Halloween White Elephant: Terror Tract (2000)

Posted by Brian Kelley - October 5th 2011 @ 10:00 am

From Damon–“I’m a big fan of anthology films and this is one that I saw via a VHS screener sent to the mom-and-pop video store where I worked years ago. There isn’t anything too special about this and the three stories but I love the Bryan Cranston middle segment with the curious little monkey. My favorite thing about this film, by far, is the wrap-around story with the late, great John Ritter as a realtor giving the gruesome history of the house. Ritter was the best and it always made me happy the few times he graced our beloved genre with his presence.”

It’s a good thing Terror Tract starts off tongue-in-cheek with a hilarious early bird gets the worm/early cat get the bird/early dog gets the cats/early car gets the dog segment. One wouldn’t want to mistake the film as being a serious attempt at anthology horror, would they? Certainly not with John Ritter playing a real estate agent with a shit-eating grin and undying loyalty to the rule of full disclosure, much to the detriment of his ability to sell a house to a young, innocent (read: stupid looking) couple. Turns out there’s a reason Ritter’s realtor character is so anxious to ink a deal. More on that later, though.

The first house’s history involves a woman, her lover, and her husband. One night, while engaging in their torrid affair, Sarah and Frank are caught hard and wet by her husband Louis (Fredric Lehne who played the Federal Marshal on Lost). Though he’s fixin’ to murder them, things go wrong and he ends up on the wrong side of a boomstick. Frank disposes of the body in a nearby lake and the pair go about their lives. This is when the segment (called “Nightmare”) begins to suffer from “Hellraiser Sequel Syndrome” and scenes of Louis as a zombie-come-home are repeatedly revealed to be (you got it) nightmares. That’s when the writers throw caution to the wind and tack on a not-so-surprising ending and go home thinking they’ve left the audience with a complete story. It’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” by way of The Fog. But not as good, of course.

Instead of acting like normal people and ditching the real estate agent with a penchant for embellishing horrific stories, the cute couple (read: morons) look at another house with him. Unfortunately, this house once had a monkey problem. Little Jennifer and her family once lived in the house and one day, while playing in the backyard, she finds a tiny primate. She convinces her parents to let her hold on to Bobo (also the name of the segment) until its rightful owners can be found. However, Jennifer’s dad Ron (Bryan Cranston) begins to suspect the monkey is evil. In the Terror Tract universe, wrestler “Buff” Bagwell is an animal control officer and Ron hires him to dispose of the monkey. Things go wrong and Ron ends up looking like the likely culprit for Bagwell’s death. Thus begins a cat-and-mouse game between a grown ass, non-quadriplegic man and a tiny monkey. It’s silly, violet and fun with a ridiculous ending. This is certainly the best of the bunch.

By this point in the film, all logic has been completed tossed down the sewer like a pet alligator. In between segments Ritter has been receiving calls from a mysterious man threatening the lives of his family should he not make a sale by a certain time. Is this man forcing Ritter to also reveal all these unpleasant truths about each house? Does he hold some power over the dumb couple such that their following Ritter around to each house of horror is not an act of undeserved free-will? Will the third segment live up to the zanily entertaining second?

The third and final house turns out to just have a cursory part in the tale told by the realtor. Most of the action takes place in a psychiatrist’s office where a young man named Sean has come to make a confession to Dr. Helen Corey. He’s been having visions in which he witnesses the workings of the town’s least favorite nutjob, The Granny Killer. This serial murderer isn’t hunting old women as the name would imply, he wears a grandma mask and talks like a sweet old lady asking his victims to (quoting the name of the segment) “Come to Granny” before whacking them with a meat clever. Of course Dr. Corey becomes suspicious of Sean and makes some bad choices in how she handles the situation. There’s not an original moment in this segment and the killer’s voice is even more ridiculous than Ol’ Ducky in The New York Ripper. However, it is well acted and shot, making it an enjoyable capper though it probably would have fit better as the middle segment.

It’s finally at this point that our doomed-to-live-life-being-taken-advantage-of-because-they’re-idiots couple realize something isn’t right in the neighborhood, Ritter goes off the deep end, and the wraparound (“Make Me an Offer”) sees some quite hilarious payoff. While Terror Tract is low on any actual terror, it’s self-aware and downright goofy enough to be a solid watch. It gets off to a rough start- “Nightmares” is solid on a technical level but as a story it’s limp and repetitive- and it peaks in the middle (because you will never top a monkey segment in your anthology so don’t even try), but the simple promise of seeing Ritter get more and more flustered in between each story is enough to keep momentum strong. Terror Tract is easy to recommend on that alone.

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