TERROR IN THE AISLES (1984) Reviews and overview

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Scream Factory has announced the details of its Terror in the Aisles Blu-ray, which is released on October 13th 2020. The disc also includes the television cut with alternate footage in standard definition. Buy from Amazon.com

Special features:

95-minute TV cut with alternate footage and films (standard definition)
Audio commentary by pop culture historian Russell Dyball (new)
Interview with actress Nancy Allen (new)
Interview with composer John Beal (new)
Interview with editor Greg McClatchy (new)
Theatrical trailer
TV spot
Teaser trailers & TV spots for films featured in the documentary


‘It’s a cut above the rest.’

Terror in the Aisles is a 1984 American documentary feature film about horror and suspense films. It was co-produced and directed by Hollywood trailers supremo Andrew J. Kuehn (he produced trailers for Aliens; Jurassic ParkJaws and countless others) from a screenplay by Margery Doppelt.

Released theatrically in the United States by Universal Pictures in October 1984, the movie grossed $10,004,817 at the box office.


The documentary is hosted by Donald Pleasence and Nancy Allen (Poltergeist III; Dressed to Kill; Carrie) from a mock movie theatre with an acting audience engaging with the onscreen entertainment.


The subject matter is divided into topics such as “sex and terror”, “loathsome villains”, “natural terror”, “the occult” and “spoofs”.

In one segment, filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock presents his concepts of how to create suspense (clip from Alfred Hitchcock: Men Who Made The Movies).


When slasher-horror films were still riding high in the early ’80s, Universal Pictures cashed in with a wide rollout of this That’s Entertainment! devoted to what co-host Nancy Allen calls “terror pictures” – a convenient catch-all, really, for any movie with shock-suspense elements (a sentiment also attributed to Christopher Lee as a preferred label instead of “horror movies”).

The gimmick creates some strange bedfellows in this clip-job of contemporary film excerpts: Klute next to Night of the Living Dead. Midnight Express and Marathon Man cheek-by-fang beside Alien and Konga and An American Werewolf in London.

Allen and Pleasance (with a bunch of bit-players portraying a movie-house audience) state the obvious about horror cliches and scare tactics, aided by a few rather more perceptive clips of Alfred Hitchcock explaining his methods. Since excerpts are not identified until the end credits, horror fans and cineastes may find themselves getting caught up despite the rudimentary nature, challenging themselves to identify the bits from Suspiria and The Fury and Nighthawks (huh?), rather like the DVD-based trivia software such as the popular “Scene It?” series that would be a good dozen years or so in the future.

Incidentally, classic Universal horror characters like Dracula and Frankenstein’s monster are dismissed as laughable and passé by the commentators here. Hey! Honi soit qui mal y pense, seems to be the best response to that one.


Terror in the Aisles had a sort of companion piece, artistically anyhow, in the form of the direct-to-video Coming Soon (1982), also from Universal, and – surprisingly – directed by John Landis at his career peak (hosted by Jamie Lee Curtis in a lighthearted vein, on the Universal tourist-attraction backlot). It was a short-feature compilation of trailer footage and promotional ephemera from Universal’s vaults, exclusively in the horror-SF-suspense genres, with quite an abundance of Hitchcock again. Watch the two together and give yourself cineaste points for… something.

In subsequent years, as realisation dawned that old trailers and featurettes were in the public domain, numerous cut-rate video labels (GoodTimes, Video Treasures, Passport) thrived on selling chop-job documentaries about movies, entertainers and popular music assembled out of this free resource. Sometimes minimal effort went into the presentation and pictorial quality was often regrettable. At least give Terror in the Aisles some credit for pulling better highlight footage and presenting its recyclings with some attempt at polish, if not great depth.

Charles Cassady Jr., MOVIES and MANIA

Other reviews:

“The movie is a delight! Over 80 minutes you get to see a lot of key moments from a variety of horror films … And Pleasence is far more fun to watch; Allen is hot, yes, but she’s got nothing on Sir Donald, who occasionally bugs the other patrons, overacts (his depressed expression when he talks about how the real world is scary enough is worth the price of admission alone), and generally just plays up his usual batshit persona.” Horror Movie a Day


“If Aisles excels at anything, it’s proving how prototypical many of these films are, given the number of sequences from horror films in which victims lock themselves into houses while deranged killers/monsters/birds stalk outside and try to break in. The opening credit sequence, for instance, establishes a surprisingly consistent cinematic space…” Biff Bam Pop!


“One of the best parts of this movie is the bad acting which occurs between the clips. The documentary is “set” in a movie there full of total ’80s characters.  They try to pretend they are watching the movie clips but obviously just have lines. Then Donald Pleasence and Nancy Allen just kind of talk around them.” Basement Rejects

“The only thing that really sucks about this movie is that it shows a ton of spoiler-y scenes, reveals, and even endings of the movies that it covers. That’s fine for us, but for someone who hasn’t seen some of the older gems covered within, it could ruin it for them.” The Horror Club




Films featured

Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

The Ghost Breakers (1940)

Hold That Ghost (1941)

The Wolf Man (1941)

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)

Strangers on a Train (1951)

Scared Stiff (1953)

Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)

This Island Earth (1955)

To Catch a Thief (1955)

Tarantula (1955)

The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)

The Deadly Mantis (1957)

The Fly (1958)

Psycho (1960)


Konga (1961)

King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962)

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)

The Birds (1963)

Wait Until Dark (1967)

Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Klute (1971)

Play Misty for Me (1971)

Frogs (1972)

Frenzy (1972)

The Thing with Two Heads (1972)

Sisters (1973)


The Exorcist (1973)

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

Phantom of the Paradise (1974)

Bug (1975)

Jaws (1975)

Grizzly (1976)

The Food of the Gods (1976)

The Omen (1976)

Marathon Man (1976)

Carrie (1976)

Suspiria (1976)

The Car (1977)

The Fury (1978)

Jaws 2 (1978)

Eyes of Laura Mars (1978)

Midnight Express (1978)

The Legacy (1978)

Dawn of the Dead (1978, Italy)

The Silent Partner (1978)

Piranha (1978)

Halloween (1978)

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

Alien (1979)

The Brood (1979)

Prophecy (1979)

Dracula (1979)

Nightwing (1979)

When a Stranger Calls (1979)

Friday the 13th (1980)

The Fog (1980)

The Shining (1980)

Dressed to Kill (1980)

Alligator (1980)

Scanners (1981)

The Howling (1981)

The Funhouse (1981)

Ms. 45 (1981)

Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)

An American Werewolf in London (1981)

Halloween II (1981)

Nighthawks (1981)

Saturday the 14th (1981)

The Seduction (1982)

Friday the 13th Part III (1982)

Vice Squad (1982)

Cat People (1982)

Poltergeist (1982)

The Thing (1982)

Alone in the Dark (1982)

Videodrome (1983)

Firestarter (1984)


Home video release:

In the US, the film was released on VHS and CED Videodisc by MCA Home Video in 1985. It was released on VHS by Palace in the UK.


The film’s first-time release to Blu-ray was as a Special Feature on the 30th Anniversary Edition of Halloween II (1981) Blu-ray. 


Buy: Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk

On October 15, 2012, Universal released the film on DVD as part of its Universal Vault Series.


Buy: Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk


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