Color, 1991, 84 mins. 54 secs.
Directed by Andrew Stevens
Starring Andrew Stevens, Stella Stevens, R. Lee Ermey, Chick Vennera, Burton "Bubba" Gilliam, Clare Hoak, Larry Gilman, Barbara Alyn Woods, Renee Jones
Code Red (Blu-ray) (US RA HD) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9)

The Terror Wtihin IIThe Terror Wtihin IIIn 1989, Roger Corman's Concorde Pictures scored a modest VHS hit with The Terror Within, a modest, post-apocalyptic Alien riff shot in the Mojave Desert and starring George Kennedy and Andrew Stevens. Inspired to become a writer-director, Stevens wound up taking charge behind the camera for a 1991 sequel, which kicked off a surprising career for the actor helming '90s erotic thrillers like Scorned, Illicit Dreams, and Night Eyes 3. Once again we drop into a world where "covert biological warfare, deemed an 'accident' by some, released a virus so devastating that only a handful of humans survived. Grotesque genetic mutations were spawned dominating the earth and threatening the existence of man as a species."

Here Stevens gets to change his appearance several times as David, the bearded, isolated survivor of the first film who's looking for an underground scientific lab that posted a ray of hope during the first mutant attack. His destination is the Rocky Mountain Laboratory, The Terror Wtihin IIwhere an unlikely team The Terror Wtihin IIincluding Von Demming (Ermey) and Kara (Stella Stevens, Andrew's mom) is trying to find a way to cure the rampant mutant menace above ground and is now doing experiments on a severed mutant finger that can't possibly end well. The crossbow-wielding David, accompanied by his pet dog, ends up running into a young woman (Hoak) who announces she's pregnant just after their first night together, which also can't end well. Thanks to a shave, David is soon ready to go into battle again as they reach the lab and face a seemingly unstoppable pair of monstrous adversaries.

Unabashedly cheap and trashy, this film functions adequately as a creative set of training wheels for Stevens as he juggles two storylines that eventually intersect for a fittingly slimy climax. The Terror Wtihin IIAlong the way you get appearances by a few minor '90s familiar faces like Barbara Alyn Woods (Ghoulies IV) The Terror Wtihin IIand Renee Jones (Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives), not to mention the spectacle of Full Metal Jacket's Ermey fighting mutants less than a year after doing something very similar underwater in The Rift. Even at a more generous running time than usual for Corman at the time it still feels a bit choppy and strangely edited, which may be a result of the edict at the time to keep movies under 90 minutes. In a pattern not unfamiliar to regular Corman titles of the period, this one pokes along pretty slowly for its first hour or so before getting to its real reason for existence, a final underground showdown with lots of creature effects, chases, and dark lighting, which is more than enough to justify an evening's viewing with some popcorn handy.

Initially released on VHS by Live Video with cover art that The Terror Wtihin IItried to sell this as an action film, The Terror Within II stayed mostly out of commission until the 2017 Blu-ray release from Code Red. (That's right -- the sequel's out on Blu-ray, but the original isn't!) The The Terror Wtihin IItransfer looks comparable to the label's other Concorde titles; it's a major step up over the VHS, obviously, and likely as good as this film will ever look given the limited production value. The DTS-HD MA English stereo track also gets the job done just fine. The film can also be played in "Nightmare Theater Mode" with hostess Katarina Leigh Waters cutting up with a toy guitar and sharing way background info about this film than any sane human being ever needed while offering the cutest pronunciation of the word "mutant" you've ever heard. Apparently game for talking about anything in his filmography, Ermey appears for a very cheerful and candid interview (4m27s) in which he praises Stevens' directorial chops while admitting he did this film strictly to pay the rent. Also included are the film's trailer (in super lo-res quality) and bonus trailers for Deadly Dreams, Savage Attraction, One Dark Night, Slaughterhouse Rock, Hide and Go Shriek, and Blackout.

Reviewed on April 21, 2017.