Keller (Suzy); Tricia Walsh (Viv); Glynis Barber (Carol Tucker)

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A filmmaker holds a party to preview his new film, based on the bizarre and violent deaths of some of his ancestors after a witch's curse. But a terrifying chain of events proves that the curse is no mere myth.

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With lighting and sound effects inspired by Dario Argento's Suspiria (Italy 1977), Terror is effectively a series of horror 'set pieces' built around a fairly traditional tale of a family doomed by an ancient witch's curse. The prologue, in which this tale is told, turns out to be a film made by the protagonist, the first of several anti-climactic moments in which tension is built up, only to be defused when the perceived threat evaporates. However, when the moments of actual horror do come, the effects work extremely well for a low budget film and, where they are less skilful, expert camerawork and judicious editing hide many of their shortcomings.

One of the most effective of these moments takes place in the deserted film studio, where Philip is attacked by filmmaking paraphernalia. Camera dollies roll towards him, lights explode and empty cans and hundreds of feet of celluloid rain down on him - actually nine damaged prints of Saturday Night Fever (US, 1977) that director Norman J. Warren managed to obtain from Rank Laboratories.

Warren no doubt drew on his own experience of making adult films for the scenes of 'light relief' which intersperse the murderous mayhem, in which a crew are filming an amateurish soft porn movie entitled 'Bathtime for Brenda'. This, Terror's second 'film within a film', is tame in comparison with the full frontal nudity of the erotic dancer at the nightclub where Ann and Viv work. This lengthy sequence, undoubtedly excised from the original UK release, makes the film far more akin to European exploitation, as do the lingering shots on the gory aftermath of the grisly deaths.

The production of Terror was funded using the takings from Warren's hugely profitable 1975 film Satan's Slave and was itself a financial success, topping the British box office chart for a week. This was a period when the plethora of London cinema screens could find space for low-budget independent films, which could do as well as, or even better than, the major studio releases.

Jo Botting

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Video Clips
1. A curse (2:46)
2. The curse returns (2:45)
3. Blood on the ceiling (2:14)
4. Possessed car (3:51)
Satan's Slave (1976)
Witchfinder General (1968)
Warren, Norman J. (1942-)