I stumbled across the strangest movie. It’s my most favorite view since THE MEDUSA TOUCH and it flew into my hands in much the same way. I was at an indoor flea market and this guy had a giant grey plastic tub of used VHS that he was selling three for five bucks. I found two that I wanted and had to take a gamble on a third. I was pretty sure I had seen 1991’s THE RUNESTONE before, as I had a vague negative feeling toward it, but I figured I’d give it a second chance because at least it looked semi-horror related. I didn’t already own it and it was in very good condition (the tape inside was tightly wound, laying flat and mold free! You gotta check for mold, I tells ya! It’s an epidemic!!) Anyway, after watching it, I doubted there was any way I had seen it before, as I would surely have remembered something so idiosyncratic. I guess, due to the cover art so proudly boasting the presence of the late ALEXANDER GODUNOV, I was unfairly associating it with WAXWORK 2? On the other hand it’s not impossible that exactly what makes THE RUNESTONE charming now made it forgettable back in its day. Some films need to sit and ferment.
I’m going to reference a ton of titles now as a kind of shorthand, so stand warned. RUNESTONE starts off as some sort of archeological adventure like RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK and there’s an all-consuming myth-dipped puzzle vibe that sorta reminded me of INFERNO. But then it gets to be so very much like THE RELIC except instead of a larger than life, difficult to register creature to deal with, there’s an old-fashioned, in-your-face dude in a rubber suit deal (think PUMPKINHEAD or RAWHEAD REX or especially HUMANOIDS OF THE DEEP). Jumping back even further, the soundtrack does its best to ape the sweeping, over the top dramatics of B-movie horror films from the fifties like THE CREATURE OF THE BLACK LAGOON.
I guess what I’m trying to tell you is that it’s like watching THE DAVINCI CODE do the cha-cha with SPAWN OF THE SLITHIS (1978) and I say that having never actually finished watching either of those. I should also mention it’s got a too big for its britches, would–be epic if not for its staggering lack of plausibility quality as per 1979’s THE DARK or the same year’s batty THE VISITOR. What’s it about? Let’s just say some jealous guy finds a rock in Pennsylvania and it brings out his worst.
Writer/director WILLARD CARROLL based his screenplay on a novel by MARK E. ROGERS but the entire affair has an intoxicating lunatic auteur feel to it, as if everything was obsessed over in some seriously unhealthy way. In fact, the concentrated visuals and often clunky dialogue reminded me of FRANK De FILITTA’s adorably self-indulgent insanity dispenser SCISSORS of the same year (and I mean that as a compliment). What’s extra odd is that RUNESTONE has its heart set on being funny, so you have to endure lead balloon joke after lead balloon joke until finally you begin to look forward to them. Weirder still, it actually is funny on at least two occasions.
You’ll never catch me saying, “It’s so bad, it’s good” but I have no issue saying it’s so awkward, it’s stimulating. I can’t help feel a tinge of exhilarating embarrassment for THE RUNESTONE. It’s goofily earnest and it knows no shame and it’s willing to throw anything against the wall in the hopes that it’ll stick and somehow, against all odds, some things do. For example the line, “Where am I when I need me the most?” is shoehorned into a scene for no good reason and now I can’t get it out of my head and there’s an extended bit that skewers a New York art gallery that somehow ends with the creature in question sporting a police hat that I won’t forget too soon. (Don’t get me started on the sex scene involving an impossible moon, and the battling silhouettes of a woman in the throws of passion and a swiping monster claw. It has to be seen to be believed).
Anyway, I know a keeper when I see one, there’s never something not going on, the misses are as fascinating as the hits and there’s no doubt you’ll see different things popping out upon multiple visits. I wish I could entice you better with the cast but that’s not going to work unless you are a big fan of PETER (ANIMAL HOUSE) RIEGERT, JOAN (BLACK SCORPION) SEVERANCE or the guy who looks exactly like the guy who was on that early FOX sitcom DUETS but is not that guy on account of he’s his twin brother (MITCHELL (not MATTHEW) LAURANCE).
What I CAN do (and what may be my sole purpose for being born), is to reiterate, highlight and underline that THE RUNESTONE is a MONSTER movie! To me, that is crucial, game-changing information previously neglected to be declared properly in the movie’s advertising art. In my book, monster movies are allotted a certain amount (acres and acres) of extra leeway to be somewhat off the wall. I’m not saying it’s part of their appeal, I’m just saying I’ll happily overlook a few zillion questionable choices to see a guy in a rubber suit rip some other guy’s arm off. I can’t help it.
So there my job is done. THE RUNESTONE is available to watch on YouTube. The picture quality is not the best (I can tell right away by how off the red hue is in the opening credits) but it’s not available on DVD or Blu-ray, so what are you going to do? Personally, I’d order a VHS from Amazon while supplies last. This is a cult hit waiting to happen and all it needs is somebody with more clout than me to say so.