Sean S. Cunningham’s horror science fiction action hybrid is a great classic cable TV movie that you could find late at night back in the days. It’s not what I’d automatically call a classic but it’s definitely a great piece of schlock that has a good time with its premise. It’s “Assault on Precinct 13” meets “John Carpenter’s The Thing” and it has a damn good time taking advantage of both concepts to derive some pretty fun B grade genre fare. Bruce Campbell is as good as always, leading the charge as a sort of John McClane every man character who begins the movie as a villain and eventually transforms in to a hero who is the only one stopping a potential alien invasion.
During a massive snowstorm, a pair of police officers are transporting convicted murderer Jack to prison, when their car crashes. Stranded in the snow storm, they bring Jack to a local airport where a group of passengers are awaiting a lull in the snow so they can go home for the night. Mistrust and paranoia about Jack begins to stir the passengers, but things get even worse when Jack discovers that a priest lurking within the group is actually a murderous alien being. After narrowly surviving a confrontation with the being, Jack and the group begin to suspect that there are other alien intruders hiding among the random passengers.
What they’re there for is anyone’s guess, but Jack isn’t so keen on letting them get by him and in to normal society. Cunningham makes good use of the setting, giving a claustrophobic feel with the booming snow storm outside the airport. The aliens are otherwise undetectable, but the characters find a way to draw them out and detect, even with their very own testing scene, a la “The Thing.” One of the more amusing moments involves an x-ray machine with a conveyer belt which is conveniently safe for humans and animals, and Jack insists everyone slide in to machine so they can see who has a human anatomy and who is alien. It’s a fun throwback with a blood soaked pay off that I downright giggled through. The tension is pretty good for what’s very much a TV production.
The movie is so embedded in the TV formula you can even spot the fade always when the commercials are introduced; all the while Cunningham stages the movie like an extended episode of a TV series. With “Terminal Invasion” you pretty much have to accept the good with the bad. So for every fun scene of alien carnage and escaping through air ducts, there are ridiculous moments like the big reveal in the finale that just made no sense. There’s also the odd dubbing of the child actors in one scene that was so obviously adult voice actors mimicking children. So what? Did they not have enough time with the child actors or did they throw that scene in at the last minute? “Terminal Invasion” is a fun and briskly paced horror hybrid with a good sense of humor, and if you’re a Campbell fanatic, it’s one of his better movie vehicles.