Honorable (mostly) Mention
Now there’s a rare piece of truth in Advertising.
I know it is hard to believe, but this poster sums up Terminal Entry with uncanny accuracy.
After all, right up front, we have soldiers and explosions. Then, in the center a giant computer screen. And looming over that…
A kid in a big, floppy, chef’s cap?
A girl in a bikini?
Which, yes, does pretty much sum this film up. It’s a commandos after terrorists at our gate film. It’s a computer hacker film.
And it is a teen sex comedy.
As I’ve mentioned before, the Hacker film is a rather odd little category, one which can stray quite a long way from reality, even though it is supposed to be “bleeding edge” science. As a result, it is often hard to say whether or not it is science fiction, or even what you might call a “futuristic thriller.”
However, what was fairly clear was that the Hackers were almost always brilliant kids. They were usually oddballs with their own tight knit fraternity, radicals more interested in having fun than in committing crimes or attacking people, and with their absolutely improbable skills, capable of doing the impossible within minutes.
But Terminal Entry also teaches us something else: having mad hacking skills makes any teenager irresistibly attractive to the opposite sex.
There is a headspinning sort of disconnect at the heart of this film: we have the tough commando team with their brave and stalwart leaders (played by Eddie Albert’s son Edward and Yaphet Kotto) have been fighting a secret war on the border trying to keep an army of terrorists out of our country. But this is a well organized army, whose leader has a massive computer network set up to communicate to his followers.
And then we have the teenagers, who plan to take a trip with a bunch of girls (only one of whom is really into what they are doing) so they can try to hack this mysterious computer game they’ve found, using the satellite dish at a friend’s remote cabin.
But the problem is that it isn’t really a game. It is (surprise, surprise) the terrorist’s computer network.
What, you guessed it?
Now the really weird part of all this is that we have a teen sex comedy in which none of the teen girls are shown naked. Yes, there is a fantasy sequence at the beginning with a Playboy Playmate taking a long, sensuous shower to get the film it’s “R” rating, but the closest any of the teens comes to getting naked is when one of them pulls off her shirt with her back to us.
The kids are playing what they call “Interactive Computer Fiction” which is supposedly “real outlaw stuff.” From what little the movie shows us, it reminds me just a bit of the old Text adventures which I played on the Radio Shack Trash 80…I mean “TRS 80”, back in the Eighties, only with the addition of a few crude drawings. Although it looks a bit like the classic computer game, It Came from the Desert, as well, which came out the same year.
One of the recurrent problems movies based around a videogame tend to have is that far too little attention has been paid to the game itself. Which is strange when you remember that is is supposed to be a pivotal part of the plot. You’d think someone would think it was important enough to put a bit of work into. As in so many other computer game films, we never really get any idea of what the gameplay is like, or the structure of the games we glimpse other than a few random glimpses of moments where they are trying to escape one trap or another, and the idea that one of the main goals is to stay alive the longest so they can set a new record. It is telling that, once they break the password for “Terminal Entry,” it doesn’t really bother them that they have to wait for several hours for the game to start, or that there are no stated rules. Part of the basic premise here is that these games are more or less secret, and have been created — or are being played — by students at various major universities.
And they take hours to play.
This, by the way, means that they have to pay some pretty hefty phone bills.
Dial up, you know. How else would you connect to the internet?
Now the truth is that the games may just be an excuse for showing us teenaged girls in swimsuits in a commando movie. Or perhaps this goofy combination of terrorist movie and hacker movie started out as something just a bit more serious and morphed into a teen comedy along the way. Or maybe it was always meant to be a teen comedy hacker film and those darn commandos just muscled in on their own. I really have no clue.
But the end result is as if someone stuck two radically different movies together in a classic, Reese’s Peanut Butter cup moment (“you got Action Movie in my Teen Sex Comedy!” “You got Teen Sex Comedy in my Action movie!”). As a result, the story feels a bit undeveloped, particularly when it comes to the Teen Sex Comedy. They had to cram it in a badly cramped runtime, and it all feels a bit rushed — and forced.
Which means we have a hacker movie — or, let’s be more honest about it, a War Games copy — where there is barely any room left for computers, hacking, “Interactive Computer Fiction,” or mysterious websites.
So hard, in fact, that it is hard to say whether any of this involves cutting edge, futuristic or state of the art technology.
Or, for that matter, any merely old and superseded technologies. Or any real computer technology, period.
Well, they do use a program to go through millions of combinations with a program to find the right password. That’s something I guess.
So as Hacker films go, Terminal Entry is a bit minor. And we don’t even get anything definitively pushing it into science fiction, like a set of google glass style hacker glasses.
But the Commando film isn’t quite as cramped and there is even a minor surprise involving the death of a major character, which lifts the affair up to the standard of, well, a direct to VHS action movie.
Although, for those of us who love the quirky, the oddball and the plain old weird, Terminal Entry is worth a look.
In a direct to VHS Action Teen Sex Comedy Hacker film sort of way…