In 1989, there were loads of underwater movies with killer sea creatures or aliens, so I was very happy. James Cameron’s masterpiece The Abyss was the best by far, but I also enjoyed Leviathan to a degree and found coolness and hilarity with DeepStar Six which I will also get to on here eventually. Lords Of The Deep was a pile of sea shit though. And then there’s The Rift, better known in the U.S. as Endless Descent.
The Rift was a Sci-Fi/Horror film from 1989 (1990 in some territories) directed by Spanish hack Juan Piquer-Simon who had done cult favorites like Pieces and Slugs: The Movie which is as good as it sounds and a must for me to tackle on this blog one day. The Rift was retitled Endless Descent here in the States which didn’t change the fact that it was still ineptly made (but rather good fun).
I believe in English this translates to “We blatantly ripped off The Abyss“.
Every cliché one can think of is in this film as we watch a doomed crew go on a sub mission in which they will uncover just what the U.S. government had been secretly working on in a rift 33,000 feet below the sea. Really. I mean, look-if you’re going to be secretive-I’d say 33,000 feet below the sea is one way not to be found, but that’s really going out of your way to experiment with mutations. Why not in someone’s basement with a few beers and some pizza?
Anyway, a sub called the Siren I has gone missing, so what does the U.S. government do? They send the Siren II to find them! Duh.
Since the Siren II has a mix of scientists and actors who clearly came from all over the world to audition in bad accents (Spanish, Norwegian, Swedish, etc.) a military presence is required. And we get him in the no-nonsense form of R. Lee Ermey of Full Metal Jacket fame.
Ermey will clash with the designer of the Siren I played by soap opera star Jack Scalia, who isn’t that bad here with little sensible dialogue to speak and hair that must prove he had feathered pubes. And would you believe his character Wick (what a horrid name-is that a tribute to a candle?) is also on board this sub with his estranged wife Nina? Oh, how very original! Didn’t see that in The Abyss, did we?
And, we also get the stock character who you just don’t trust in Robbins, played by Ray Wise who does a fine job of playing a stock character who you just don’t trust! Plus, he wears glasses so you know he’s evil. Wise will do secret work involving decrypting some sort of cheap-ass discs that the crew will find in a cavern that show footage of the scientists experimenting on mutations who turn on them and kill them.
The sub “effects” are a tad LAME. The sub looks like a bathtub toy, especially in this not very harrowing scene where the crew has a minor collision with icebergs (looks to me like iceberg lettuce would be more dangerous).
The computer graphics on board the sub are of the $1.99 variety and look like a weak version of Asteroids-but the version from the Atari 2600-not even arcade quality. Pong anyone?
This pathetic computer will detect a black-box signal at 25,000 feet or so, which means an endless descent into a rift! Is this where the government workers were doing their experiments? We will soon find out as a diver is sent out when they reach their destination and he starts taking seaweed samples because seaweed should not be growing down there! What diver could survive at 25,000 feet? NONE. I think I read that the deepest dive was 2,000 feet and that guy had blue balls the rest of his life that blew up like clownfish.
Seaweed should also not be eating people but our pitiful fool will indeed be eaten alive by the vile weed, but not before he sends a sample to the sub. Since this boob is one of many you know will die before they even utter a word, we have little sympathy. He’s also a really bad actor. I think a mutant octopus or squid was also involved in his death, but it’s hard to tell though there is a tentacle at one point.
But hey-I dig sea monsters, and Endless Descent or whatever we’re calling it has plenty of them, and they actually look pretty cool in a low-budget but impressive way. The sub gets attacked and sucked up what looks like a giant seashell made of pork.
Although it is Wick who saves the crew and sub, our Captain is angered at being challenged by a subordinate in front of his crew. However, privately they yell at one another and realize each serves his own purpose. It’s actually not a bad scene, but so many others scenes are bad it doesn’t matter. The sub has damage and Wick will fix it, so the descent will continue.
It is decided rather questionably by the captain to go through a tunnel as the black box signal gets closer. It’s a tight fit adding at least 30 seconds of drama, but our crew in their horribly fake-looking sub will make it. Then they will rise to surface in a lake inside an underground cavern (at 33,000 feet?). Seeing signs of human life (crates and bottles, etc.), the crew are armed with awful-looking plastic guns which are very cheap knockoffs from Aliens and decide to row to the land.
To be truthful, what happens from here is kinda cool, kinda laughable at the same time. The crew splits up (of course) and half of them find a lab with a corpse that has its finger on a computer button which was sending the signal from the black box? Wick will take a few floppy discs with him that he finds to see what they were up to. And on their way back, the crew get their asses kicked by all kinds of creepy crawlies!
Giant worms or bumblebees or whatever are popping out of holes in the crater walls on the sides. These things are pretty cool looking and like eating humans. They munch and crunch on several useless characters and one will rip off Alien by getting inside a guy’s suit and wiggling his way up towards his head. It’s a bloody mess and the sucker begs to be shot and put out of his misery. The other crew member obliges, but did the shot really have to be in the head? For blood and gore’s sake-yes it did. There’s also an attack by some sort of giant centipede which is cool. The clip here shows the scene of the guy getting shot and the worm attack, and it’s kinda cool and lame all at once! This is the foreign version.
