Terminal Virus (1994)
This movie has an interesting pedigree. Legendary b-movie pimp Roger Corman gets top billing, but I suspect that his direct involvement was limited to his name being used for promotional purposes. The true grit of this film comes from the producer, the famed Cirio H. Santiago, god of post-nuke films. If you have seen any of his films, you can plainly see that the Voodoo Chicken Bone of Santiago has been waived over every frame of Terminal Virus, from its scenic rock quarries to its very scenic half-naked women. Not that I'm complaining, mind you, I am a big Santiago fan and he has done more for the genre than possibly anyone else in the last 25 years.
The pre-credits sequence is stolen from 1988's The Sisterhood, another Santiago PA film. And while the stock footage is tinted and edited nicely, it's still a cheapass way to start out a movie. A helpful voice-over informs us that World War III was "23 years ago", and along with the nukes came a vicious biowar plague. The "Plague" had the unfortunate (and very Get Smart-esque) affect of preventing men and women from having sex! It seems that the "synergy" of sexual intercourse causes the Plague to mutate and kill the carriers fairly quickly, which really puts a damper on a Friday night without the kids. The exact method of transmission is never explicitly stated, but it's clear that direct penetration has to occur. Just looking at a hot girl won't kill you, but it will frustrate you. The logical question is, "What about a condom?". No answer for that, other than "it's in the script that way so deal with it".
This has led to an weird post-holocaust world where men and women fight each other to the death to keep from having sex. Instead of figuring a way to live together without sex, they have decided to wipe each other out. I guess that's one way to remove the temptation.
Ok, we open our movie proper with a topless girl running from a pack of horny men across the floor of a Filipino rock quarry. Go back and read that sentence again, is that not the definition of "post-apocalyptic movie greatness"!?! Ah, this is going to be an awesome movie, I can just feel it.
Running naked girl, a mark of quality.
The poor girl gets caught and brutally raped (another hallmark of the PA genre, though not without precedent in "real world" post-collapse societies where rampant sexual violation of females is sadly common, even to the present day) before managing to kick free and run off again. The girl is saved from further abuse by a carload of women armed with an M-60 machinegun, who roar up to scatter the men.
Awesome! That's a 1983 Pontiac Firebird with the roof cut off and a machinegun mounted on the dashboard, can you get any cooler than that?
Now, let me stop for a second. My loyal reader fanbase (all three of you...) and really anyone who knows me knows that I do indeed appreciate the finer things in life. I enjoy a rich Merlot with my steak, I enjoy Niccolo Paganini's classical music, I enjoy perusing bookstore shelves for Surrealist French poetry, I enjoy art museums and the opera and even the feel of fine Turkish cashmere. And I also enjoy large-breasted women with automatic weapons in crappy b-movies. As such, some of the screen captures for this review will visually explore this theme, and I believe that you, the reader, will benefit from the experience.
Let's go to the "Girl Camp" now, a largish fortified stockade down in a rock quarry. This is where the women of our movie reside, fighting the good fight against the dreaded menfolk and always looking damn good doing it. They have a lot of machineguns, which is a very good thing, and access to massive pre-war stocks of mousse, razors, hairspray, foundation, eyeliner, tanning lotions, and mascara. They are all uniformly attractive, with a fair percentage of them being local Filipino girls, with the occasional European thrown in for the speaking roles. Everyone is fit and tan and sexy, much like I always imagined college would be like before I actually went to college and realized that was just a myth perpetuated by Animal House and Porky's with very little basis in reality.
The Girl Camp, which might have been built for a different movie first.
Some assorted girls, the one on the left looks like Jennifer Anniston and the one on the right looks like a Czech pornstar (not that I would know).
The "Girl Army" is led by the "Queen", played by the wonderfully-named Filipino actress Susan Africa, and she is indeed a hottie for an older woman. When we first meet her, she's shooting in the head that poor girl who was raped in the opening scene! It seems that she was "contaminated" and a quick death is preferable to a long suffering death by the Plague.
