When a spacecraft’s crew disappears on a mysterious planet, the ruler of humanity, The Master, sends another crew to search for survivors. The crew includes Commander Ilvar (Bernard Behrens, The Man with Two Brains), Cabren (Edward Albert, When Time Ran Out…), psychic Alluma (Erin Moran, Happy Days), cook Kore (Ray Walston, Silver Streak), stone cold psycho Baelan (Zalman King, later known for directing and producing soft-core pornography), Ranger (Robert Englund, Urban Legend), Dameia (Taaffe O’Connell, New Year’s Evil), silent warrior Quuhod (Sid Haig, Coffy), and pilot Captain Trantor (Grace Zabriskie, Norma Rae). Once the crew arrives on the planet, strange things begin happening-and the crew die, one by one. Can the survivors figure out what’s going and escape from the planet?
Galaxy of Terror was one of a legion of sci-fi horror films made in the wake of the enormous success of Alien; it wasn’t even Roger Corman’s New World Pictures only attempt to cash-in on the film’s success. The formula of Alien is perfect for low-budget films; all that filmmakers needed were a few space ship sets, a few exteriors in a harsh alien environment, and you have your film’s locations. The set-up provides its own budgetary constraints; the limited crew of spaceship, plus the claustrophobic ship interiors with some minor supplements for the sci-fi feel and, of course, a monster. Galaxy of Terror, at first glance, seems more ambitious than most, as it does not settle for using the exact scenario of Alien-that is, a lone monster loose on the space ship, with some infection/sexual overtones. Instead, the film creates, well, if not a “galaxy” of terrors, a planet of terrors, with the victims meeting their fates at the hands of a variety of creatures and in gruesome ways. Everything has a neat little explanation that ties the tale together in the end, and it is surprisingly unmerciful with its cast (but then again, so was Alien).
The problem lies in that this is the only ambition the film shows beyond giving us some gory (and in the case of a female character’s infamous rape by a giant maggot, incredibly tasteless) deaths. While its premise and some of the effects work set it apart from its laziest competitors, there isn’t much care put into the rest of the movie. Characters move back and forth between the ships and a pyramid on the surface, often without any apparent reason, sometimes leaving the viewer feeling that a scene was cut out. While the effects are generally good for their budget (thank future wunderkind James Cameron of Avatar fame, who worked on the effects and as a second-unit director), effects and one, Twilight Zone worthy idea don’t compensate enough for the lack of characterization (wasting a superb cast of character actors), story, and a plodding pace that makes obvious the film’s main goal: to get from one death or nudity sequence to another. It’s a shame, because in more careful hands the basic idea could make for a much better film.
The NSFW trailer, which features footage taken from Battle Beyond the Stars that doesn’t appear in the movie: