Starring Billy Warlock, Catherine Lough Haggquist, Kurt Max Runte, and Richard Benwick
Directed by Jay “Jim Wynorski” Andrews
Either The Thing Below was somebody’s tax write-off or nobody involved in its making gave a damn. This is about as lazy a film as Jim Wynorski has ever made, not counting the softcore skin flicks he’s done, but I don’t count those anyway since the plot and characters to those are incidental to begin with. As for this lame attempt at making a science fiction monster movie, it’s so uninspired, unimaginative, and uneventful that it gives cheap and cheesy sci-fi a bad name. I miss the Jim Wynorski that made Chopping Mall and Return of Swamp Thing. They may not have been great cinema but at least they were lively. When you look back at the last ten years of moviemaking for Wynorski and realize his best films were probably Curse of the Komodo and Demolition High, it’s…It’s actually damn depressing.
I would say The Thing Below is tailor made for the Sci-Fi Channel except the CGI is so bargain basement I suspect even they would have to put their foot down and reject this film. We’re talking about a film permeated with computer effects that look to be at least 15 years out of date and so pathetic you can’t even laugh at it.
Plot wise, The Thing Below pretty much plays out like a cheap hodgepodge of The Thing, The Intruder Within, and every movie ever made about an evil entity of some sort that preys upon others using mind tricks that includes taking the form of friends and loved ones or creating a false environment to tempt them with their deepest desire. Does that last part sound familiar? I know I’ve seen that scenario beaten to death so much this film just feels like it’s kicking the corpse.
The first specimen of an unknown lifeform was being transported by ship to Maryland (CIA Headquarters?) when the butterfingers technicians managed to drop the container, shattering the glass. They put an unknown organism that they describe as being so radioactive it could supposedly kill someone a hundred times over in a glass container that could be broken if simply dropped on the floor? The thing gets loose, wreaks havoc, and, ultimately, ends up causing the ship to explode. Fortunately, there’s another specimen aboard the top secret oilrig that discovered it accidentally while drilling deep into the earth in search of a possible new energy source. A ragtag special forces unit is then sent in to bring it back. Unfortunately, that specimen also got loose and wreaked havoc.
The unit arrive on the rig, the scientist involved in the project aiding them recites all the facts as to what is going on, the man in black government agent tagging along with them keeps being a prick only concerned with retrieving the specimen at any cost, and then everyone splits up to go about their own thing so the creature can begin picking them off. Let’s not forget that the only survivor of the oilrig massacre they find just happens to be the kid brother of the special unit’s leader.
From the moment they arrive on the oilrig, I’d be willing to guess that most everyone watching could probably figure out most of what’s going to happen next and come real close to getting it all right. Just be sure to include footage that appears to have been lifted from an entirely different movie, stock footage of Navy jet fighters and helicopters taking off, God awful computer animation at every turn, and lots of flashbacks. Far too much of the film is told using flashbacks and the majority of them are quite gratuitous.
And, boy, does this thing take them forever to get going. This movie manages to squander half its running time on that ultimately pointless set-up involving the specimen on the doomed ship and introducing us to the special unit during their bumpy boat ride to the oilrig. The members of the unit are nothing but potential monster fodder possessing only one specific character trait that exists solely so that the monster has something to play off of. One character is obsessed with a porn star and, sure enough, the creature takes her form in order to set him up for the kill. Highlighting the film’s idiot factor, this character doesn’t appear to find it particularly odd that his favorite porn star has just magically materialized on this ransacked oilrig and wants to perform a naked hot oil dance just for him. Nope, he just salivates over her and dies a much deserved death.
Did you ever see Dodgeball? Remember the character that dressed and acted like a pirate for no particular reason? One of the members of the covert unit claims to be a descendant of a long line of cowboys and dresses like Hopalong Cassidy. In fact, his character’s name is Cassidy. Unlike Dodgeball, The Thing Below isn’t a dumb comedy; it’s just really dumb and this character is dumbest of all. A character like this might have been at laughably bad in another film but it’s so painfully obvious from the very first moment you see him that the only reason for the whole cowboy gimmick is for the creature to create a Wild West illusion later on. Stuff like this smells of desperation on the part of the filmmakers to me.
Did you ever see Die Hard? Just wait until you see their ultimate plan for destroying the monster because it’s going to look very familiar.
This brings me to the film’s other fundamental problem: the monster itself is poorly defined. When we first see it, it’s a small, snake-like tentacle. Later on, it’s a whole bunch of tentacles. Much later, we see a character attacked by something resembling an insectoid octopus. After that, it’s back to being a tentacle again. By the film’s climax, it’s a whole bunch of giant tentacles. So what exactly is this thing? An alien tentacle? A bunch of alien tentacles? Is it just an appendage of a larger creature or is it just a psychic alien tentacle? How does it keep multiplying and changing size throughout the movie? A question that goes unanswered, but rest assured that there’s more tentacle action in this film than in both the Nu Image Octopus movies combined. and it’s twice as crappy.
It can read minds and create illusions based on their thoughts but only if it gets close enough to them and the only reason it wants to get close enough is so that it can kill them. But what about the radiation? We’re told multiple times that it’s so radioactive it could “tan an elephant from a hundred yards away”, yet nothing ever comes of it other than lip service.
The vague explanation we do eventually get about the creature – something straight out of a 1950’s sci-fi film only with even less thought put into it – still leaves tons of questions dangling in the air. The most important being that if all the creature wants is to get off the oilrig and back to civilization then why the hell does it keep toying with people and killing them when all it really needs to do is take one person’s form and by time until they’re ready to return to the mainland? Oh, that’s right; because if it didn’t pull this garbage then there wouldn’t be a movie.
The Thing Below is a pathetic monster movie with a poorly defined creature of indeterminate size that likes to screw with the minds of the lame characters by creating equally lame illusions in order to kill them just for kicks when all it really wants to do is get back to the mainland in order to…Wait, I don’t think they ever really went that far into it detail. My guess would be that it wants to get back to the mainland to systematically wipe out the human race by messing with our minds using dopey mind tricks in order to get close enough to kill us all one at a time.
Did I mention how much this movie sucks?
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