Saturday, December 30, 2023

seaman stays.

You know when you get to that point when you've eaten and drunk so much you can't move so just grab the first thing on the shelf?

The Rift, (AKA Endless Descent, 1990).

Dir: Juan Piquer Simón.

Cast: Jack Scalia, R. Lee Ermey, Ray Wise, Deborah Adair, John Toles Bey, Ely Pouget, Emilio Linder, Tony Isbert, Álvaro Labra, Luis Lorenzo, Frank Braña, Pocholo Martínez-Bordiú, Edmund Purdom, Garrick Hagon as Barton (as Garick Hagon) and Jed Downey.



"Bio-lab, sick bay, and the engine room are off limits. The algae has infected them!"


Top secret supersub Siren I (or is it Syren? or Sirene? no-one seems to be sure if I'm honest) has disappeared in mysterious circumstances leaving the bigwigs in Washington (played by the legendary - well around here anyway Edmund Purdom and Biggs Darklighter himself Garrick Hagon) no choice but to turn to the subs original designer - the big haired living beefcake that is Wick Hayes (American teevee regular and Eminence underpants model Scalia, looking for all the world like a love child of 80s era Mel Gibson and Kurt Russell if bought from Wish) to investigate the situation.

The official line is that Hayes shoddy design was to blame for the disaster but it turns out that this was just a cover story to hide the fact that the military added some secret stuff to the original Siren (nuclear torpedoes, experimental gene replicators, a dartboard etc.) without asking his permission.

Which would be OK if they admitted it to the folk Hayes will be working with as right now they all think he's just a bad designer with a shit mullet who gets folk killed due to negligence.

"What is this? Have you built a submarine for ants?!!?"



Leading the mission is the ball-breaking, no nonsense navy Capt. Phillips (Lee Ermey, essaying his role from Full Metal Jacket) ) alongside the Lego-haired bio-genetics expert Lt. Nina Crawley (Dynasty, The Love Boat, Days Of Our Lives and Melrose Place star Adair) who, it turns out used to be in a relationship with Hayes.

This is fairly unimportant tho' and will only come up once in the entire film and then only with them holding hands and gazing into each others eyes for about 30 seconds.

Let's just say character building is not this films strong point.

Neither is plot, effects or acting tho' if I'm honest.

Also onboard to fill out the painting-by-numbers cast - which I will admit does feature a comedy Italian cook played by Luis Lorenzo in his best "Itsa me Mario!" voice, a terrifyingly eyebrowed German engineer played by Frank Braña from Pieces, "Skeets" - a wise-cracking cliched 80s black man in tiny silk shorts shouting "Shit!" a lot played by John Toles-Bey from Dude, Where's My Car? and Lawnmower Man II 'star' Ely Pouget looking a wee bit sweaty as Ana - is a mysterious and twitchy new computer expert Harold Robbins - no, not that one - played by Ray Wise, obviously trying to cover his mortgage before starting to film Twin Peaks.

So with the cast introduced it's time to power up the Siren II (think the Seaview set from Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea hastily reconstructed in an old Radio Shack warehouse and sprayed silver to hide the cracks) as they head out into the unknown to search for the ill-fated Siren's black box recorder or something.

To be honest none of this makes any sense.


A yellow submarine parked in the town where I was born yesterday.


After an exciting ZX81 graphics style encounter with some icebergs (turns out the navigation system hasn't been aligned properly for all the new shit they've added to the sub which is nice) the sub dives to over 27,000 feet (no me neither) into a mysterious abyss (not that one) where the crew are surprised to see a massive kelp forest at depths where photosynthesis is impossible.


Wanting to  pad out the runtime, sexy haired Sven (Spanish teevee god and actually aristocrat Martinez) is sent out to investigate - in scuba gear which is a wee bit mad seeing as it would only work up to (down to?) 130 feet but let's be honest, are we really here for the science?

Well Lt Crawley is as she very quickly blames this development on the experimental transgenic accelerator that the Siren crew were testing.

Anyway upon leaving the sub Sven soon comes across not only a dead body and an old toilet seat but mysterious jet stream of warm water emanating from a crack in the seabed.

Everything is going swimmingly (sorry) as he carefully takes a sample of the kelp but as soon as he tries to take some photographs the flash awakens the vines which tear him limb from limb.

Shocked and more than a little surprised by their encounter with the killer seaweed the crew decide to surface and radio for back-up only to find the sub engulfed by what looks like a discarded condom that attempts to crush them - and the sub - to death.

No caption required.

Luckily Hayes knows a thing or two about dealing with used condoms and orders Robbins to reverse the polarity of the subs shields in order to electrocute it and scare it away.

Look it sounded legit at the time.

Surprisingly this actually works and the condom beast retreats but not before draining all the ships power sending it hurtling to not just the bottom of the ocean (which is 35,876 feet down and is found in the Pacific Ocean's Mariana Trench, at a place called Challenger Deep fact fans) but even further still to 45,000 feet according to the ships readouts. 