Opposing this bastion of womanhood is an equally large grouping of scruffy, sweaty men. This "Man Army" is based in some other rock quarry (the Philippines has a lot of them, apparently), though they live a bit more "in the field" so to speak, with little more than tin shacks and canvas tents for shelter. They do have an enormous number of vehicles, from jeeps and pickups to big diesel panel vans and military cargo trucks. They also have enough M-16s, shotguns, pistols and grenades to outfit a small army (which, I suppose, is what they are). Manpower numbers are hard to come by, but I'd guess around 100 or so, a bit more than the girls have.
Assorted men, all in need of showers.
The Man Army's unquestioned leader is Calloway, a frumpy middle-aged guy who looks like a skinny Marlon Brando or a portly Anthony Hopkins. Calloway seems to have been in the military before the war, because he runs his Man Army with strict military discipline and regulations. Calloway is played by American Richard Lynch, slumming here at the tail-end of a fairly good career in mainstream movies.
Off now to a quaint village in the middle of nowhere, a place of neat houses and well-tended gardens. In this idyllic setting, much to my surprise, men and women live in seeming harmony! There are even children! It seems to be about as close to pre-war living as you can imagine, despite the austere locale and a few nods to the PA setting, such as solar-powered greenhouses and an armory full of rifles.
The village, which looks suspiciously like a matte painting here.
How is this possible, you ask? Didn't the omnipresent voice-over guy tell us earlier that men and women haven't been able to have sex in 23 years? Ah, the answer lies with a certain resident of this village, a super-smarty-head scientist type who has developed a "serum" that somehow "temporarily negates" the properties of the Plague for 36 hours, allowing couples to have sex and have babies worry-free. And those babies are born Plague-resistant! Meaning that the human race can survive after all, thanks to this miracle serum, and in just a generation, the Plague will be a non-factor.
The work on this serum has been done in a secret underground laboratory beneath this village, accessed through a hidden door. Down in the solar-powered lab, the doctor has been working for the last 23 years to perfect the serum, and only recently has developed a way to synthesize it. Before this, the serum was based on the venom of a certain poisonous snake, clearly a none-too-stable supply.
The underground lab, helpfully backlit in blue.
Ah, but if there's one thing that cheapass Filipino post-nuke movies teach us, it's that women with large breasts will always look good firing machineguns. And if those same movies teach us anything else, it's that such a peaceful and serene village will undoubtedly have to be stormed and burned to the ground by the vengeful, ignorant and hateful forces of whatever evil warlord happens to be featured this time.
And indeed, this is what we now see happen. The Man Army stumbles upon this village, though we wonder why it took them so long as it's right out in the open, and proceeds to devastate it. The brutality of these men is bordering on the obscene. Old men, women, children, no one is safe from their ravages, buildings are blown up, blood is splattered everywhere and survivors are executed. The Man Army then just leaves, without any attempt at looting or even investigating, but just content to have slaughtered and destroyed anything that they consider to be "weaker" than themselves. Again, this is not without precedent in our modern "civilized" world, as a peek at the Africa section of any decent newspaper will tell you.
Stuff blowing up real good in the raid on the village.
But there is one survivor, a young man who was out in the bush searching for snakes when the attack occurred. This man, named Joe Knight, is just 20 years old, the first of the post-war children born with the serum. As such he is Plague-free and also very beefy and has nice hair. Joe is played by 28-year old Canadian actor Bryan Genessee, who is one of those guys who you are just sure you've seen before in some major movie, until you check his resume and realize that he's done nothing but crap for his entire life.
Joe returns to find carnage, and cradles his dying father in his arms as the acrid smoke from the burning houses wafts over him. Alone now, Joe goes down into the underground lab (which survived the attack unnoticed) and sets about planning how to continue the doctor's serum experiments. It seems Joe is also well-versed in molecular engineering and viral biology as he is able to synthesize a small quantity of the serum on his own in short order.
