I was poking around in Amazon Prime the other day when I came across a movie I’d never heard of, The Rift. Cause for excitement? Not necessarily, low budget underwater monster flicks are not uncommon, and rarely entertaining enough to justify the time. But what caught my eye was one name in the credits – Spanish director Juan Piquer Simon! There are only three possible reactions when you hear that a movie is director by Juan Piquer Simon (credited here as J.P. Simon, presumably to make the film seem more “American”):
- Must see!
- You couldn’t pay me to watch it!
- Who is Juan Piquer Simon?
If your answer is 1, you’re probably already watching this. If your answer is 2, you can screw right off. But if your answer is 3, be happy, because you some seriously mindbending trash ahead of you. Simon’s Pieces is genuinely one of the craziest, most entertaining slashers you’ll ever watch, and his Slugs is an equally disgusting, if slightly less batshit insane, delight. The Rift never reaches the heights of those two films, but it is full of trademark Simon touches like gory, rubbery practical effects, terrible “international” casting and a near total disregard for logic.
Stealing shamelessly from Alien (1979) and Aliens (1986), The Abyss (1989) and perhaps more pertinently, George Cosmatos’s slightly earlier ripoff Leviathan (1989), Simon throws a submarine crew of goobers (including a diver named Sven who is constantly referred to as “Swen”) into a gross-out monster mystery full of tunneling mosquitos and exploding heads. Jack Scalia is genuinely terrible as the hero, Wick Hayes (Wick Hayes?). At one point, he has the typical “hero vs authority figure” confrontation with the captain (played by a subdued R. Lee Ermey of Full Metal Jacket fame), but Hayes is such a dick you find yourself actually rooting for the authority figure.
Notably, Simon somehow did manage to score a couple of legitimate names for the movie, instead of his usual gaggle of slumming euro-talent, including the aforementioned Ermey and Ray Wise from Twin Peaks (which must have been shot shortly afterwards). Is Ray Wise secretly a bad guy? Of course, he’s TV’s Ray Wise.
None of this really matters, as the the plotting is really just an excuse for gross-out effects. By any legitimate standards (and even by the standards of creature features), The Rift is pretty terrible, but fans of old fashioned exploitation will get a kick out of this, and Simon fans will be in heaven.
2 out 4 stars (average).