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Article Archive >> Entertainment

Movies From the Black Lagoon: Terror Squad

Movies From the Black Lagoon
Terror Squad - 1988, Unrated
By Tom Doty

Middle Eastern terrorists embark on a violent rampage in Kokomo, Indiana until they run into some ill behaved teens serving detention in this late 80s action extravaganza - on a budget.
A fair question would certainly be "Why Kokomo"? Turns out it is home to the 'Black River Nuclear' facility and the terrorists (four guys kitted out in K-Mart casual wear) mean to make a statement about the bombing of Libya by blowing it up. Their plan calls for their youngest volunteer to steer a van through security and ram the silo with it so that the resulting explosion will be seen for miles. The other three provide cover fire but it's not enough to stop the vehicle from being blown off its wheels before it can make any ground.
They opt to change the plan to raising as much of a ruckus in downtown Kokomo as an endless supply of ammo can do. The sequence is actually well done and involves many car stunts and gore effects as the unholy three mow down civilians until the resulting carnage resembles a lost scene from 'Death Race 2000." The Kokomo police are in hot pursuit but they eventually lose sight of the terror mobile.
Meanwhile a gaggle of high school movie stereotypes are glimpsed on their way to detention. You have the dumb and courageous football hero, the gorgeous but emotionally fragile cheerleader, the sarcastic yet sensitive stoner/musician, and the nerdy but MacGyver-like geek. The group is such a cliche that you just know the harmonica playing janitor (who is supporting the stoner's music career) will catch a bullet (actually several as the weapons of choice here are machine guns).
The terrorists find their way to the school and sit in on detention. The police spot the terrorist vehicle in the school lot (quite easy as it is the only vehicle there) and before you know it this morphs into a low rent take on 'Dog Day Afternoon." This fact isn't lost on the police chief who even tries a trick or two from the movie . The chief decides to give in to their demands in hopes that the F.B.I. will get there in the interim but Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. is nowhere in sight.
It all leads to an action oriented ending that finds the terrorists facing their ultimate challenge when they must square off against the uber-nerd and a stoner who finally has an authority figure he can attack without recrimination. Good stuff that ignores sub plots and measured performances and opts for a gore drenched conclusion that is low on logic but high on pain.
This one deserves points for trying to cash in on the mega budgeted action movie trend (think "Die Hard "or any 80s Schwarzenegger flick) as well as the success of 'the Breakfast Club." The director ,Peter Maris, proves that he can do a lot with no budget as long as the location includes lots of stuff to blow up as well as a lot of locals who are willing to work for nothing (the final credits appear to thank every member of the Kokomo P.D. and a string of businesses).
the film gets a boost from screen veteran Chuck Connors as the Police Chief. He has a good time here and plays it straight. He also shows that he has a sense of humor by having his character rock a Brooklyn Dodgers jacket (Connors segued into movies from sports playing professional Basketball and Baseball, to this day he is the only guest commentator on Monday Night Football to accidentally inject the f-bomb into the commentary). The big salute goes to Mark Verheiden for coming up with the story. he has gone on to write comics and produce imaginative T.V. shows like "Smallville" and the revamped "Battlestar Galactica." He just wrote "Bruce vs. Frankenstein" for Bruce Campbell so we have that to look forward to.
Best Line: "She seemed pretty confused. Near as I can figure we got at least two terrorists, half a dozen hostages, and one dead janitor."

Tom Doty occasionally emerges from the Lagoon to check his e-mail and to read to children every Wednesday at 10:30am at Borders in Hagerstown. If you'd like to get a message to him, write to: dotyfox@myactv.net.

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