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I thought I'd kick the new year off with another movie marathon. I thought it was time to check out a few old school mystery flicks. Som...

Friday, February 17, 2023

Warning Sign (1985)

This is an interesting subgenre from the eighties that I don’t think I’ve ever covered for the site. Warning Sign is an outbreak/virus/disaster movie without the horror tropes that we are used to. It is more China Syndrome than it is Crazies. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

We get introduced to some characters that work at a small biotech company in middle America. Our main characters are the Sheriff, Cal, and his wife Joanie, who is the security guard at the facility. When there is an accident, and a nasty bug is released the lab gets locked down. Seems that they weren’t working on a better strain of corn but rather a bit of bio warfare. The government shows up and sets up a perimeter before sending a team in. That goes poorly (more on that later) and they lock it down. All those trapped inside are to be sacrificed as it just needs to run its course. That includes Cal’s wife, which isn’t going to work for him.

Here we meet our other main character, Dr. Fairchild. He is a former employee of the biotech company and had left due to his ethics. Basically, he didn’t like building bioweapons. It also turns out he is responsible for the cure, or at least the inoculation that is supposed to protect folks. While we know it didn’t work, he is the only person that has a chance to figure out why and how to fix it. He and Cal end up sneaking into the facility to save Joanie and possibly the world. For an added bit of fun we also find out that the people who died didn’t totally die. They wake back up as homicidal maniacs who kill everyone they meet. That is what happened to the team that went inside and is why the government wants to let everyone die inside.

Despite what I just mentioned about the infected becoming killers I don’t want to give the impression that this is some sort of outbreak movie like 28 Days Later. It plays much differently than that. You get far more of the paranoid “I don’t want to get sick” vibe than the horror that many would expect with the plot synopsis. This is very hard for me to explain other than to refer to my initial comment about it being more China Syndrome than it is Crazies. It has that technology and/or our own hubris going to do us in seventies and eighties feeling to it.

I found the story to be interesting from beginning to end. And unlike many other movies that tell stories like this the government folks aren’t portrayed as bad people. When Major Connolly decides they must abandon everyone inside to their fate it seems to pain him. He knows these people and is doing what must be done. To me that is an example of how well the story is written. Plus, it feels cheap to just write it off as the government doing bad things, when it is more of a question about how human beings will do things because they can rather than thinking if they should. Mad scientist stuff you know.

The cast is a filled with familiar faces. Sam Waterston is Cal and Kathleen Quinlan is his wife, Joanie. We also get Jeffrey DeMunn, Richard Dysart, Jerry Hardin, and G.W. Bailey as scientists. DeMunn gets lots of screentime as Dr. Fairchild which was nice to see. The guy is always good in whatever role he is given, though far too often it is a smaller supporting role. Yaphet Kotto is Major Connolly and is equally excellent.

I’m not sure how I missed this one. It feels like a movie that should have been all over cable back in the day. I would have loved Warning Sign and watched it again and again. But then I was a bit of a nihilist in my teenage years. As an adult I still appreciate this sort of story and think that it is worth checking it out. Not sure where you can find it but if you can check out Warning Sign.


© Copyright 2023 John Shatzer 

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