On their way back to the sub in the raft, the crew are attacked by a kick-ass giant eel of some sort who looks extremely hungry, in need of a dentist, and pissed off. He bumps a victim off the raft and feasts until the blood flows!
The sample of the seaweed that ate the bad actor (one of many in the film) has been examined by Wick’s ex-wife and she determines that this is a genetic mutation designed to kill, and it does. Some total fucking moron decides to touch it as he sees it growing madly in the lab. It will ooze death all over his stupid ass. I’m all for dumb characters in dumb movies, doing dumb things, but…REALLY? At least the old fucker perishes in a terrible way.
“I’m really fucking stupid. Plus, I’m a stock character. That adds up to being consumed by evil seaweed. My bad.”
With what’s left of the crew back on the sub, everyone gathers to watch the discs which reveal that the government was indeed working on genetic mutations down below (way down below obviously). All the scientists were killed by their own freakish creations and the Siren I was destroyed too. If this all sounds hackneyed and unoriginal, that’s only because it is.
What to do? Well, with only 2 hours of oxygen left it is decided to go back out into the land of icky things and destroy the DNA accelerator device that created these things and blow ‘er up. One of the chicks we thought was dead isn’t-but she is alone and in trouble fighting off the giant worms when she encounters this DNA accelerator. While she’s looking, mutant vines pull her in and she will now become a genetic freak.
When the rest of the gang find that room (which is insanely oversized), they also discover hideous mutant-babies and lots off icky egg sacks (yet another Alien ripoff).
“I just want to suck on my Mom’s teat and eat humans-is that so wrong?”.
While shootin’ up them eggs, looks like Momma Starfish or Flower is pissed (a bit too Blood Beach for me) and it’s ginormous with snake head and fangs in the middle.
In the end, they blow up the starfish and get back to the sub where our evil computer geek Robbins (played by Wise) is waiting for his moment to use a secret escape pod and leave everyone to their demise. The crew (the only ones left are Wick, his ex-wife and the captain) find their way in, because after all, Wick designed the Siren 1 and the Siren 2 can’t be all that different! Robbins is waiting with a gun and locks everyone in the room with the killer seaweed, but Wick will show Robbins a fake microchip he claims he will need via the camera.
Robbins takes the bait goes down to get the device, and the guys jump him and throw him right into the seaweed and escape. Robbins perishes with seaweed on his face, and Wick says goodbye.
But, after preps are made to escape, the captain sadly closes the hatch without him in it. Wick demands to know why he isn’t joining them, but the ‘ol captain got himself all seaweeded up in the skirmish and knows his fate.
A well-done scene actually for what it’s worth. Wick and his ex Nina are the last two to survive (DeepStar Six anyone?) and all it took for them to get back together was 33,000 feet of fun and killer mutant monsters and seaweed that ate people. Love sucks anyway, so I guess that’s better than anything else. Wick says this time the government will pay as they head topside. End scene.
At 79 minutes, Endless Descent is not endless though it is mindless. I really enjoyed all the creatures and the designs were impressive on what had to have been a small budget ($1.3 million), although some of the people from Alien worked on the effects (my guess would be the cook and the 3rd best boy gaffer twice removed.
Endless Descent is actually quite entertaining and only some of the performances are cringe-worthy. The synth-dominated score by Joel Goldsmith (Jerry’s brother-for real) is pretty pulsating and works. The creatures and the mix of gore and clichéd plot and nonsensical dialogue add to mindless fun. The movie flies by way too fast, and some more monsters or a better and more believable explanation of why the government would have scientists working some 30,000 feet below the sea would’ve helped. But, I am saying this with some shame-I kinda like this film even if the interior of the sub looks like the inside of a 7-11.
1. Endless Descent did play on U.S. cable television, but never played theaters here although it did overseas in some territories.
2. The film was vastly altered after a script had already been written. In fact, the legendary producer Dino De Laurentiis (of King Kong and Orca) fame decided to finance this film (uncredited). He asked David Coleman to do a 250 page rewrite of the film which then had to be translated to Italian for De Laurentiis and Spanish for the director Juan Piquer Simon! And, oh yeah- De Laurentiis also produced Leviathan! I can’t make this stuff up.
3. This film was originally set in space at first, but that didn’t work out.
4. Endless Descent (or The Rift, or La Grieta) is to my knowledge, not on DVD to this day (at least not legitimately). Demand it!
5. The effects in the movie won a Goya Award in Spain in 1990. The Goyas are basically the Spanish Oscars. Endless Descent was also filmed in Spain. Ole!
Here’s a trailer from Rotten Tomatoes:
Endless Descent (aka The Rift) (1989):
1 1/2 beagles out 4 for awfulness
Q: Should you see Endless Descent?
A: Yes, it’s endlessly decent! Wasn’t that funny? No, it wasn’t but I said it anyway.