Thursday, July 3, 2014

Abyss-mal Cinema: THE RIG (2010)

I awoke to the sound of screaming. I was aware of being in a sauna. It had to be a sauna because I was covered in a hot sweat that covered every inch of my body. The sauna was softer than I expected and I discovered the source of the agonizing screams. They were mine. The sauna was blue. It was a living room sofa and before me the source of my internal scars. A DVD of THE RIG. How did I get to this close to reserving a room at Dr. Cracker's Wingnut Hotel? I'll tell you my wretched story as a warning to all who are foolish enough to follow in my path.

Since I talked about the Korean not-quite-as-submerged-as-we'd-like movie SECTOR 7 (2011), I figured what the hell, let's dive into a surprisingly similar American film. Unfortunately it was the shallow end.

Opening up with the only sub-aquatic shot in the entire film, we see a drillbit hit the seabed via a remote camera with two voices discussing the logistics. Once the drillbit hits, a strange purple venting comes out of the seabed (which one of the voices describes as "purple venting"), then a set of teeth come down on the remote camera. Once again we learn the lesson that even sea creatures take their rights to privacy very seriously.

Quite literally, this is the only aquatic footage in the movie

Coincidentally a massive storm pops up out of nowhere surprising the landlubbers who are overseeing the oil rigs, mainly the frequently very concerned Ken Fleming (Art LaFleur trying his damnest to lend some semblance of authenticity to the proceedings). Ken orders the evacuation of all non-essential personnel from the oil platforms. This leads to pimply younger brother Colin (Dan Benson) and older brother Freddy (Stacey Hinnen) having an emotional confrontation. Colin, busy packing an unseen bag that is framed in a way that makes it look like he's been caught doing some oil drilling of his own and stuffing the drill bit back in his trousers. He is mad that Freddy is razzing him for being "non-essential" and he's had enough of living in Freddy shadow - so there! This really serves no purpose other than to a) pad out the film, b) provide cut-aways once Colin is off the rig and c) add what would become relentless amounts of overblown soap-opera style melodrama. Even worse, it's shot on digital with no film-look process, so it really does feel like an extended episode of "As the Ocean Churns".

One of the roughnecks, Dobbs (Scott Martin) allows another to go out and fix something without accompanying him. Next thing we now the guy has disappeared and the hardass rig foreman Jim Fleming (William Forsythe playing Art LaFluer's brother!) interrupts the roughneck's dinner to go look for him. Naturally we have a cook named Virgil who gets no respect from the crew. The man tries to serve them up composed plates of salmon with a coconut, coriander, chili sauce, asparagus and potatoes and not only has to listen to complaints about not having burgers, but when the ALIENS (1986) Vasquez wannabe, Rodriguez (Carmen Perez), is asked what's for dinner she replies with disgust "some kind of fish - I think!" Seriously, fuck the monster, the cook should be taking out these assholes with a cleaver. Or maybe she was just reacting to the insert shot of the plate in which poached salmon is clearly being served with blueberries, strawberries and yellow bell peppers! For the love of christ on a popsicle stick, why would you do that?

This is easily the most disturbing thing in the movie

In the midst of all this drama (Freddy makes a call to Colin where they both apologize and make up), we have scenes of the crew playing fart pranks on each other and getting way too technical with their readings of equipment that appears to be actual naval equipment of some sort. It seems that the cast doesn't know what it is either, as Cary Fleming (Serah D'Laine, from "General Hospital") punches a few buttons and says "The equipment's working correctly, but it's bringing back this... I don't know." Thank you for helping to advance the plot with that highly technical information.

Suddenly something attacks a random crew member and... we are back to interpersonal drama. Freddy and Rodriguez are working out on punching bags before working out in the shower, Jim gets into a heavy speech about how he doesn't want his daughter Cary to be seeing Dobbs, while Cary gives the "I'm not a little girl anymore" speech, and ex-special forces Faulkner (Robert Zachar) gives Dobbs a somber anecdote about being in a conflict where every man knew the risks and Dobbs says "it doesn't make it any easier." To which Faulkner replies "it never does". Holy jumped up christ, MAKE. IT. STOP. Thirty minutes into the movie and my sanity is starting to crack.

Suddenly (again) something stabs Jim and hauls him out of his office, leaving behind a whole mess of blood and a black claw. Of course Cary discovers this and instantly has a flashback to the scene we just saw of her having an argument with dad! This flashback is intercut in a slow strobe with the camera panning over the bloody room. This is so jarring and clumsy even Jon McBride would cringe. Now the remaining crew must go down the same hallway, from different angles, to see if there are any survivors on the three sets that they have. I mean, going from room to room would be far too time consuming. Just check the three main rooms and pronounce the crew members to be dead or missing and presumed dead. This search quickly turns into a bad video game as the only way writer Scott Martin can figure out how to create momentum is by having the survivors need to run around getting something else from another room. They get the gun from Jim's cabin, but it has a gunlock! We need to get the key from his office! Now we need to get back to the com room! Oh no, now we need medical supplies from the infirmiry! And so on. I kept waiting for them to find green, red and yellow healing plants under stairways.

