THE TERROR WITHIN. Concorde Pictures, 1989. George Kennedy, Andrew Stevens, Starr Andreeff, Terri Treas, John LaFayette, Tommy Hinckley. Director: Thierry Notz.

   Is this low-budget exploitation schlock, a wry homage to David Cronenberg and body horror cinema, or something that was deliberately made so it could be marketed for the late 1980s VHS market? Maybe it’s all three. For that’s the best way in which to describe The Terror Within. A movie that, at its core, is an unmistakably derivative post-apocalyptic science fiction/horror mash-up and that shamelessly borrows from such notable horror movies as Larry Cohen’s It’s Alive (1974) and Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979). At its best, it attempts to channel those films’ main themes in a manner that’s at least vaguely entertaining.

   Both of these aforementioned films notably involved scenarios in which otherworldly — and decidedly unwelcome — beings ensconced themselves within human hosts’ bodies. Because that’s the main thrust of what happens in this Roger Corman-produced feature that had only a limited theatrical release.

   Set in the Mojave Desert after a biological weapons catastrophe that has wiped out the vast majority of humanity, the film follows the efforts of a small group of scientists holed up in an underground bunker while busy researching the effects the catastrophe had on their ecosystem. As you might well imagine, all is not well in this depopulated wasteland. The fallout has created a new race of mutants commonly referred to as gargoyles.

    Not only are they hideous, with the obligatory sharp teeth and guttural sounds, but they also have the capacity to impregnate human female hosts. It’s when a pregnant female survivor makes her way to the scientists’ bunker that the real trouble begins. I don’t think I’m giving away that much of what follows when I say that a mutant child is born and that little bugger grows up real fast. Judging the way it behaves in the bunker, you would think it had been raised by wolves.