Review Date: December 18, 2010
Released by: Anchor Bay
Release date: October 5, 2010
Widescreen 1.78 | 16x9: Yes
Events of magnitude will invariably help shape and define the era in which they occur. History is littered with ages defined by disasters, the script of the age written in blood or conflict. The World Wars, the assassination of JFK, the Exxon Valdez spill, the Asian tsunami, the invasion of Kuwait, 9/11 all helped to shape, in some way, the time they occurred in. Most recently we can add to that list the British Petroleum gulf oil disaster. Itís one of those game-changing events that will inform and influence pop culture from here on out. First out of the gate is The Rig
, a low budget Alien
knock off set on an offshore oilrig. Itís either serendipitous for the makers of The Rig
or in extremely poor taste that itís being released so soon after the spill. If itís good, then it can gain resonance from current events; if itís bad, itís going to look like crass exploitation, even if it wasnít intended as such.
So, is The Rig
a slick horror flick or just a scummy disaster in bad need of a clean-up? Letís plumb the depths and find out.
A hurricane is headed for the Gulf of Mexico and Weyland drilling companyís Charlie rig is the only manned rig in its path. Standard operating procedure calls for the cessation of operations and the evacuation of all non-essential staff for the duration of the storm. This leaves Rig supervisor Jim (William Forsythe
), Jimís daughter Carey (Serah DíLaine
), her would-be secret lover Dobbs (Scott Martin
) and a rag tag assortment of roughnecks including a gruff Scotsman (Jacob Bruce
), a tough talking Latina (Carmen Perez
), a comic relief African American control room worker (Marcus Paulk
), a stoic ex-special forces soldier Faulkner (Robert Zachar
) and Freddy (Stacey Hinnen
). Freddy is having a mini family crisis with his younger brother Colin (Dan Benson
). After working in close proximity to his well-regarded older brother, Colin has grown resentful of the tall shadow cast by Freddy and is eager to carve his own unique niche on another rig.
When Earl (Dennis LaValle
) goes out into the storm to shut down a compressor and never returns, the crew starts a search party. Itís not long before they find traces of blood. Although they first chalk it up to an accident it soon becomes apparent that a malevolent force is stalking the oil workers and killing them, one by one. With communications to the mainland and home base totally cut off and a rescue chopper not due until the storm breaks, the workers must band together and battle a bloodthirsty creature from the depths of the ocean.
I canít fault a film that has a low budget as long as it is rich with imagination and passion. The filmography of Roger Corman is littered with films of less than sterling technical merit, but bursting with energy and dogged will to entertain its drive-in audience. The Rig
ís low budget is apparent from minute one, but what really bothers me is that it is bereft of creativity. From the technical credits, to the story, the performances and even the creature and the gore, The Rig
is rote and by-the-numbers in every way. Thereís a difference between being inexpensive and being cheap. The Evil Dead
was inexpensive; House of the Dead
Everything about The Rig
just screams cheap. It uses the typical low budget formula: give us one or two tightly framed location shots of the leads, a couple of cheap looking CG establishing shots and then contrive a reason that the actors will never go outside again. There are lots of shots that are reverse printed and recycled; pretty much every establishing shot is reused. The movie may be set on a multimillion dollar offshore oil rig but it looks the majority of it like it was shot in a couple of ATCO trailers. I was dumbfounded to find out that it was actually shot on a real oilrig: thereís no attempt to really exploit the unique setting. This could have been set anywhere and been pretty much the same movie.
Top-billed William Forsythe plays one of his typical scowly hard ass roles, though not as hard assed as usual. Not surprising that he makes his exit from the picture about 35 minutes in, just kind of surprising he bothered at all. Once Forsythe exists the picture thereís no real lead. Freddyís family drama feels like it was tacked on after the fact to make him the nominal hero of the second half of the picture and to pad out the running time. Other than Forsythe, the one actor who makes an impression is Sarah DíLaine, as Carey.
Every plot development in the second half of the movie feels completely arbitrary because we know nothing about the creature; if youíre going to rip off Alien
, at least rip off the scene where the properties of the creature and its possible weaknesses are established. How would a creature that supposedly lived under the ocean floor evolve hands, feet and bipedal movement? How would it know how to fist fight? Iím not disappointed that the film doesnít have the answers to those questions. Iím disappointed that it doesnít have the curiosity or imagination to even ask them.
It doesnít establish very basic things about the setting that are important to the plot: when Earl goes to shut off the compressor, what is it compressing and why does it need to be turned off? What will happen if it isnít turned off? Apparently nothing since, even though a big deal is made over the importance of it being shut off before the storm, nobody actually ever shuts it off. The whole situation is a contrivance for a worker to disappear.
