WARNING SIGN (1985)
I came to WARNING SIGN very late in life on late-night cable. I wrongfully avoided it at the video store because its bland VHS cover art gave me the impression that it was a stuffy political thriller. It’s actually much more like RESIDENT EVIL (2002) meets THE CRAZIES (1973/2010). Extremely likable yet strangely coiffed Kathleen Quinlan stars as Joanie Morse who works as a security guard at a bioweapon military laboratory that masquerades as a harmless pesticide plant. One day some dope drops a vial full of highly toxic bacteria and soon it’s on Joanie to shut the place down for quarantine to the mounting infuriation of all who work there. Worse still, the contagion causes those infected to turn into super pissed off zombie-like goons. There are some interesting against-type turns by Sam Waterson as Joanie’s Sheriff hubby and ALIEN’s Yaphet Kotto as an army Major assigned to snuff out the situation. The great character actor Jeffrey DeMunn (THE HITCHER, THE BLOB, THE MIST) is particularly compelling as Dr. Dan Fairchild, an ex-scientist, ex-alcoholic who just might be clever enough to save the day. Some of WARNING SIGN is hokey and far-fetched but in this day and age it’s probably more plausible than ever before.
A great double feature with WARNING SIGN would be 1984’s IMPULSE which tells the tale of toxic chemicals infiltrating a small town’s water supply and making its inhabitants do the cuckoo conga. The ever-talented Meg Tilly (ONE DARK NIGHT, PSYCHO II) stars as Jennifer who receives a strange (for her at least) phone call from her mother cursing her out, haranguing her and calling her awful names. Her mother then proceeds to attempt suicide and so Jennifer and her boyfriend Stuart (Tim Matheson) leave their cozy city life to go back to her hometown to find out why ma is inexplicable flipping her wig. It turns out almost everyone in town is feeling just about the same insane way and that includes her super creepy brother played by dear departed Bill Paxton. I remember seeing this one back in the day and finding it a bit lackluster but in retrospect, I think my young self was just reacting to its dire, depressing, lethargic tone which I now understand completely.
THE FEAR INSIDE (1993)
Here’s a made for SHOWTIME movie that never made the jump to DVD so I’m guessing that’s why it has completely fallen into the cracks. Christine Lahti (of one of my favorite non-horror flicks HOUSEKEEPING) plays a (apparently very well paid) Children’s book illustrator named Meredith who lives in an endless mansion with her son. Meredith has agoraphobia so that means she never wants to go outside but when you see her digs you’d re-think the outdoors too. She decides to rent one of her hundreds of rooms to an adorable stranger named Jane (Jennifer Rubin of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS & BAD DREAMS) who is soon visited by her hunky brother Pete (Dylan McDermott of AMERICAN HORROR STORY) Here’s the scandalous thing though: Jane and Pete are not really brother and sister! They’re lovers on the lam who just killed a bunch of peeps and stole a giant diamond! Wha?!!! It’s true. THE FEAR INSIDE is kinda deliciously campy and it’s basically LADY IN A CAGE (1964), which is fine by me. Jane and Pete kind of remind me of Roy Batty and Pris from BLADE RUNNER and they also kind of remind me of Chucky and Tiffany from SEED OF CHUCKY. I love crazy people and Jennifer Rubin is so much fun as the psychotic, wild-haired Pam who I would also compare to Fairuza Balk in THE CRAFT for her virtuoso level of lunacy. She really goes for broke and switches from vulnerable and hurt to violating and hurtful with masterful ease. I wish Jennifer Rubin made more movies. She’s extremely underrated.