Terror of the Disgusting Space Worms From Outer Space (1984)

If I had to choose a dystopian wasteland to call home, the one in Terror of the Disgusting Space Worms From Outer Space would definitely be a top-fiver.

Mary and Larry are twenty-somethings living in Germany. And they’re in love. It’s easy to tell because the couple spends the first five minutes of this movie at der club, where they drink, dance, make out, and murder people. Then they nod off. In the morning, Mary and Larry exit der club and hop in der car. Larry says, “I’d like to drive away with you.” Mary replies, “Where to? Everything is radioactive.”

She’s right! Because extraterrestrials have let loose toxic space worms that turn humans into semi-rampaging zombies. Mary and Larry drive to an abandoned industrial complex and look for a safe spot to have sex. Mary’s like, I don’t think we should do this. And then Larry’s like, relax babe it’s perfect. Then a zombie shows up with a scythe and proves that things are far from perfect, babe.

Terror of the Disgusting Space Worms From Outer Space would feel more at home on the wall of a D.I.Y. art installation in the back of a bar than on a VHS bootleg; that’s what sets it apart. Unlike most subterranean scum shows from the German underground, Terror isn’t obsessed with genital mutilation (Zombie ‘90) or desecrating baby corpses (Fuck the Devil). It retains a stark, brutalist feel. But the execution is more experimental, like what would happen if you hooked up an HDMI cable to the brain of the girl from Der Fan and watched her daydreams on your TV. Shot on video and running 35 minutes, the movie is a raw melting pot of Pixelvision effects, synths that sound like broken vacuum cleaners, and sickly green skies. Scenes of cars driving and zombies chasing people go on forever, while minimalist drum machines rattle in the background. There’s no real outcome and no consistency to the pacing. But there is a theme song that sounds like an outtake from the first Wavves album. Plus an alien named Mr. X who wears a Flash Fire Hazmat suit that looks exactly like the one that the killer wears in Don’t Go in the House.

When I lived in Los Angeles, I used to go to the annual Post-It Show at Giant Robot. This was where hundreds of famous and not-so-famous artists drew on Post-It notes, then sold them at the show. I never bought a piece. But there was something about the surreal sight of standing in the middle of thousands of electric-colored pieces of paper — each covered with a tiny, hand drawn masterpiece — that made me fall in love with the experience. It was like walking through a music video directed by Michel Gondry. Terror makes me feel the same way. Nothing much happens and I pretty much fell asleep before the end credits hit. But just being in the presence of this droning, trash-horror art project, hanging out with some no-wave scumbags on blood-smeared stairwells, was enough to make me drift off with a smile on my face.

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