Let's leave Joe and head back to the Man Camp. We see here that a certain man named McCabe has been sentenced to die for "treason". What his crime was is ill-defined, but just know that McCabe is jaded and bitter with Calloway's methods and wants out of the Man Army. Calloway has to deal with such dissenters severely (which he really does if he's to retain unit cohesion and keep his troops both on-task and loyal to him), and so McCabe is lined up before a firing squad.
McCabe is saved at the last possible moment by Joe! Showing an impressive range of White Man Fu, Joe kicks and punches his way through the men guarding McCabe. On their way out, Joe slashes Calloway in the face with a garden rake (!), leaving a line of livid scars as a token of his appreciation. Somehow, they manage to make it to Joe's car and roar off, despite being pursued at close range by men with machineguns. Joe's car, by the way, is an old BMW 2002 with the doors off and painted brown. Really.
McCabe is played by 45-year old James "where did my career go?" Brolin, who is our movie's requisite washed-up, out-of-work, deep-in-tax-evasion-debt, possibly-facing-extradition, ex-pat American actor. Every Filipino action movie has at least one, and James Brolin is Terminal Virus'.
Back at the underground lab, Joe tells McCabe about the serum and all that. It seems that he saved McCabe because he needs a man and a woman to try out his newly synthesized version of the serum on. He wasn't looking for McCabe in particular, mind you, but he seemed a good candidate. McCabe, being rather world-weary and a bit of a hopeless dreamer at heart, agrees to act as Joe's "Adam". The problem is that they need an "Eve" now.
McCabe and Joe talk about the future.
And where are all the women? At the Girl Camp, of course. So McCabe and Joe sneak up on the camp and check it out with binoculars.
You see, this is why having your camp on the floor of a rock quarry is such a bad tactical idea. Sure, the Girl Camp has watchtowers and guards at the gate, but their line-of-sight is limited by the confines of the steep walls of the quarry. In event of an attack, such a location means that you have given the high ground to your enemy, which allows him to direct fire down directly into your camp from protected positions. As well, intruders (such as our guys) can easily approach the camp and spy on it without being seen. I understand the visible appeal of the rock quarry to PA filmmakers, but logically a survivor community like this would choose a more defensible position, perhaps in the saddle of one of those mountains in the distance, or at least in the foothills, where avenues of approach can be limited and fields of fire optimized for repelling attackers.
Anyway, they kidnap one young girl sentry, who dumbly wanders off into some rocks alone to follow a suspicious noise. They are noticed, however, and the Girl Army comes bursting out to chase them. The escape from the Girl Camp is a fairly entertaining car chase through the rutted and rocky roads of the rock quarry. Oddly, the girls don't seem to be trying to save the kidnapped girl as much as kill the men, as they fire at the fleeing car with everything from machineguns to rocket launchers, with little concern for the possibility of killing their fellow girl in the crossfire. But escape they do.
Car chase escaping the Girl Camp, check those cool PA cars.
Let's go ahead and meet this girl, who we will later learn is named Shara, Played by twentysomething American Kehli O'Byrne, Shara is the picture of early '90s pop-culture beauty, with feathered layered hair and dark eyeliner. She looks like an extra on Saved by the Bell, more at home giggling about boys in the high school hallway than fighting for her life in a horrific post-nuke landscape.
Back at the lab, Joe tries to hook up McCabe and Shara to "save the species", so to speak. Shara is chained up in a room with a mattress on the floor and some efforts are made to "set the mood", including horrid 1990s pop music, wine, mood lighting, and even an "instructional" porn movie on VHS (!). Problems arise quickly, however, as Shara would rather take a bullet to the head than have sex with McCabe or any man, McCabe seems to be having some "performance anxiety", and Joe has second thoughts about treating human beings like lab rats.
Shara is not happy, but you wouldn't be either.
