50 Movies for 50 States Part Two: The `80s — #14 – Indiana, Film – Terror Squad

#14 – Indiana, Terror Squad

Terror Squad (1988), directed by Peter Maris, written by Mark Verheiden, with Chuck Connors, Brodie Greer, Bill Calvert, Kerry Wall, Kavi Raz, Joseph Nasser and Ken Foree, cinematography by Peter Jensen and Jeff Johnson, original music by Chuck Cirino, filmed in Kokomo, Indiana

The plot: Midwestern teens from various walks of life a la The Breakfast Club are stuck in detention when one of the kids hears a report that Libyan terrorists have attacked a nuclear power plant in their hometown of Kokomo, Indiana. After a prolonged police chase, the group of mercenaries take refuge in the school and hold the teenagers hostage. Haven’t these guys seen Red Dawn? Don’t they know this will end badly for them?

I tried using Siri on my wife’s Iphone just now. I asked it to search Terror Squad on the Internet Movie Database. Siri thought I said “Paris Wad.”

I wasn’t surprised.

I’m sure more people have seen Paris Hilton taking a load of semen to the face than have seen Terror Squad.

That was a terrible intro. I know. But I’m not going to go back and change it. You know why? Because I’m like Terror Squad. I don’t give a fuck. Terror Squad unapologetically does not give a fuck.

It was 1988 when Terror Squad was unleashed on this world like a bunch of fat kids let loose at a Wendy’s Superbar —  a time when films like Terror Squad gathered dust on the shelves of Ma and Pop video stores while everyone was busy renting out goddamn Navy Seals.

Kitsch today is factory-produced and distributed via the Internet through your “blogs”  and your “podcasts” and nothing fits the description of “obscure” anymore. So, imagine my surprise when not one of my VHS-obsessed Twitter pals was able to identify Terror Squad, a strange and surprisingly effective cross between The Breakfast Club and Red Dawn, as this week’s featured film. Did I stutter? I just said Terror Squad is a cross between The Breakfast Club and Red Dawn. Do I have your attention now? How is it possible none of you motherfuckers have seen this?

Let me answer that question. On the surface, Terror Squad looks unassuming enough – just another cheapy action flick, right?

Not so fast. Aside from the fact that IT’S A CROSS BETWEEN THE BREAKFAST CLUB AND RED DAWN, thanks to some outstanding — not to mention, way better than they possible should be — action sequences, random bits of WTFness/”Holy shit, did I just see that?”ness and a few surprises along the way, Terror Squad really is something special. It’s Indiana’s best kept secret. I sure as hell enjoyed it more than Hoosiers. I almost feel like not writing this in order to keep Terror Squad my own special little secret. Am I going to blow its cover? Oh well. Terror Squad is a secret too good not to be shared. And guess what? It’s on YouTube. You have no excuse not to watch it.

"AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!"

I wasn’t kidding when I said there isn’t a lot of information about Terror Squad on the Internet. But I had to learn more. I tried emailing Peter Maris, the director of the film, through his publicist in an attempt to get some more information. I had questions. Questions like:

* Why Indiana? Did Maris just through a dart at a map of the United States and decide on Indiana? Did Indiana have a whole bunch of stuff they needed to get rid of and figured, “Hey, why not? Let’s blow it up as part of a movie!”

* Speaking of explosions, where did all the money come from that allowed Maris and his crew to blow up so much shit in this film? For what I assume was an extremely low-budget movie, Terror Squad contains enough explosions and destruction to make a whole series of features. I mean … they really destroy a lot of stuff in this movie. Cars, buildings, more cars — nothing is safe.

Maris never wrote back. He remains, for now, an enigma.

Recipe for Terror Squad: KA-BOOM and repeat.

With a plot so ridiculous you just know that it had to have started out as a joke, Terror Squad‘s biggest strength is two impressive action scenes. These scenes make this movie and, while both are exciting, I can only imagine most of the film’s budget went into the first sequence in which the terrorist launch their attack on a nuclear power plant. The scene comes in at about the 15 minute mark of the film. It lasts almost half an hour. With only an occasional break to cut back to the students who will later become the terrorists’ hostages, the sequence is almost half an hour of a perturbed-looking Chuck Connors chasing terrorists across the Indiana countryside and through several small towns.

Sounds boring?

It’s not.

In hot pursuit of “Qaddafi’s hitmen”, speeding wildly in a police cruiser, Connors tails the terrorists in one of the best car chase sequences I’ve seen this side of The French Connection. Only, in The French Connection, there’s at least some attempt not to kill anyone and everyone in their path. In Terror Squad, it’s a different story. As the terrorists drive through a town, they open fire on crowds of people. Anyone foolish enough to get in the way of there car get mowed down. Even Connors’ character, the police officer – the supposed good guy – accidentally runs over a man lying on the ground after bouncing of the windshield of the terrorists’ video. Does he radio for help? No, he just takes a quick glance back and keeps on driving because if you stop pursuing the terrorists, the terrorists win! (On a subequent viewing, I did note that he appears to mouth the word “damn” when he realizes he killed an innocent pedestrian. So, I guess he does kind of sort of care.) When a woman with a baby carriage finds itself in the path of the chase, I was almost sure it was going to get mowed down. 

Angry Chuck is angry.

