Thursday, 9 October 2008

No.80 : Warning Sign

Warning Sign at the IMDb

You know that there’s going to be trouble from the first establishing shot of this 1985 shocker when we learn that the company concerned is called ‘Bio-tek’. Romantic comedies or emotional dramas never take place at firms called Bio-tek, as they are solely the domain for industrial accidents and zombie infestations.

It’s 5pm Friday night and the Bio-tek crew are closing up for the night. We know danger lurks as everyone has haz-mat suits on and the tannoy is barking constant instructions. One chap, who’s possibly a bit too keen to make it to happy hour, manages to get an ominous looking vial stuck to his suit and we get a tantalising few moments as it dangles while he tours the facility.

Eventually it falls off, but doesn’t break. The director then shamefully wrings every possible moment of tension out of the situation as it rolls around narrowly missing the boots of the unaware staff. It looks like we’re going to be OK until the idiot Captain off ‘Police Academy’ shows up and suggests everyone takes off their helmets for a photo before crunching the vial underfoot - Doh! and Double Doh!

The lab is quarantined by a lady security officer and pretty soon a sinister government convoy shows up headed by Katanga out of ‘Live and Let Die’ and ‘W’ classic ‘Witless Protection’. The staff try to bluff their way out but Katanga’s having none of that and despite his claims to the opposite we know everyone is being left to die. Obviously needing a man’s help the lady security officer calls her sheriff husband and he heads off to see a bad boy loner bio-engineer who lives in the hills and may have some skills to save the day.

Inside the plant the germ is taking effect with the first stage some glowing, then death and then mentalism. One pocket of staff are in the Bio-Tek amusement arcade (?) playing Crystal Castles while another are on a full scale rampage. Our lady friend and him off ‘Police Academy’ try to find a cure but it’s clear outside help is needed. The Sheriff and the scientist manage to break into the lab but can they concoct a cure before the maniacs kill everyone or the rednecks at the door break in and let them escape?

This was a truly crappy affair that had ‘TV movie’ written all over it. I quite enjoyed the improbable plot developments and the shameful acting but not enough to give it even half marks. I did quite like the red neck army fighting to free their quarantined relatives with blow torches and pick up trucks while the army and federal agents stood by.

It was a good idea to split the cast into groups in a way that let us see different stages of the disease and the reactions to It. Sadly the ‘disease’ was a bit of luminous paint followed by some joke shop warts and shouting. The place had no shortage of axes but there were no messy kills unless you count the English language and dramatic tension.

The idea of a loner bio-engineer living in the hills was laughable as was the eventual resolution - the best germ warfare agent ever seems remarkably susceptible to some red water, and all the frothing zombies looked like they’d be back to work tomorrow by the end.

The acting talent on show was uniformly awful with Katanga guilty of both wearing mirrored sunglasses and talking bad ass. Sam Waterston, whom I’ve disliked since he did that long joke in ‘Capricorn One’, didn’t convince as an action hero and the ‘Police Academy ‘ guy was his routine rubbish.

I'm pretty sure there was a subtext on show about bio-weapons being bad but seeing as it all got cleared up with a quick shower I'm not sure the point was well made. A bit like the film in general then!

Best Bit : Go away zombies, I’m playing Space Invaders!

‘W’ Score : 9/23

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