The issue is decided when a lone man on reconnaissance from the Man Army is captured sneaking around the lab's aboveground entrance. This man is named Rieger (McCabe would know him well, remember) and is played by hack actor Craig Judd. Judd is a very ugly man, what in the film business is called a "character actor", but he does manage to give Rieger an interesting human side in flashes.
Rieger, wearing the standard PA welder's goggles.
Since McCabe "isn't up for the job", Joe decides to hook up Rieger and Shara now. Shara is quite pissed at this new turn of events, as any woman would be, and a night of making whoopee is not in the cards. For his part, Rieger is vehemently unsure about all this forced sex stuff and when the first opportunity arises, he escapes. Bopping McCabe over the head and unlocking his chains, Rieger makes it outside and steals Joe's BMW! The jig is up now as they know that it's just a matter of time before Rieger brings back the whole Man Army to wipe them out.
In this moment of despair, Shara softens to Joe and they end up having sex. And most improbably, they fall in love! Sure, sex I can see, but ooshy gooshy love so soon after they were trying to kill each other? Maybe that's my problem with women, maybe all I need to do to land a beautiful woman is to kidnap her at gunpoint, chain her up, inject her with some drug, abuse her when she tries to escape, try and force her to have sex with some strange men, and then woo her with some lameass story about being the last great hope for humanity. The movies can teach you so much.
Shara and Joe about to get busy.
The next day we see the entire Man Army mobilizing for the raid on the lab. Every truck, every car, every man mounts up and trundles down the rocky road towards the lab. But, as they enter a narrow pass through a rock quarry, they are ambushed by McCabe and Joe! Realizing that they had to take the fight to the Man Army before they get out into the open ground near the lab, McCabe and Joe picked this spot to make their stand.
Taking advantage of the high ground and using the ample cover provided by numerous boulders, they cause severe damage to the Man Army column, killing many and wounding many more. The action scenes here are well-done and full of action, even if some of them are stock footage from Raiders of the Sun and others are looped several times. But the numbers are against them, and it's just a matter of time before some men are able to clamber up to the ridge top under covering fire from below.
Joe and McCabe fight the Man Army.
Just when it looks grim for our heroes, the Girl Army shows up! Brought here by Shara, the Queen's forces come roaring into the fray with guns ablazing. Caught in a pincher between McCabe and Joe and the swarming Girl Army, the Man Army is routed. Calloway and Rieger manage to escape into the woods, abandoning the troops to save their skins. The shooting only stops when the surviving men surrender (though that seems odd as to their knowledge they can expect no quarter from the girls).
A collage of girls with guns!!!!
The captive men are taken back to the Girl Camp, and much to their surprise, aren't immediately shot. In fact, the Queen tells them all of the serum and the possibility of a future of sex and love and babies. She gives the men the choice of this option or death, though it's not really a surprise that they all choose sex with chicks, regardless of the death threat.
The men make their choice.
Ah, but we still have one loose end to tie up, remember? Calloway and Rieger have snuck into the Girl Camp (again with the lax perimeter security!) and make to kill Joe. The camp is alerted and Rieger is shot, while Joe uses his Segal-esque kung fu skills to pummel Calloway into the dirt. It's the Queen who finishes him off, putting a .45 caliber slug into him as she growls, "Twenty-three years is more than any woman can take!".
In an epilogue carded "five years later", we see that all is peachy. The serum works and the men and women are living in peace and love again, babies running around and everyone smiling. Flowers and bathrobes and bunnies and Valentine's Day cards and Jane Austin novels and foot massages and Nora Jones CDs and long walks on the beach and Mitch Albom books and all that other romantic crap is sure to make a comeback now. Bring on World War IV...
Oh, yeah, baby, that's a honey with a syringe full of serum right there. Come to daddy.
Written in January 2008 by Nathan Decker.
comments powered by Disqus
that's between you and the vengeful wrath of your personal god...