The Rift aka Endless Descent (1990)

Even if this low rent piece of shit had been released the year before, during the head-to-head Battle at the Box Office of 1989, between the other ‘underwater thrillers’ like the vastly superior ‘The Abyss’, the unapologetically entertaining ‘Leviathan’, and the moronic ‘Deep Star Six’…it still wouldn’t have stood a snowballs chance in Hell. I’d completely forgotten that this movie existed till I came across a mention of it in some nerd article somewhere recently. I’ve been on a ‘Low Budget Science Fiction / Horror’ kick lately, so I thought sure, why not see if this turns out to be one of those grossly overlooked sci-fi ‘diamonds in the rough’ that got an unfair shake at the Box Office on it’s initial release. Then I saw it…nope nope nope. In NO WAY is this some imaginative, engaging but unfairly maligned classic waiting to be discovered by the Hordes of Geek. It’d actually be best if said hordes would just forget that this attempt at making a movie was ever shat out onto screens that humans could actually watch it. It’s laugh-out-loud hilariously bad!
‘The Rift’ (or ‘Endless Descent’, as it’s known in some circles) focuses on the high school play level-acting motley crew of a cheesy bathtub toy of a submarine called the ‘Siren 2’ as they descent into the ominous depths of someone’s swimming pool to investigate the disappearance of her predecessor, the ‘Siren 1’. Inevitably, shit goes wrong in the dark, bath water-looking depths of the ocean, and the wind-up toy submarine finds itself in some smokey styrofoam cave where strange puppet creatures and perilous circumstances are set upon the crew, who’s accompanied by a ‘Jack Burton’ / ‘Martin Riggs’ mullet-wearing douchebag named ‘Wick Hayes’ (Jack Scalia), who apparently designed the submarine and is there for…some reason (?). After that, we, the poor, suffering audience, are treated to scene after scene of painfully obvious and awful imitations of sequences from other, far better movies.
This 82 minute movie is a gawd damn joke! It’s absolutely terrible, in pretty much EVERY way, and I’m amazed that seasoned actors like R. Lee Ermey (‘Full Metal Jacket’) and Ray Wise (‘Robocop’) turned up here. Maybe they needed a house payment or something. Or, even worse, they actually thought they were making something of quality that would be able to stand shoulder to shoulder with classic titles like ‘The Abyss’ (1989), ‘The Thing’ (1982), and ‘Aliens’ (1986)…all of which are undeniably ripped off here. No bullshit either…I caught myself listing off the movies as the copy cat sequences popped up. We get ill-prepared protagonists venturing into dark, eerie tunnels, armed with (stupid-looking) weapons and flashlights, only to be attacked by unseen enemies that converge from all sides…kinda like ‘Aliens’. We get crew members being infected and absorbed by a strange oozing life-form of undetermined shape or size…kinda like ‘The Thing’. We get a traitorous member of the crew who puts others at risk to serve his own nefarious agenda…kinda like ‘Predator’, ‘Alien’, ‘Aliens’ etc. We get a last minute escape from an exploding underwater structure…kinda like ‘Leviathan’. The list goes on and on. It’d be fine if they chose to cherry pick those scenes from other films and incorporate their own versions into this cinematic bowl of dung…if those versions were done well. Not the case here.
On a technical level, this is pure Amateur Hour. ALL of the ‘special’ effects shots, especially those of the ‘Siren 2’ truckin around underwater are gawd awful. In some cases, it looked like they had just smeared the lens with vaseline, in a smoke-filled closet, and said “There…now they’ll be convinced they’re combing the ocean’s mysterious depths!”. It looked like the cameraman didn’t know how to incorporate various lenses, distance, and focal points into the model cinematography in order to hide the fact that this submarine was probably about a foot long and made of plastic…which is EXACTLY what it looked like! Same goes with the miniature water effects in some of the ‘environments’. Water and fire are two of the hardest elements to shoot convincingly in miniature, as their size is almost always apparent, if small enough. I was reminded several times of the effects from the 1950’s-1960’s Toho monster movies from Japan (‘Godzilla’, ‘Rodan’ etc). Given the time period those were released, it’s easy to forgive…but with THIS flick, filmed in 1989, there is NO EXCUSE for effects THIS shoddy. Seriously, watch this, and James Cameron’s excellent ‘The Abyss’ back to back (or even ‘Leviathan’), and tell me they seem like the same era in movie-making spawned them. Now I get the whole ‘Big Budget’ ($70, 000 000) versus ‘Low Budget’ ($1, 500 000) argument, but c’mon…that’s where they have to get creative. Making a solid sci-fi flick for that amount is entirely possible and has been done many times before. THIS…is not one of those times.
Also not helping this shit-show is the so-called acting. Not only is the dialogue these clowns have to spout terrible and on-the-nose, but damn if these people couldn’t act thier way out of a wet paper bag! The one who gives the most is R. Lee Ermey (not surprisingly) as the Commanding Officer of the ‘Siren 2’, who will forever be cemented in pop culture through his unparalleled turn as ‘Gunnery Sergeant Hartman’, in Kubrick’s celebrated cinematic Vietnam deconstruction that is 87’s ‘Full Metal Jacket’. He does what he can with what he’s given, and NEARLY makes it work. It’s just too bad the dialogue he’s stuck with is terrible…along with the sets, the props, the cinematography, probably the catering etc. Ray Wise, seemingly typecast as a ‘bad guy’ for the rest of time, also seems to try…but the same ailment strikes him too. Just shitty dialogue with no wit, gravity or drama behind it. The less said about Lead Actor (and 80’s B-movie king) Jack Scalia…the better.
All in all, this movie sucks. No really…it does, and not in a good way. The story is one we’ve seen numerous times before…only done better, the acting is atrocious, the sets look cheap and uninspired, the effects are laughable and lazy, while the monsters look like paper mache puppets…which is probably what they were, and the violence and gore were clumsy and uncreative. I wish that I could recommend this flick as as good one to throw on after a good toke, or set out for a drunken heckling session…but I can’t. I just wish that any viewers out there with an iota of taste and self-respect will avoid this pile of hot garbage like the plague. This is 82 minutes of C-Grade Bullshit that you’re not going to get back if you opt to hit PLAY on this bitch. Just move on.

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