This week’s VHS is Hal Barwood
’s 1985 thriller Warning Sign
When a deadly virus is accidentally released inside an
agricultural facility, all those locked inside must fight for their lives.
Warning Sign was the second in my double header of virus
flicks and it couldn’t be more opposite from last week’s The Alpha Incident
Granted, this one was a wholly legitimate production from Twentieth Centuty
, but man was it solid. Not only was it shot by legend Dean Cundey
, but also
featured a veritable parade of character actors, including Sam Waterston
, Yaphet Kotto
, Richard Dysart
and Jeffrey De Munn
as well as
familiar faces G.W. Bailey
, Jerry Hardin
and Rick Rossovich
|Sam Waterston (right) & Jeffrey De Munn in Warning Sign.|
This was director Barwood’s only kick at the can – after
rubbing elbows with George Lucas at Fox and later moving into the video game
industry – and he made it count. Warning Sign was an engaging thriller that had
the gravitas of a studio picture, but sadly got buried in the avalanche of the
decade’s flashier and more celebrated offerings.
What I found most intriguing were the similarities it shared
with two iconic genre pictures, Aliens and 28 Days Later. It’s impossible not
to watch the scene where a cammed-up science team descend into Bio-Tek’s lower
levels and not think of the sequence where James Cameron’s colonial marines had
their disastrous first engagement with the aliens.
|Come for the virus, stay for the arcade games!|
I was also reminded of Ripley when Quinlan’s character had
to turn into a reluctant bad-ass in the second act. Even more interesting is
that Aliens came out a year later, yet they were both pictures at Fox. You can
even hear James Horner’s score in the Warning Sign trailer, though if I had a nickel
for every time that was pilfered for an ad I’d be as rich as Cameron.
As for 28 Days Later, I have to wonder if writer Alex
Garland didn’t see this movie. While it’s true both viruses shared a similar pathology, my eyebrows didn’t raise until the word “rage” was used
more than once. Very curious indeed.
I think what most surprised me about Warning Sign was
the ending. It was very unexpected and not at all how these movies usually go.
It was kind of refreshing actually. Not particularly realistic, but it was a
studio picture, after all. Considering I hadn’t heard thing one about this film
before watching it, I feel it’s an underappreciated gem. I understand that the
mid-eighties were crammed with pop culture mainstays, but if you dig a little
deeper there are a ton of other fine titles like this one to be found, as well.