Now I'm no scientist but surely that would mean that they'd go all the way thru and pop out the other side a wee bit like the end of At The Earth's Core or something doesn't it?

As all around him panic, Hayes manages to pilot the sub onto a handy ledge that leads into a pressurized undersea cavern from which - deep inside - they pick up an SOS from the Siren.

Which is quite lucky seeing as when the crew investigate they can do it in decorators overalls and painters masks rather that in expensive scuba gear whilst wobbling about on wires as they're filmed thru' a fish tank.


Here come the Belgians!


Boarding a kiddies Paw Patrol dingy the crew soon make shore where they come across scattered piles of equipment from the siren but no signs of life - or intelligent script writing obviously - so decide to head further into the caverns where they find a huge stack of high-tech CD roms explaining the entire plot (which is quite lucky).

Preparing to head back to the sub they're suddenly attacked - in a scene that would do 70s Doctor Who proud - by giant ball-headed paper-mache bees that live in holes in the cave walls.

Imagine Aliens remade by Haribo infused toddlers and you're halfway there.

The team split up, running and screaming in different directions with Hayes and "Skeets" (and someone else but seeing as they're all wearing masks I can't really tell) managing to make it back to the sub before the character that's not either of them gets eaten by a giant rubbery mutant cod.

Who knew genetic splicing could be so much fun?

Unfortunately it's no safer aboard the Siren II tho' as the kelp sample has mutated (again) and has begun infecting the crew via the subs water system and making the engine room look like an overgrown garden.

Laugh now.


As our heroes discuss a plan of action the radio crackles to life. It appears that poor Ana is trapped in a cupboard, low on ammo and surrounded by beasts.

Obviously Hayes decides to mount a rescue mission (as opposed to mounting "Skeets" who I must admit has a really nice arse, especially in those aforementioned silk shorts) so the remaining crew suit up and head back into the caves.

Fighting their way toward Ana the team are (fairly) surprised - this happens a lot - to discover a room full of specimen cages and computers whilst Ana, heading deeper into the makeshift lab complex has discovered dozens of amniotic sacs contain strange hybrid human/fish babies (or people from West Bromwich as we call them here) alongside a giant genetic splicer cum DNA accelerator that surprisingly looks like a large industrial washing machine with a disco ball on top.

Oh yes and a giant man-eating starfish stuck to a wall.

At least it's not chocolate.

Unfortunately Ana doesn't get much chance to examine the beast as no sooner has she stopped for breath than some slimy tentacles slip out of the accelerator and drag her inside in order to fiddle with her genes.

Tho' I thought she was wearing Chinos.

But as our merry band fight for survival in the caves, Robbins is busy back at the sub packing the recovered CDs into a rucksack before prepping the escape pod. 

It seems he's a government spy who's only onboard to recover the missing data and dispose of anyone who discovers the truth regarding the fate of Siren I.

What a rascal.

Will Hayes and co. make it back to the sub in time?

Or will Robbins kill our heroes and score one for the evil government agency?

Go on, guess.

Strange as it may seem to any youngsters reading, way back in the late 80s/early 90s there was a huge upsurge in underwater adventure movies James Cameron had announced The Abyss so almost every film company and producer going, from Roger Corman to Dino De Laurentiis jumped in at the deep end to snatch a piece of this fish pie.

Obviously with all the secrecy surrounding The Abyss everyone assumed that the movie would be in the same style as Aliens so water-based bio-mechanoid menaces were on the bill with Lords Of The Deep, Leviathan and Deepstar Six among the first to be released.

Bizarrely there's more than just a cash-grab genre link with Leviathan and The Rift, you see both films were co-produced by (an uncredited) Dino De Laurentiis who must have really loved this script.

Or needed a tax break obviously.


"You chase me now!"

So with that tiny bit of backstory out of the way the main question is - is it any good?

Well it's from Juan Piquer Simon that made Pieces so it all kinda rest on what you think of that really.

Oh and if you enjoyed his adaptation of Slugs obviously.

But probably not Cthulhu Mansion as that is genuinely shite.

Even tho' it features the frankly fantastic Frank Finlay and another star turn from Frank Braña.

Oh and Melanie Shatner.

But I digress.

The Rift is cheap as chips with an almost total lack of any acting or characterization (save for Ray Wise and his coffee jitters and the permanently scowling R. Lee Ermey) and a plot so paper thin that it actually blew away at one point when I moved too quickly past the teevee to have a piss, the effects could hardly be call 'special' or even effects and the monsters are hardly seen (except for the big starfish that is which just bought Contamination to mind, whether that's good or bad I'll leave to you) but bizarrely enough I couldn't stop watching.

Yes maybe I'd drunk way too much and couldn't move from the sofa but I could've still passed out if it were that bad.

I mean ask your Auntie Jean if you don't believe me.


But scarily it's infinitely watchable - yes you've seen it all before (and done so much better) but somehow it wins you over and by the end credits you realise that it wasn't actually that bad at all.

I'm either getting soft in my old age or I'm beginning to lose my mind as I hit my mid 50s.

Either way happy new year all.

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