Friday 25 January 2008

What Waits Below (1984)

This was a strange one. I have a copy on region 2 DVD but Midnite Movie Mamacita put it up on the big screen in 35mm so I paid the money and enjoyed. Unfortunately it was so bad and there were so many comedians in the audience that I couldn't hear half of the atrocious dialogue and that was far from the only atrocious thing about the movie.

We kick off in Nicaragua where a very smug and somehow very gay Robert Powell is playing some game with people with guns that is nothing but an excuse for a lot of bullets and a big chase. Anyway, we soon switch to Belize, where the US army want his character, Rupert 'Wolf' Wolfsen, to lend his speliological talents to a project they have in progress. They've discovered some really big caves and want to use them to host some sort of navigational transmitter. I have no idea why it needs to be in a cave which would seem to be a little counter intuitive but there you have it.

Beyond Powell and the officious US army types led by Timothy Bottoms as Major Stevens, there's a group of anthropologists in the area too, including an obvious love interest played by Lisa Blount, so maybe Powell's character is bisexual instead of gay. Anyway the anthropologists have discovered a way into this new cave system and they all head on down to explore. Given that this is a horror movie, it's not particularly surprising that the caves are full of what the end credits call Lemurians.

They're big albinos with strange voices, sensitive hearing and a bizarre fashion sense for haircuts and outfits. They're great warriors, except when up against our hero of course, even though they have nobody to fight. They have looms to make their clothes out of hair but nothing else, it seems, except some huge collection of technology that doesn't even have an attempt at explanation. It just sits there, completely out of place, just like the Lemurians themselves who the audience laughed their heads off at.

Beyond the bad Lemurians and the bad dialogue, there's plenty of other bad to comment about and precious little good. Powell is a good actor and he has a knack of appearing comfortable in any situation, however unlikely and outrageous. Yet he's completely self satisfied and egotistical here and comes off as completely gay. It feels strange to bring this up because I have no problem with gays, but generally someone gay in a film is gay because they're gay. The weird thing here is that from what I can tell Wolfsen isn't supposed to be gay yet Powell imbues the character with gayness every which way but loose. Every scene seems to have an adoring gaze at another man or a stray hand landing on another man's shoulder. I wonder if it was deliberate on Powell's part.

Lisa Blount is fine eye candy as anthropologist Leslie Peterson, but she has nothing to do except figure in cliched and forced parts of the plot. Much of this seems very forced and clumsy and at any point throughout you could easily write the next five minutes of storyline. Timothy Bottoms is an annoying army major, with a voice that doesn't do much except shout and his part was so one dimensional that it really highlighted just how much he looks like George W Bush. I wasn't surprised to find that he's played him three times since. It's uncanny how the beady little eyes and confusion in almost any circumstance nails the president precisely.

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