Welcome to FRIDAY THE 13TH!!!! Flix, where there’s never a need to leave the couch or put on pants. Each week I’ll recommend an under-the-radar movie currently available on one or more of the major streaming platforms. They won’t all be classics, but every selection is guaranteed to be 100% watchable or your money back.
Look y’all, I do my best here.
If you play fantasy football, you’re familiar with the concept of the desperation play, the “what the heck” flier you grab off of waivers and hope for the best. It’s not the guy you drafted or ever expected to start, it’s the guy you play because there’s no one else. Today’s recommendation, Terminal Invasion (Netflix), is a lot like that. Look at the archives of this column to find out if there’s anything in there – literally anything – you haven’t seen. If you’ve seen them all (and you can’t bring yourself to watch The Cabin in the Woods or The Avengers again), give Terminal Invasion a shot. It’s got Bruce Campbell!
I started watching this movie because I didn’t know it existed and I thought I’d seen (or at least knew of) every BC movie. I expected to turn it off after its made-for-television awfulness became unbearable. Given that this was a Sci-fi Channel (before it was Syfy) original, it should have hit that point early on. Reveal a cartoony 2002 CGI monster in the first five minutes, introduce some 22-year-old with tits the size of watermelons playing a CIA-sponsored Nobel laureate, feature Casper Van Dien, something like that. To my surprise I stayed more or less interested the whole way through. Well, almost. The movie as a whole kinda drags despite being only 84 minutes long and the climax is unsurprisingly atrocious. It even features a “here’s why I did it” monologue that fails to be either justifiable or ironic. Also, don’t ask me what the monster looks like. It’s a practical creature effect, so that’s cool, but this is just about the most detailed look we ever get at it:
Part of what keeps the movie tolerable is Campbell, who can’t help but be engaging. The rest of the cast has something to do with it too. Most Syfy horror nowadays feature way too many speaking roles and way too few SAG actors. Terminal Invasion (okay, also the title is really awful because it’s about an alien invasion inside an airline terminal) at least keeps the cast size manageable. They’re riffing on movies like The Thing, where a small group is snowed in or otherwise trapped whilst an unseen menace moves among them. This lets them focus at least a little on building an ensemble, rather than just setting up random nobodies to die. I don’t know why Syfy has moved away from this model. Maybe their audiences prefer grander scale even at the expense of being able to hire enough “real” actors to fill every role. (Even third-tier actors who clearly didn’t get much time to rehearse or many takes to get ahold of some of the cornier dialogue.)
So yeah, this flick is a desperation play. But it’s Friday the 13th and you need to be watching some kind of horror movie tonight. If your top choice happens to be unavailable (or benched for no goddamn reason, RGIII) then maybe Terminal Invasion can give you something to watch while you slowly drink yourself to death.
Added bonus: That right there is The Daily Show’s Jason Jones. He appears here as some kind of super serious special forces guy who nonetheless fails to in any way challenge the physical superiority of a middle-aged convict. I love seeing old resume credits from guys who make their money now being sarcastic and above it all. Before he was such a keen wit ripping on the Tea Party and shit, this guy was a struggling Canadian actor fighting for minor parts in TV movies. I find comfort in that.