Judge Ike Oden relates to oil rigs purely on a physical level.
"Get over here, you dough-eyed smartass."
The synopsis of The Rig, detailing a skeleton crew working an oil rig who unleash a killer deep-sea monster during an isolating storm, appealed to my taste in deep-sea horror films. From Jaws to Leviathan, Deep Blue Sea to Deep Rising; this subgenre holds a special place in my heart, appealing to both my fear of drowning and my fear of being eaten by leviathan-sized monsters from the deep (I had a weird childhood). Couple this love with The Rig's stunt casting of the legendary William Forsythe (The Devil's Rejects, as the crew's leader) and Art LaFleur (Trancers, as the oil rig's owner) and this DVD review should have been signed, sealed, and delivered into an average-to-mediocre score.
So why isn't it? Why does this film critic, an ideal audience for The Rig, hate the film with an undying passion?
Because The Rig is the most soulless horror film I've ever seen. It's not that the film is just bad. It's that the film manages to be derivative in EVERY WAY POSSIBLE. There isn't a shred of life or originality in any aspect of your movie; every decision, every performance, every effect feels like a Xerox of a Xerox of a Xerox of a movie.
Note, I didn't say "better movie." I said "a movie." Because, to put it bluntly, The Rig is not a movie, it's a glorified student film jacked up on a budget of many thousands of dollars. It has a script written by three different people (Scott Martin and Marilee Benson & Lori Chavez) who clearly despise their audience and the horror genre, and it shows. It is the dumbest, most lifeless horror film script ever put to digital video.
I can't remember any characters or their functions in the film beyond archetype, and most of those were ripped off from better scripts: the grizzled but caring oil rig boss (seen in Armageddon), his hot daughter who is banging the stud rookie (both Armageddon), a tough-talking Chicano chick (see Aliens or any Michelle Rodriguez performance), a battle hardened former soldier (Jaws)—the list goes on and on, and not one is a legitimate character in The Rig.
These cardboard archetypes serve no function, other than to walk up-and-down poorly lit corridors, waiting for a guy in a bad rubber suit to pop up out of nowhere and pounce on them. There is no acting, only wooden line delivery. Old pros Forsythe and LaFleur skate by on the seat of their collective pants, looking bored but earning their pay checks. Everyone else is non-existent in terms of their performances. They deliver lines robotically. Some of them take their clothes off to engage in non-titillating sex scenes. I'd like to say that you'll be glad when the monster comes and takes the cannon fodder cast out, but the guy-in-a-rubber-suit is debatably more boring than any of the cast—a fake, uninspired Alien-knockoff that looks like it was purchased from a novelty store.
The impact of these artistic blows could have been softened if director Peter Atencio's direction would have been more ambitious. Plenty of dull scripts have been saved by go-for-broke direction. In the commentary track for the film, Atencio mentions that The Rock (which also stars Forsythe) is his favorite movie. The Rock is a perfect example of wooden script taken and pumped full of crazy stylistic steroids—thus making a brainlessly entertaining action film. I understand directors like Michael Bay spend a budget the size of The Rig on their craft food services for the day, but when you have the sort of freedom allowed on an independent film set, the only thing holding you back (besides budget) is imagination.
Imagination is what is on shortest display in The Rig. Instead, we're treated to a monotonous series of point-and-shoot, largely static camera work broken up by mundane creature POV shots and over thought editing transitions (seriously, someone needs to declare a moratorium on dip-to-blacks in contemporary cinema). This lifeless direction puts the final nail into this film's coffin. Couple this with a booming, John Williams knockoff of a score and you have the makings for a deliciously ironic juxtaposition that should be more entertaining than it is.
Which brings me to my biggest problem with The Rig: it is made by a group of people who clearly have no understanding of what makes horror films work. Not to get on my soap box (okay, precisely to get on my soap box), but the problem with the horror genre and the reason that it continues to remain the bastard step-child of film studios and schools around the world is that anyone who has ever picked up a camcorder and seen a Friday the 13th sequel thinks they can slap together a decent body count picture on a budget of $5. Oftentimes they find a large distribution for these films under studio banners like Lionsgate or Anchor Bay.
Hence we're given movies like The Rig and other delete bin flicks that offer paint-by-number genre tropes without any innovation or imagination. Films like this aren't just restricted to indie offerings, either—between the failures of uninspired vampire movies, Platinum Dunes remakes and a death of the Saw series, the horror genre is slowly grinding its cycle of popularity to a halt in 2010, dying under the weight of its own lameness. My only hope if that, as horror fades into pop culture obscurity for another 2-5 years, uninspired cash-ins like The Rig will not see distribution in my local Wal-Mart.
On the more positive side of things, the film's promotional artwork looks pretty slick. They had me sold on the movie as the next Deep Blue Sea. It wasn't, of corse, but kudos to Anchor Bay's marketing department for duping me into requesting the disc.
Anchor Bay is saddling The Rig with better specs than it ever deserved. The video is sharp and clean. Sure, it looks like a bad David Fincher knockoff, but one with a tolerable transfer. The audio doesn't fair as well, with weird, echo-y dialogue and low sound effects overpowered by the film's awful score.
I've already mentioned the commentary track with producer James D. Benson and director Peter Atinco. Its not a horrible track from a technical stand-point, but it's a humorless and somewhat pretentious track, especially to be accompanying such an abysmal movie. Rounding out the disc is a montage of behind-the-scenes footage set to that crap score trying to pass itself off as a featurette. I made it about three minutes before hitting the fast-forward button.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
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