Directed by Peter Atencio, The Rig, which Atencio co-wrote with C.W. Fallin and Scott Martin, is set on an oil rig. Not surprising, really, when you look at the title. But here it is, a horror movie set on an oil rig - and when you think about this, it makes sense, right? Because oil rigs are out there in the middle of the ocean, surrounded only by water, hard to get to if something goes wrong, say... an oil spill or, more entertainingly, invasion by some sort of alien creature. Can you even get cell phone service out there on an oil rig? You can't just jump off the rig and swim for it, you're kind of stuck.
At any rate, when the story begins, a storm is moving in on the Gulf Coast where a few crewmembers are manning an oil rig. Carey (Serah D'Laine) and Dobbs (Scott Martin), who have got a bit of a fling going, are on board as is their boss, Jim (William Forsythe) and a few others. When one of the crewmembers disappears, they start poking around the titular rig hoping to figure out where they went but in doing so soon learn that some sort of dangerous alien menace is on board and that it's hungry. With no one to help them and no easy means of escape, they have to band together and try to figure out how to make it through the night alive.
So, after reading the above synopsis, you're probably left with the impression that The Rig isn't the most original monster movie ever made, right? You'd be correct in that assumption. It's very similar to a certain Ridley Scott picture set on a space ship, but without the added bonus that film had of strong character development, excellent effects, and gripping tension. Granted, The Rig was made independently and without a huge budget so some of this is forgivable but if you're going to go to the effort of putting someone with the screen presence that William Forsythe brings to a movie in your film, then by all means, go the extra mile and give him something interesting to do in front of the camera. There story here is very basic, and the characters don't really get to do much except run around the rig and act scared. They do this well, to their credit, but it's nothing we haven't seen before.
What director Atencio should definitely get credit for, however, is his choice to use practical effects work rather than render the creature using CGI. Some green screen shots are incorporated into the movie but by and large this is a monster movie made the old fashioned way and a large contingent of horror fans are definitely going to appreciate that. The unfortunate flip side of that coin is that, like the lead characters, there's not much of a reason for the creature to be there - he just is. He looks cool when we get to see him, but that's infrequent. Good monster movies will often save 'the reveal' for the last fifteen or twenty minutes and there's reason for that (it builds suspense) but here it's just not quite enough.
The Rig isn't a complete waste of time, however. There are some moments that will nudge you towards the edge of your seat even if the film won't keep you there for the duration. Forsythe does have that aforementioned screen presence which works to his underdeveloped character's advantage and lead actress Serah D'Laine is easy on the eyes and fine in her part. Shooting the film on location on and inside an aging oil rig in the middle of the ocean certainly goes a long way towards giving the film the right sort of claustrophobic atmosphere and it does tap into that sense of being completely alone mentioned in the first paragraph. There's a good chunk of ideas here and some of them definitely work and it all moves along at a very solid pace - it's just a shame that the writers couldn't do more to carve out some more originality rather than rely solely on the film's surface to carry it.
The 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is sharp and about as colorful as the fairly bleak setting will allow for. There's more detail present in the image than you might expect from a modestly budgeted DV production even in the darker scenes, though there are occasional problems to report with mpeg compression artifacts. Additionally, there is some moderate aliasing to look for here and there, though it's not overpowering nor is it a constant. Black levels stay pretty deep even if there are a few spots where things are just a tiny bit murky. There are no issues with color bleeding to note and while the colors are intentionally muted in spots, reproduction is otherwise fine.
The only audio option on this disc is a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound in the film's native English language with an English closed captioning option available. The 5.1 track sounds and has some interesting effects placement to take in. The way that the score is used in the rears during the kill scenes is also impressive. There aren't any problems with hiss or distortion worth noting and the levels are generally well balanced even if there are a couple of spots where the effects are a bit overpowering.
Extras are slim, but the disc does include a making of featurette that runs just shy of ten minutes and which features some moderately amusing behind the scenes footage. It's not deep, but it's something. There's also a commentary track here with the director, Peter Atencio and his producer James D. Benson in which the pair discuss the film's origins, casting choices, and the harsh realities involved in shooting on an aging oil rig. Aside from that, there's a trailer for the feature and previews for a few other Anchor Bay DVD properties either available now or coming soon, some animated menus and chapter selection.
The Rig is moderately amusing as a time killer but not a film you're going to need to see more than once. What thrills it does offer have no lasting impact and while the oil rig setting is both interesting and topical, the rest of the film is a by the numbers creature feature that doesn't do much to break away from the countless others out there. Anchor Bay's DVD is fine, though it's as unremarkable as the movie it holds. A fine rental, but hardly an essential purchase.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.