(aka, The Lucifer Rig)
One way to tell how old you are is how you react to the moments when everything pauses in films like this and the screen blacks out for an instant.
Now if you shrug, say “it’s a TV movie,” and ignore it, then you probably grew up in the early days of VHS tapes and cable TV and watched a lot of TV movies shown without interruption. They used to deliberately edit TV shows and movies with the commercial breaks already planned out and these little dead moments inserted in the right places.
Well, at least it was better than watching movies on Tubi and having the commercial just start up in the middle of a conversation.
It was one of those things we took for granted when we watched them on TV. But if you see the same film without the commercials, then it becomes painfully obvious.
And those moments are there in The Intruder Within because, for some reason that eludes me, ABC made a TV movie Alien clone.
Well, there’s a bit of John Carpenter’s The Thing thrown in as well.
We’ve seen this sort of thing before. There’s an oil rig miles out in the ocean near Antarctica, there’s the hardworking blue collar crew, and there’s the horrible creature they accidentally bring on board.
Which then starts killing everyone.
There’s a bit more to the story than this but not a lot more: the well they’re drilling is an experiment and they’re looking for oil at depths far greater than normal. There is a suggestion that the corporation running things may have a larger agenda, but we’re not given too much information about it.
They bring up an eel-like creature with the drill. It bites one of the crew and kills him, thanks to some sort of poison.
But they don’t realize that the odd looking rocks they brought up with it are actually eggs, and before you know it, one of the beasts is free on the ship.
Mind you, we don’t see too much of it, and those who’ve been infected by the creature carry out the majority of the kills as it seems to drive them crazy.
In fact, I’m a little bit hazy about where the final creature actually comes from…is that shadow on the wall supposed to be a chest-burster, or an alien birth?
Now the persistent myth about this film is that the creature was an H.R. Giger design. Instead, it was designed by special effects artist Jim Cummins, who developed five different versions of the monster for its various stages — only to have the producers demand on the first day of shooting that he redesign the final version to be like the adult Xenomorph from Alien — but different (for more information see this issue of Starlog). In the stills, the head is quite impressive and strange, although we never get that good a look at it in the film and the general effect of the creature is bargain basement Alien.
Which I guess means they got what they wanted.
And that’s really the general effect of the entire film as they couldn’t indulge in much gore in a TV production and didn’t have the budget for any intense action sequences. Nor do we see any of the bad dreams everyone keeps having, nor does the talk about bad weather ever produce anything more than a little rain.
And, yes, we get a lot of talk.
However, the setting is mostly convincing as they shot the exteriors on an oil rig in Ontario (although you can supposedly see car headlights in the background in some scenes). It never really gives the impression that it is located near the Antarctic, though, and there isn’t a flake of snow or even a stray icicle in sight. The crew do wear parkas, but they don’t look very heavy and I suspect they would be standard on most platforms outside the tropics.
This one was made at the end of the golden age of TV movies (which I’ve written about elsewhere) and doesn’t seem to have had a Dan Curtis, Richard Matheson or Joe Stefano or anyone of that caliber involved.
Perhaps the biggest problem is that there isn’t enough: there isn’t enough information about the mysterious apex predator; nor do we learn enough about what the company is doing or why; nor do we get to meet the handful of rather anonymous crew members we see in the background in some scenes but who aren’t given anything to do and probably all end up dead offscreen as we don’t see any of them on the ship home.
Which is a problem in a film which could have used a few more onscreen deaths.
Oh, well. File this one on “Okay but not really adequate” and try not to think how, with a few digital effects replacing Jim Cummins’ analog efforts, it would be indistiguishable from most of the SyFy originals being made today.
We’ve come so far!…
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