Andrew Stevens established himself as an actor in the late 1970s with appearances in a string of B-movies and a lead role in short lived TV oater The Oregon Trail. During the 1980s he became a familiar face to TV audiences with guest appearances in shows like Columbo and Murder, She Wrote, and a stint in Dallas as Casey Denault, the kind of smooth-talking con artist in which he came to specialise.
In 1989 he featured in The Terror Within, a low budget post-apocalypse horror movie produced by Roger Corman and starring George Kennedy. In it mankind has been all but wiped out by an unidentified plague, and mutated monsters known as 'gargoyles' dominate the desert landscape. Stevens plays David, one of a handful of scientists attempting to find a cure for the disease that continues to ravage mankind, but who struggle just to survive in their claustrophobic research bunker.
That first movie ends with David and another scientist, Linda (Terri Treas), the only survivors among the ensemble cast, and there's no obvious reason why anybody would have required a sequel. But it made a little money, and Stevens wanted to get into writing and directing, so... The Terror Within II lead to a second career behind the camera for Stevens, with his string of production companies now responsible for over 100 movies. Chief among their output are B-actioners (including a couple starring Steven Seagal), family dross (Stevens produced and directed the infamous Skateboard Kid 2) and softcore erotica (with titles like Illicit Dreams and Fatal Passion). In recent years his output has slowed and he is now semi-retired.
Country: USA | Runtime: 90m | Director: Andrew Stevens
Starring: Andrew Stevens, Clare Hoak, R. Lee Ermey, Chick Vennera, Barbara Alyn Woods
What happens: The near future, Colorado. We pick up soon after the end of the first movie, with David making his way through the wasteland in search of a second underground research facility hidden beneath the Rocky Mountains. Linda is dead, but David soon runs into Ariel (Hoak) and immediately impregnates her. At the Rocky Mountain lab, military type Von Demming (Ermey) oversees an increasingly desperate cadre of scientists. They have run out of a serum that wards off the plague. David and Ariel are sidetracked by a cult of crazies, who hand Ariel to a lucite (the new name for gargoyles) to be raped. David eventually rescues her and they make it to the lab. Ariel is heavily pregnant and tests somehow show the baby is a lucite. Moments after it's born it grows to full size and, together with another lucite that formed from a bit of old flesh, kills most of the scientists. David manages to destroy both monsters and escape with Ariel.
"Oh God, we should have killed it at birth, it's broken out of the incubator and shed its skin."
In terms of plot outline TTW2 is very similar to the TTW (and both are very similar to Creepozoids): a group of people hang out in an underground facility trying to keep safe from the dangers of the post-apocalyptic world above. Then: monsters and a weird baby. Ripping off David DeCoteau is the cinematic equivalent of eating from the trash. Even without the egosploitation element, TTW2 is probably more worthwhile than the first movie. But the broadly similar plots only serve to highlight the differences resulting from the sequel's writer, director and star being the same person. The first is obvious in the opening moments. While TTW effectively features an ensemble cast from which a hero emerges in the final act, TTW2 is built entirely around a single character. Guess which one.
"We need you David!"
We're reintroduced to David in the first shot of the movie (see above). Within 15 minutes he has rescued a beautiful woman, given a dying man his bond, killed a monster, and had such powerful sex with said beautiful woman that she instantly knows she's pregnant. To be fair all that sort of stuff can happen in regular crappy B-movies, but when the writer bestows their own character with so many wondrous faculties and facets it somehow makes them much funnier. Later he will single-handedly defeat a small army of professional crazies in combat, and when he gets to the lab everyone there will just assume he's now in charge (even though its commanding officer is R. Lee freaking Ermey, technically the most authoritative actor ever to bellow an instruction on screen).
"You know what? There's nothing wrong with people needing each other."
You don't need to have seen the earlier movie in order to follow what's going on in this one. In fact it would be better if you didn't, you'll avoid the brain-stretching recalibration necessary in accepting David as a super-warrior. In TTW he was just a humble scientist. Here he's some sort of quasi-mythical Mad Maxesque wandering demigod: slayer of beasts, lover of women, cooler than ice. I guess when you're writing the script you can give yourself whatever characteristics you like. The problem is you risk making the rest of the cast redundant. David is the only character who is given anything to do, the others are just there to be raped or killed. The movie ends in the same place it began, and David is alone in having any influence on the events between. If Stevens had been brave enough to endow him with the ability to give birth, he could have done away with the rest of the cast altogether.
Because this is par for the course in a B-movie, and because Stevens is a familiar and likeable screen presence, it's fairly easy to roll with the narcissism. It probably sounds worse than it comes off in the movie. But he must remain a butt of the egosploitation joke – you can't go around making movies like this without being held to account.
EGOWATCH: David is the human race’s only hope for survival. He’s irresistible to women, super-cool, super-tough and super-clever. He’s the only one who can fend off lucite, the only one who can cure the plague, the only one to impact on the plot and is in charge of everyone for some reason. The most repeated line in the movie is “we need you David!” and he cast his mother in a minor role then gave her second billing.
Standard Alien rip-off, but quite good fun as that goes.
Video: One minute of The Terror Within II