Sunday, October 13, 2013

TERROR TRACT, a 13-year-old, TV scare-movie-cum-time-capsule appears on Netflix streaming...

Never heard of this one, TrustMovies mused, as he came across TERROR TRACT, a new addition to what's available to stream on Netflix. He knew the film could not be that new, as it starred the late John Ritter (below), and a much younger-looking David DeLuise, son of the late Dom. As he watched even the first few minutes of the movie, it became clear why he had no memory of it: It was made for, and had its debut, on television. Indeed, it looks, acts and sounds like TV -- in everything from the plotting to dialog to the flat lighting and-pretty-if-generic sets. In fact, it seems to want to recreate something like that very popular TV scare movie from the 1970s, Trilogy of Terror. T of T doesn't hold up all that well, either, though the Karen-Black-meets-devil-doll episode can still startle, thrill and charm you. T of T was also, as I recall, made up of three completely diverse stories pushed together to create a full-length TV movie. Terror Tract has three stories, too, but it also features a wrap-around tale that opens, closes and becomes a kind of entr'acte to its three tales.

The initial tale is pretty standard stuff: the cuckoldry and revenge of a husband (Fredric Lehne) against his wife (Rachel York) and her lover (the very hard-bodied Carmine Giovinazzo) with a large splash of the supernatural tossed in. Around the time of the third "nightmare," you'll want to press fast-forward."

Tale two is the movie's bid for Devil Doll status, with a very naughty little monkey (above) doing the honors here, as a "lost" animal who charms/worms his way into a sweet little nuclear family. But the real enticement will probably be the star of this one: Bryan Cranston strutting his stuff nearly a decade prior to Breaking Bad. He's good, as usual, and the story builds nicely into something pretty horrific.

The final story involves a serial killer of women known as "the Granny Killer, due to the granny mask (below) that he/she always wears. This one is the shortest, chock-a-block with murder, ESP, and surprises that you can usually figure out prior to their arrival. But the performances of Will Estes as the boy who envisions the awful events, and Brenda Strong as the shrink in whose office he ends up, help move things along.

The wraparound section -- featuring DeLuise and Allison Smith (both shown below) as a young couple looking to buy a house, and Ritter as the schlubby-but-honest realtor helping them -- also builds to an ending that, back in 2000 when this TV movie was made, probably caught the zeitgeist nicely as it gives us a vision of real estate hell -- not just via the individual houses and their stories but finally throughout an entire neighborhood in which the movie takes place.

This is funny and nasty, though it -- like almost everything else in the film -- could have been funnier, nastier and better observed. Terror Tract, co-directed by  Lance W. Dreesen and Clint Hutchison (two episodes each) and written by Mr. Hutchison, is really just a semi-glossy time-waster, but if you're a fan of any of the actors mentioned, you might just find it a worthwhile "waste."  You can catch it now via Netflix streaming -- and maybe elsewhere, too.

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