Friday, March 29, 2019

WARNING SIGN (1985) Blu-ray review

Warning Sign (1985) d. Hal Barwood (USA) (99 min)

BioTek Agronomics, a military-grade research facility located on the Utah plains, experiences an “incident,” with several of the employees exposed to a newly created virus that sparks homicidal impulses (along with some unsavory suppurating skin bumps). Button-pusher Joanie (Kathleen Quinlan) finds herself trapped inside, with the infected scientific team growing more and more hostile, while her lawman husband Cal (Sam Waterston) works alongside – and sometimes against – the officious Major Connolly (Yaphet Kotto) and cynical egghead Dr. Fairchild (Jeffrey DeMunn) to get her out.

Warning Sign is, at its core, a more contained version of the same biohazard plot device used in Umberto Lenzi’s Nightmare City and Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later, with a “rage center” of the brain being sparked, inspired by the real-life Borna Virus outbreak among horses in Saxony, Germany in the early 1920s.

First-time director Barwood and co-writer Matthew Robbins had previously collaborated on numerous scripts (with Robbins directing Corvette Summer and Dragonslayer, which Barwood produced) and their efforts here are efficient if not necessarily inspired. (Robbins would go on to collaborate with Guillermo del Toro on the scripts for Mimic, Crimson Peak, and Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark.) The third act is the most effective, where the proverbial “ticking clock” shows that straight-up mob mentality can be as contagious and deadly as the virus, with the infected trying to get out of the facility and their well-meaning family and loved-ones trying to get in.

Producer Jim Bloom first became associated with Robbins and Barwood when they were serving as uncredited writers for The Empire Strikes Back (for which Bloom served as associate producer, while also holding down the fort as general manager of Industrial Light and Magic), and was responsible for bringing on such veterans as director of photography Dean Cundey (The Thing, Jurassic Park) and production designer Henry Bumstead (I Married a Monster from Outer Space, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Sting, The Man Who Knew Too Much) who transformed a vacant Utah high school into the high-tech research facility.

The enthusiastic ensemble comprised of reliable character actors Rick Rossovich (Top Gun), G. W. Bailey (Police Academy), Richard Dysart (The Thing), Jerry Hardin (Cujo), and Keith Szarabajka (The Dark Knight) combined with Craig Safan’s musical score (Angel, Fade to Black, Roller Boogie, Nightmares, A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master) sell the schlock admirably. While not a classic by any means, this is an enjoyable slice of B-movie bioterror, reflecting the Cold War paranoia of the 1980s.


NEW “Looking Back on Warning Sign” with director/co-writer Hal Barwood (19 min)

NEW “Looking Back on Warning Sign” with producer Jim Bloom (42 min)

Audio Commentary with Hal Barwood

Theatrical Trailer

Original TV Spot

Still Gallery

Warning Sign is available now on Blu-ray from Shout! Factory and can be ordered HERE:


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