Soon, the terrorists get bored with machine guns and bring out the rocket launcher. Here’s where things get crazy, as they just start blowing up shit left and right. A 40-foot tall silo explodes and crashes to the ground. Too many cars and buildings to count are destroyed. People run around on fire. Vehicles just explode at random. Cars fly through the air. Flying cars? At some point, the chase goes into a parking garage and a police cruiser winds up driving right off the fourth or fifth-story of the building and crashes to the ground. And explodes. Naturally.

Everything explodes. It’s a beautiful thing.

The chase goes through a cornfield, the terrorists manage to elude the police and decide to hole up in a nearby school and hold the students there hostage. I won’t say too much about what happens then or about the second action sequence at the end of the film, as to actually protect spoilers for once. (Plus, I’m running out of ways to describe stuff exploding.)

You want to know more about the students? Well, okay. For the most part, the characters in this movie are something to be laughed at, although if you’re watching Terror Squad, I doubt you’re watching it for deep character development. There’s a scene toward the beginning of the movie where “Johnny”, the movie’s Judd Nelson – if we’re talking Breakfast Club comparison – plays a several-minute long duet of “Peggy Sue” with the school janitor, a kindly black man who — of course — is hilariously murdered by the terrorists. The music segment, not the murder, is an absolutely intolerable, inexcusable scene that might be the only thing that keeps this movie from being a masterpiece.

They’re all terrible actors. Every one of them, although I found this added to the film’s charm. However, the kids settle nicely into their nearly-packaged cardboardy roles – nerd, jock, bully, princess, weirdo.If I had to choose a favorite of these characters, it would be the geek who spends a good portion of the movie lecherously watching an aerobics program on a portable television and stares at pixelized tits in on the library computer.

In detention together, our hero Johnny hits on the princess character, who looks at the jock  with disgust as he makes farting noises with his armpit while the cheerleader laughs vapidly at nothing in particular. The nerd watches a little TV he has stowed away. The weirdo/punk doesn’t do much at all.

When the terrorists eventually show up, the students are pretty much useless.

Speaking of Libryan terrorists, the terrorists are more interesting as characters than the students. In one of the most surprising moments of the film, one of the terrorists explains to the students that he’s taken hostage that they are merely seeking vengeance against the United States for bombing their country and killing their families.

Whoa, hold up there. A sympathetic terrorist?

"Honestly, I'm not all that comfortable with this whole 'hostage' thing either."

Sympathy for brown people is not at all what I would have expected from a film released during the “Ra Ra, Go U.S.A.” 1980s of Ronald Reagan and Rocky fighting Apollo Creed with James Brown singing “Living in America” in the background as everyone gets together and holds “Hands Across America.” I expect my terrorists to be one-dimensional. What do you have to go and surprise me for?

I expected to hate you Terror Squad but you won me over with your multi-dimensional terrorists and your guns and your bombs and your bombs and your guns… in your head, in your head, in your heeeeeeead.

Added bonus: Terror Squad is culturally relevant with Qaddafi now being dead and all. I would’ve loved to have seen clips from Terror Squad amongst the highlights of Qaddafi’s life when he died. Seriously. When anyone tries to tell you that nothing good came from Qaddafi’s reign, just point them to Terror Squad. They’ll get it.

NOW GO WATCH THIS MOVIE.

From the soundtrack: “Peggy Sue” by Buddy Holly

 Three weeks from now: Kansas


50 Movies for 50 States Contest Scoreboard

@iceybloop – 2

@ZeekZombieMan – 1

@DraconicVerses – 2

@VicarOfVHS – 2

@ghwalters – 4

@lowdudgeon – 2

@unclegeeky – 2

@LCosgrove – 4

@GCDB – 2

Every Tuesday, a new screenshot. Guess the movie, win 2 points. Remember: Only dirty cheaters use IMDb to play the 50 Movies for 50 States guessing game. If you’re a cheater, I will find you out and scold you.

Want to play? Follow Matt on Twitter at @CM_MattDunn.

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4 responses to “50 Movies for 50 States Part Two: The `80s — #14 – Indiana, Film – Terror Squad

  1. I remember finding this thing making the rounds on basic cable in the mid-90s, back when they still showed decent movies on cable. I hate to utter blasphemy on someone else’s blog, but… I actually preferred this thing to Red Dawn. More explosions, for one thing. And for another, I always found the idea of Qaddafian terrorists sneaking into the Midwest easier to swallow than the idea of Nicaragua invading the U.S. Then again, that was years ago..and now I have no excuse but to watch it again. Thanks, man. This was a great one.

    Like

  2. I’d like to think that Qadaffi himself was a fan of this movie, but now we’ll never know.

    I too hate to utter blasphemy, but I’ve never even SEEN Red Dawn. I didn’t see it back in the `80s and I’ve just never felt compelled to go back and watch it. I really love this movie though. The *only* negative is that terrible out-of-place musical number toward the beginning. Aside from that, it’s non-stop fun. Great stunts too. I was amazed at how much they were able to pull off on such a low budget.

    Thanks for stopping by!

    Matt

    Like

  3. I am from Kokomo, where it was primarily filmed. I watched it in High School back in the late 90s to catch all of the continuity errors. I’m trying to do a fundraiser with the film as a center piece. Did you happen to find out who has the rights?

    Like

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