In the wake of recent the oil rig disaster and BP oil spill, The Rig is innately intriguing for being a horror tale set on an isolated location smack in the middle of bad weather, but there’s so much that doesn’t work in Peter Atencio’s film.
Basically Alien (1979) on an oil rig with characters riffed from that franchise, The Rig deals with a skeleton crew manning a large offshore drilling rig during a dangerous storm system, while a creature (or two) from the ocean depths hunts the human population to a mere handful.
Boss Jim (William Forsythe) wants his daughter Carey (Serah D’Laine) to stay away from crewman Dobbs (Scott Marin) because she deserves better, but her trust in Dobbs deepens when dad is among the creature’s first victims, and the survivors attempt to find a safe room and wait out the storm until the full crew returns.
The father-daughter-boyfriend relationship is effectively borrowed from Armageddon (1998), whereas the stock crewmen are liberally reformulated from Aliens (1986), including teasing blue collar workers, and butch couple Freddy (Stacey Hinnen) and Rodriguez (Carmen Perez) – the latter blatantly patterned after Aliens’ Drake and Vasquez. (Even the drilling firm – Weyland – is named after Weyland-Yutani, the evil company in the Alien series.)
That’s all fine, and the tongue-in-cheek references include a few visual shots reminiscent of Weaver’s frequent too-close-for-comfort encounters with the alien creature in the series, but none of the 4 writers manage to do create interesting conflicts that logically push the characters into desperate situations. The reasons to drag them out of safe rooms and separate them for inevitable kills are pretty feeble, and most of the dialogue is patterned after clichéd catch-phrases.
Worse are whole scenes far too reminiscent of Alien, particularly a lengthy scene where Faulkner (Robert Zachar) goes rogue and crawls through narrow passages with a flaming harpoon gun only to be snatched and dragged away by a creature – a steal from Dallas squirming through the ship’s ducts with a flame-thrower and getting snatched by the alien.
An actual oil rig was used, but Atencio makes little effort to milk the location for its inherent eeriness. The lighting is flat, most of the camera setups are static and banal, the HD cinematography feels like DV, and while the gore is quite wet and creature appearances are well-staged, the mangling edits are often spastic and discontinuous.
Atencio also makes use of fadeouts to mask underwritten scenes, Carey’s dead father montages are tiresome and feel like filler material, and sequences are periodically interrupted by the same whirling aerial shots of the oil rig. Another contrived sequence that has two characters crawling beneath the rig over the water is dull because it’s never treated as a dangerous trek – visually, or with effects detailing the giant storm we never really see outside of heavy rain.
Hans Zimmer’s longtime orchestrator Bruce Fowler (The Good Shepherd) has a few interesting cues, but the entire film is pretty much wall-to-wall music; several cues feel ported over from other scenes (particularly gnarling brassy cues over simple dialogue scenes), and the total saturation of score is oppressive.
There are no eerie silent moments nor prime sequences where a sound designer could’ve created a chilling aural environment to enhance the location’s isolated and sometimes claustrophobic narrow hallways and passages, and Atencio’s penchant for stark homages has a Beethoven piece playing over scenes much in the way a Mozart piece preceded mayhem in Alien.
Other dramatic flaws in The Rig include a phone system on a noisy rumbling structure with the most feeble buzz ever designed (making it easy for lesser/dumber characters to be disposed of), and the alien creatures which resemble agile dancers in shiny purple rubber suits.
The creatures’ raison d’être is never explained, but neither was the monster in Deepstar Six (1989), which underwater miners disturbed in a similarly designed opening scene. The script does offer a coda for the characters – reuniting two estranged brothers, as well as giving Carey’s uncle a parting shot at revenge – but The Rig is too much of a best-alien-hits pastiche.
Anchor Bay’s DVD includes a behind-the-scenes montage, and a filmmaker commentary.
© 2010 Mark R. Hasan