The stalk-and-kill creature scenes are even less interesting than the mopey soap opera melodrama, which is itself not very interesting. The ďrig-pig-sleeping-with-the-bossesí-daughterĒ subplot is a direct lift from Armageddon, right down to the scene where the father catches his daughter and her lover in bed and his justification for opposing the romance. Itís not nearly as entertainingly staged, though.
Usually in a film like this you can count that the creatures and gore effects will be the lone bright spot, the one point of originality, but The Rig
falls short there, too. The monsters are just cheap Giger knock offs: stunt men in flimsy black rubber suits with a mouth full of teeth and goopy, Day-Glo blood just like the Predator (purple in this instance, instead of green). The drilling company is Weyland Drilling and even has a logo virtually identical to that of Weyland-Yutani from the Alien
And seriously, what is up with the directorís weird fixation with zooming in on blood splatters? One or two can be effective but after almost every kill the camera lingers on a blood splattered wall or window for a good ten or fifteen seconds. The weird thing is they cut away from the obviously elaborate gore effects in favour of red corn syrup dripping down the wall. Utterly bizarre for a DTV movie to sell short itís only real selling point.
was probably intended as a ďdonít fuck with nature cautionary taleĒ but post Gulf spill it actually plays like a half assed defence of companies like BP: ďNo matter how conscientious our workers are, bad things will happen and absolutely none of it is our fault.Ē Itís hard to feel any sympathy towards the characters in a film so poorly conceived and so unfortunately timed.
Credit where due: thereís one well timed jump scare thatís preceded with some mildly clever, ironic dialogue about investigating strange noises. Maybe they should have included similar precautionary dialogue about investigating cheap looking Alien
rip offs. That might almost have made The Rig
worth watch- oh, who am I kidding? The Rig
is as big a cinematic disaster as the BP oil spill was an environmental one.
Cheap looking movie looks cheap. Itís no fault of the transfer, which runs at an unusually high bit rate and doesnít display any obvious compression issues, but of the source material. It has that blurry, under lit look characteristic of movies shot on low grade digital video. Thereís lots of motion blurring in panning shots, poor contrast, murky shadow detail, low detail, dull colours. Staring at the crap on the beach in the Gulf of Mexico would probably provide a more pleasant visual experience than watching The Rig
The package lists an English 5.1 track, but the disc only contains an English 2.0 track and itís about the experience that youíd expect from a film like this. The dialogue is a combination of poor location sound and hollow sounding ADR. The sound effects are stock and the entire track sounds thin: thereís no low end to speak of and the high end sounds clipped and tinny.
Director/Editor Peter Atencio and Producer James B. Bensonís audio commentary is filled with wide eyed naivety and is actually kind of charming for it. Itís kind of amazing that theyíre so incredulous that viewers would want some kind of explanation as to where the creature(s) came from. Atencio sounds like heís straight out of film school. They reveal a lot of things that I suspected: at least a third of the final film is the result of re-shoots (I correctly guessed the scenes while I was watching the movie, before I knew for sure they were re-shoots Ė theyíre pretty glaring). I applaud their enthusiasm for the project and theyíre pretty engaging, but címon guys: have a sense of perspective.
Behind the Scenes of The Rig
(9:33) advertises itself as a featurette, but itís really just a collection of behind the scenes footage devoid of narration, context or interest. Maybe if it focused on a certain aspect of production, like maybe the makeup, it might have had something of interest. As it is, itís nine minutes of: ďHey, lookit us! Weíre filming generic dialogue sequence number three!Ē Uh, good for you.
The ďTheatricalĒ Trailer (1:45) is little more than a collection of The Rig
ís money shots. At the very least itís an accurate in letting you know what to expect Ė a low rent, cheap looking Alien
clone. Yay for truth in advertising!
Thereís a reason that formula becomes formula: when itís done well, itís effective no matter how familiar it is. There are few modern templates as tried and true as the Alien
template. Even if done only moderately well, it should be able to coax one or two scares out the viewer. The only thing scary about The Rig
is how awful it is. The Rig
canít even get the most basic elements of one of the most used formulas right. Itís poorly conceived and executed, with lacklustre technical credits and not even the benefit of gratuitous gore or nudity. In short, thereís absolutely no reason to watch it.
Movie - D-
Image Quality - C-
Sound - C-
Supplements - D+
- Running time - 1 hour and 34 minutes
- Rated R
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- English Dolby Digital 5.1 Audio
- English SDH subtitles
- Spanish subtitles (if applicable)
- Audio Commentary
- Behind the Scenes
- Theatrical Trailer