Early in their careers, screenwriters Hal Barwood and Matthew Robbins worked pretty closely with a young Steven Spielberg. It was Harwood and Robbins who penned Spielberg's debut feature, The Sugarland Express, as well as John Badham's The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings. They also wrote Joe Sargent's McArthur biopic before doing some uncredited script polishing on Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind ... so clearly they were building a pretty solid reputation as a screenwriting duo.
They collaborated again on 1978's Corvette Summer and 1981's Dragonslayer before deciding to tackle the sci-fi horror genre with 1985's Warning Sign, a flick that clearly did nothing to further their careers. Indeed it seemed to break the team up, with Robbins moving on to do Batteries Not Included for old pal Spielberg, while Barwood would move into the realm of video game production.
Allllll of which is a helluva lot more interesting than what goes in the duo's final collaboration: Warning Sign
Ostensibly a China Syndrome-style thriller that, almost as an afterthought, morphs into a lame and lazy version of Night of the Living Dead, Warning Sign is an example of a cool concept and a clever marketing campaign desperately in search of a worthwhile flick. And this ain't it.
Despite a strong cast filled with familiar faces (Kathleen Quinlan as a heroic security chief, Sam Waterston as her sheriff husband, Jeffrey DeMunn as a rogue biologist (don't ask), Yaphet Kotto as a shadowy government agent, and G.W. Bailey and Richard Dysart among the potentially doomed), Warning Sign starts out dry and just keeps getting more dehydrated as the thing goes along.
Plot in very few words: A group of scientists is trapped inside their facility when a mega-hazardous chemical is accidentally unleashed, thereby causing them to turn into scab-faced homicidal lunatics. Meanwhile, Sheriff Husband and Rogue Biologist (don't ask) decide to break into the infected laboratory and, I dunno, slap a vaccine together in less than an hour or two. Frankly, beyond the main concept, not much of the activity in Warning Sign makes half a lick of sense.
Despite having worked with Steven Spielberg on more than one occasion, director Barwood was clearly not taking any notes. Warning Sign is a dreary and ponderous affair, laden with big parcels of airy exposition, generous chunks of outlandish dialogue, and a pacing that could best be described as ... sluggish, like a wet sponge.
Briefly on the finale: It involves our dorky heroes running around the lab and injecting the scab-faced semi-zombies with a health serum. Suffice to say it's not exactly the most dazzling finalé you'll ever see.
Video: The flick's presented in a pretty solid anamorphic widescreen transfer, and the 20-some year-old cinematic obscurity looks as slick as it ever has.
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo, which is about as good as this flick needs. Nada on the subtitle front.
Extras: Director/co-writer Hal Barwood chimes in with a fairly dry audio commentary that basically narrates the on-screen action, but fans of the flick should appreciate the director's production tidbits and good-natured anecdotes. (The bio-facility was actually an abandoned high school!) Also included are the Warning Sign theatrical trailer and TV spot, and some extra trailers for Visiting Hours, Malevolence, and Bad Dreams.
I suppose you could say that Warning Sign inspired some of the stuff you've seen in 28 Days Later and Resident Evil, but let's give it up for new filmmakers finding a few stray nuggets of quality in an otherwise forgettable film ... and somehow turning them into something entertaining.
If, however, the idea of biohazard semi-yawners excites you to no end, feel free to Rent It.