As a break from this monotony, or just an excuse to get away from these emotional cripples, Faulkner announces "I hunt alone" and decides that he is going to grab the speargun (that apparently nobody had thought about getting before), wrap it in a rag and soak it in something he finds in a mason jar. He also discovers that the creatures blood is flammable after cracking open the claw and pouring out the purple goo inside. Wait, how did he know to crack open the claw and then how did he know that the purple goo inside was flammable?! Because he is ex-special forces, that's why! Or maybe because he saw an advance screening of SECTOR 7. Regardless, his master plan is to take his flaming spear out into the hurricane and shoot the monster, which no one has seen, causing it to explode. I guess there is a reason that he is ex-special forces.

When the survivors leave the door to the com room wide open (maybe that fart was still hanging in the air), the monster strikes! Dobb empties the gun into the creature and when it gets back up, he tells the remaining survivors that "we gotta kill it". No shit? Did you figure that out all by yourself or did you have to mail in some box tops to get that clue? Of course I'll take idiotic diologue like that over the artificial touchy-feely moments that permeate the entire film.

Just when everyone you expected to die has and there is only one survivor (I'll let you guess the complexion and gender) standing out on a sunny deck, you'd think the credits would roll. You'd hope and pray that the credits will roll. Sucker! Nope, we are going to keep going! Back at the base Ken can't seem to bring up the rig on the squawk box. By gum Ken and Colin are going to head out to the rig to find out what happened to their brothers! Of course this is after an argument that goes something like "You stay put!" "No way, I'm bringing back my brother!" and such like. Once on the rig they sloooooowly go room by room and look at the aftermath of the creatures attacks with grave concern accompanied by slow strings and piano music. I should point out that the entire movie is accompanied by weeping violins and melancholy piano music. The drama is so slow going and so heavy that it is only slightly less enjoyable than being crushed in a rusty car compactor.

This final epilogue in which (spoiler) Ken shoots the creature with the still flaming speargun causing it to explode even though he would have had no idea to do that or what the hell the creature was (/spoiler), includes no less than nine freaking minutes of walking around that same goddamn hall and those same goddamn sets, until slowly walking back to the helipad. The one thing the movie does have going for it, is that they did get access to an offshore platform and a helicopter. Other than that, bupkus. Certainly nothing worthy of a horror movie. We only get one murky shot of the monster, who looks like a cross between a Sleestak and the creature from THE BLACKOUT (2009), all of the attacks except one are done in extreme close-up, so you can't even see what's happening, and absolutely no tension is built up except in a scene where Vincent jumps out from behind a locker as Freddy is sloooooowly looking around the changing room.

Essentially what we have is an exploitation film that desperately wants to be a daytime soap-opera and is completely uninterested in doing a genre picture. It seems pretty clear that all involved are making the movie strictly as a way to break into the industry and make some money off of dimwitted schleps who think that a monster movie with William Forsythe and Art LaFluer has to be entertaining. Yeah, they got me.

What's interesting is that the movie has an incredible amount of similarity to the following year's Korean film SECTOR 7. I can't help but wonder if this was rushed into production after reading a press synopsis announcing SECTOR 7, as it seems difficult to believe that these two movies would have such similar concepts, right down to the monster's combustible blood. That's pretty much the only interesting thing I can find in this film. The actors are all TV bit-players except for Forsythe and LaFluer who must have simultaneously found alimony letters in their mailboxes. Philip Glass could have written a more exciting score and even The Asylum could have turned out a less pretentious script.

I think I am pretty forgiving when it comes to ALIEN (1979) rip-offs, but this is more trying to rip of ALIENS, even going so far as to name the company "Weyland" complete with modified logo! Oh I'm sorry, that's a tip of the hat, a wink to the audience right? I might be able to accept that with reservations if they managed at least a few moments of suspense, shock or action. They don't. This is 90 minutes of nails on a chalkboard that doesn't even have the decency to give us a few by the numbers monster attacks or even a monster POV filter.

Now I find myself feverishly writing apology notes to everyone who I have lambasted in the past for making sloppy, disinterested films, I had no idea what a bad movie really was. I'm sorry The Asylum... I'm sorry Andreas Schnaas... I'm sorry Andy Milligan... I'm sorry... oh shit, this could take awhile.

I guess that example would be "rip off"

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