Ocean Movies you Love to Hate: Endless Descent (aka The Rift) (1989)

A Note from Dr. Abalone: Whilst you all have been frolicking along the shores and diving in the sea, as is your way, I, Dr. Abalone, have been scouring the moviesphere for the perfect entertainment to enlighten your decadent souls. After extensive research I unleash upon you a slew of films so pathetic in their attempt to entertain, they win the piscatorial prize for perfidy: movies so awful you’ll love to hate them. Because only those that truly love the sea and live daily at its mercy, such as yourselves, can transcend the blood and gore and celebrate their essence of utter stupidity.  


EndlessDescent2

OMG, what have we created here!

Most science fiction movies are based loosely on science. Usually, this means they make a few technical or impossible leaps to move the plot forward but generally adhere to the basic laws of science. But in most cases, filmmakers are forgiven for their science-defying sins as long as the story makes up for it. In contrast, Endless Descent (aka The Rift) seems to delight in making so many impossible and incredulous scientific leaps, that they grow to a level of absurdity that transcends the believable. As such, the plot moves this movie into a category of films that are entertaining by being amusingly awful. A movie you love to hate.


Spoiler Alert: this review reveals details of the plot which may ruin and/or enhance your viewing pleasure.

Born in the late 80s, along with a slew of deep-sea legends such as James Cameron’s The Abyss, and MGM’s Leviathan, and a host of lower budgeted marine monster flicks, including Sean Cunningham’s Deepstar Six, and Juan Piquer Simón’s Endless Descent. This film, like others, sought to exploit new interests in the mysterious deep-sea and all the unknowns that went with it. It claims to take you on a misson that leads to an “endless descent” to “the very depths of terror.” I was excited to watch this flick, at least at first.

endsiren

The Siren II, preparing for its epic voyage. Screen capture from the movie “Endless Descent.”

The plot revolves around the adventures of a NATO rescue submarine, the Siren II, on a mission to find out what happened to the (appropriately but fatally named) Siren I, which disappeared earlier. For the mission, they recruit the scientist that designed the original sub (Wick Hayes) who conveniently was not briefed on the military mission add-ons to the original Siren (nukes, gene replicators, etc.) that become key in the plot. Right from the start, the science is controlled through the”Big boys” in DC as the Navy takes charge through Capt. Phillips (Full Metal Jacket’s Lee Ermey) ) and Lt. Nina Crawley (biogenetics expert). As it turns out, Nina and Wick are past lovers, which adds an unexpected sweet twist to the plot.

To imagine the movie, picture 1980s hairstyles and music with 1960s controls (aka Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea). As they search for the Siren in the spacious interiors of their submarine, they chase the fated sub’s “black box” down to the abyss until they encounter (wait for it) kelp beds at 27,000 feet and decide to explore with (even better) SCUBA gear.  Even though the geneticist points out that photosynthesis is impossible at those depths, it’s all chalked up eventually to the fact that the Siren I fiddled with…DNA! OMG, once you do that virtually anything is possible, as we’ll see. Especially with a “transgenic accelerator.”

So, at 27,000 feet a single SCUBA diver goes out completing the deepest dive ever where he encounters a jet stream of warm water. Maniacal screaming is quickly followed by “Captain, there’s something wrong here,” and a second diver is sent to “collect a sample” so they figure it all out later. Blood surrounds the first diver in the kelp bed and he dies a horrible death as he is “assimilated” by the kelp.

enddiver

Shit! This isn’t like any kelp forest I’ve seen before. Screen capture from the movie “Endless Descent.”

Meanwhile, a big, spongy, amorphous white thing attacks the sub; sparks fly, and people fall down, The external pressure has increased two-fold and somehow the sponge pulls the sub deeper (sponges are like that). Luckily, they hit the creature with an electrical shock and it lets go but not before the ship loses power and falls toward the bottom at 45K feet. [which is deeper than the deepest part of the ocean, 36k feet, but let’s move on]

Luckily Wick pilots the ship to safety on a ledge at a mere 28k feet where they enter a recessed, “naturally pressurized” submarine cavern. In fact, it’s huge and well lit which makes it hard to reconcile how the black box got there in the first place, not to mention all the high tech Siren I  gear piled in the cave. As they enter the cavern the crew is attacked by…..flies, honeycombed in the walls. But wait, now they have long bunt tails No, now long, sharp teeth! OMG! No, now it’s a swimming eel-like fish that attacks like a shark. Apparently, DNA can do just about anything, even create giant, marine, deep-sea air-breathing, insects. What imagination!

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This is what it looks like if you spend too much time with kelp: you become assimilated. Screen capture from the movie “Endless Descent.”

Meanwhile, in the sub, the seaweed sample takes over and begins assimilating the crew through the ship’s aqueduct system (whatever that means) as the remaining crew explores the scary caverns. They are surprised to find animal cages and a huge “accelerator” as one crew member is sucked into the machine. Eventually, they locate neatly arranged stacks of amniotic sacks with “some kind of fetus” that looks like it has evolved for “surface dwelling.” In the end, it’s all chalked up to Biowarfare research which required the DOD to hide their work, which apparently is only at extreme depths at impossible latitudes (such much for area 51). This explains the bulk of the defense budget.

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Meeting the “mother.” This is what you get with biowarfare research at 28,000 feet. Screen capture from the movie “Endless Descent.”

Now for the climax! They are attacked by the giant mother hanging on a wall, which has the pieces of all the critters described above (polymorphism run amuck). Somehow they kill it and the remaining crew dash back to the sub as the cavern begins to collapse. The ulterior motive, as it turns out, was to abandon the crew using the escape pod and conceal the rift with explosives. But (luckily) Wicks and Crawley foil the plot. They trick Capt. Phillips into a cabin and throw him in with infected others where he dies a miserable kelp-fungal assimilation death. In the end, as huge bubbles rock the pod, they are pushed to the surface while holding hands to eventually repopulate the earth made destitute by rampant biowarfare (no, wait, sorry that’s not in the plot; stops at “hands”)! Amen.

Here are a few of the improbable or impossible facts from the video:

  1. At one point their console shows Lat 103 43 35, Long 12 35 90, which is impossible. All latitudes above 90 degrees would be outside earth’s north and south poles.
  2. At 33,000 ft depth, the pressure reads 4 Atm and 44C, which is also impossible. At 33,000 feet pressure, it would be about 1,000 Atm and 1-4C (unless they were next to a hydrothermal vent).

Screenshot 2018-02-27 18.23.27

Screen capture from the movie “Endless Descent” showing impossible instrument readout at 33,000 feet.

But please don’t trust me, check out the trailer and decide for yourself! Plus, as I mentioned, although this film is largely outside the realm of scientific probability it is still within the realm of human entertainment so you might find it fun to watch.

References:

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