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  Rift, The Subnormal Sub
Year: 1990
Director: Juan Piquer Simón
Stars: Jack Scalia, R. Lee Ermey, Ray Wise, Deborah Adair, John Toles-Bay, Ely Pouget, Emilio Linder, Tony Isbert, Álvaro Labra, Luis Lorenzo, Frank Braña, Pocholo Martínez-Bordiú, Edmund Purdom, Garrick Hagon, James Aubrey, Derrick Vopelka
Genre: Horror, Trash, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Submarine designer Wick Hayes (Jack Scalia) is given a rude awakening, literally, when two Government agents barge into his hotel room and pour tonic water over his head to rouse him, then inform the disgruntled engineer that he has a meeting to go to with a couple of very important people. He eventually gets over to the offices of his erstwhile superiors to be told that one of the submarines he designed is at the bottom of the ocean and they have to mount a rescue squad to retrieve it; when he protests that his design was foolproof, they tell him that was before they added nuclear capabilities to it, not that they will admit they were in the wrong for tampering with his plans. But to more pressing matters: another of Wick's designs is ready to launch.

As the nineteen-eighties turned to the nineties, there were many cultural upheavals, not least the fall of Communism in the East of Europe, but just as significant was the failure at the box office for a bunch of underwater science fiction flicks. Yes, just as important as that, don't argue. The Abyss led the charge (into the deep-sea fissure), James Cameron's would-be blockbuster that seemed such a sure thing that many cash-ins were produced, yet then it proved otherwise and those rip-offs were left all at sea. Still, there was always home video, and the rental shelves were clogged with tapes of the likes of Leviathan and Deep Star Six, most of which chose to use Alien as a template rather than Cameron's right on, touchy-feely first contact shenanigans.

You could understand why, it was down to the success of that monster on the loose plotline that had proven very easy to copy in the years since, especially if your budget stretched to a rubber creature - maybe more. Our director here was the infamous Juan Piquer Simón, that trashmeister from Spain who became well known not only for taking inspiration from other, more successful films, but also managing to make his endeavours genuinely so bad they were good, an accomplishment when many of these were so bad they were bad. Okay, maybe "good" was a bit of a reach, but they were certainly so ridiculous, so shameless, that they were enjoyable, though for the opening half hour or so Simón appeared to be phoning it in, with a heavy dose of "will this do?" about it.

Ah, but fear not, our man was merely warming up, for there were hints of the absurdities to come should you care to look, from the token black character (John Toles-Bay) serving as comic relief and answering to the name of Skeets when everyone else has a normal moniker, to R. Lee Ermey as the sub commander patently itching to go Full Metal Jacket on the rest of the cast but having to rein it in with the odd withering comment instead. Meanwhile Scalia's designer has been recruited to go along (is that normal practice?) and complain about the protocols and rules of the Navy life, while resident scientist Deborah Adair (also Wick's old flame) requests the rare form of bubble wrap they have found so far below be taken aboard as a sample for further investigation as the black box of the previous sub beeps away to lure them.

Lure them to certain doom, naturally, as while this had a more substantial cast than some of its low budget ilk, they were purely present to be bumped off in head-exploding methods. Once the crew find a cave, they go exploring, discovering it was not the black box at all but a deliberate attempt to coax another sub down - why? You got me there, but one suspects it was to make good use of the effects budget and ladle out the gore on the cast, most of whom barely received two lines to rub together. Also showing up was Ray Wise, starting to establish himself by now, and making it clear why he was hired for an apparently incidental role during the first half (that Alien influence once more), yet while Scalia growled his way through the expected heroism, you knew you were here to witness the cast get grabbed by the tentacles or in one case, headbutted by a giant fly head, or in another, get sucked into a hosepipe not unlike the golf ball he alluded to earlier in an Ermey-esque metaphor. The thing was, Dino De Laurentiis arranged this as a rip-off of his rip-off (Leviathan), yet this was more entertaining - eventually. Music by Joel Goldsmith.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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