Galaxy of Terror (1981)

There comes a time in our lives when we must take a moment to instill important lessons in others. Where we must pass along to our children the key messages to ensure their continued growth, development, and the understanding of the world around them. Have you talked with your children about the dangers of hallucinogenic worm rape?

If I am to judge off of what I have read about Galaxy of Terror, it is that the worm rape scene is the most important moment in the film and perhaps the only part worth watching. The Wikipedia article dedicates more time to this than nearly any other section, with the sole regard to the plot. Yes, Galaxy of Terror has an exploitative scene in which a woman is raped by a giant worm. Yes, it originally earned the film an ‘X’ rating, but they trimmed it by a few seconds to make it less “suggestive.” Yes, you can still tell what is going on. And this is why the movie is apparently a cult hit.

That’s unfortunate, because there are multiple reasons why this movie should be a cult hit. Sid Haig, Robert Englund, and Ray Walston are all in it, along with a couple of other faces you might recognize. James Cameron worked on the film. And while the movie is generally seen as an Alien rip-off, it has strange quasi-religious elements that make it radically different in tone. In fact, I’d say this movie is ultimately about enlightenment and acceptance of inevitability.

Yet worm rape is what the people talk about, so…yeah. That happens. However, Sid Haig also punches off his own arm in one scene. One dude is killed by leech tentacles, a lady has her face blown off, a giant cockroach attacks a guy, a demon shows up; this movie is nuts! It’s a bit slow at times too, as things don’t get explained (though you can figure it out) for much of the film. But that’s pretty much what you should expect from B-grade exploitation films. It’s more about what you’re seeing than understanding the specifics of what is happening.

That said, well…since it’s the elephant in the room, I guess we should discuss it.  Yes, what happens in the worm scene is terrible, and it has caused the rest of the movie to be judged by it.  I will not argue whether the scene was a good choice; it was exploitative schlock at its core to get people to pay to actually see the picture, and that such a topic was approached in a cavalier fashion probably says a lot more about our society at the time than anything else.  Unfortunately, what was a choice to generate attention now appears to be the sole source of attention.  In some ways, I wish I could divorce it from the film, because it exists for pure, gross titillation.  And it is gross, on more than one level.  Go in knowing this, but please don’t let it distract you entirely from some entertaining performances by some B-movie legends.  And don’t watch this solely for that one notorious scene, because if you are, you should probably reevaluate a few things about yourself.

Do I like the movie? Yes. I find it a little plodding at times, but it takes on a strange ambiance that I ultimately would say I enjoy. It’s a weird movie. But it’s an entertaining Roger Corman piece nonetheless. I say check it out if you want something more than a little offbeat or you’re really into forced worm sex. Which if you are…don’t tell me. I don’t want to know.

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