This week's VHS is Gary J. Tunnicliffe's sci-fi actioner Within The Rock from 1996.
A mining team is sent to divert the course of an incoming asteroid only to uncover a fossilized alien that soon wakes up and starts tearing through the crew. Will they survive long enough to complete their mission and save Earth?
Considering Tunnicliffe's output over the years – namely his hot garbage takes on Hellraiser – I was not expecting much from this, but I was pleasantly surprised. Sure, it's a thinly disguised Alien rip-off (I think there are enough of those now that we can accept them as a thing), but it's competent enough and the stuff that isn't is almost charming at this point.
Set in the year 2019 (I should have waited a few months to post about this, oh well), we have another “aww that's cute” look at the future where mankind has mastered space exploration, yet media is still stored on floppies and mini-discs. And in case you're wondering, the most popular video game at this time is not Fortnite, but something called Battle Scars that of course looks like something off the Sega Saturn.
So the movie starts off with Dale Dye, as a military type (shocking) sending Dr. Shaw (Caroline Barclay) off into space to lead the mission to re-route the asteroid by drilling into it. Then, within the first five minutes I see both Earl Boen & Xander Berkeley which made me think this cast might just be made up supporting actors from Terminator 2. The aforementioned Alien parallels began with the blue collar crew of the mining operation and their relations between their corporate employers. It's kind of a mix of the peeps from Alien & Aliens and their interactions may be the best thing about this movie.
There was even a Vasquez! Except she's called “Nuke em” (Barbara Patrick) you know, to fit in with the guys. And she's pretty bad ass... until she gets offed Three Stooges-style. Which leads me to another point of prophecy in this movie. It's good to see gender relations have improved about as much here as they have IRL soon-to-be 2019. As far as the rest of the Alien stuff goes, composers Tony Fennell & Rod Gammons tried their hardest to not copy James Horner's iconic score, but I heard them falter once or twice during the proceedings.
Being rooted in mid-nineties, the movie was of course in a tug-of-war between practical and CG. Comical of course is the latter and every time it came onscreen I found myself saying “you should be using this less”. Due to Tunnicliffe's F/X background, the practical stuff is unsurprisingly solid, although I wish the alien looked less like a guy in a rubber suit as it did. I would have preferred a design a little more monstrous, like Bill Malone's Creature or Metamorphosis' “Deadly Spawn”.
I had to laugh at the meteor storyline though, as it sounded quite familiar. I wonder if Michael Bay saw this on video and went, “I'm going to remake this, but with more explosions... and Aerosmith!” Seriously though, Within The Rock was watchable sci-fi fare with good actors, a solid pace and is pretty much the best anything that says “Directed by Gary J. Tunnicliffe” on the cover has to offer.