Right from the start, Warning Sign shows you that it’s not fucking about. The opening scene is incredibly suspenseful and above all realistic, showing just how little it takes for things to go horribly wrong. I haven’t seen an opening scene this powerful since another eighties hidden gem, The Believers. Considering the events we went through in 2020 and 2021, these scenes take on a whole new dimension. I don’t want to reveal too much of the story because I want you to have the same reaction I did. Extremely underrated, it’s a perfect choice for one of those nights when you want to watch something familiar and yet authentic. It reminded me of seventies eco-terror movies like Phase IV and The Andromeda Strain.
I just loved the attention to detail and realism in Warning Sign. This is what makes it stand out among the sea of similar movies. They’re not rushing through scenes or trying to dazzle you with gimmicks. And you can clearly feel that someone sat down and thought the fuck out of the script. Granted, towards the end, it does get a bit messy but it still manages to maintain its cool and finish with good vibes. The cast contributed to that immensely. Sam Waterston, Yaphet Kotto, and Jeffrey DeMunn were all excellent. However, G.W. Bailey whom you might remember from the Police Academy franchise stole the show here with his stellar performance. This is what you get when the characters are developed properly and actors have something good to work with.
It’s just another day at work for Joanie Morse, a security officer in an agricultural research facility owned by BioTek. Most of the people working there are scientists who know their job in and out, so there’s not much actual work to be done. She spends most of her days chatting with her husband Cal and going through the motions. However, as it would turn out, today is not going to be just another day at work for Joanie…
As someone who tends to avoid labels, I wouldn’t call Warning Sign a zombie movie. I mean, it does feature some of the same concepts but ultimately it remains just a really solid horror movie. It’s got a pretty strong mainstream thriller vibe that makes it feel bigger than it really is. Also, we will see this same story repeated many times in the following decades, so it was refreshing to see it in its infancy. It explores many important issues that will also become quite important in the future. You could say that all the Warning Signs were there but nobody listened. So, don’t be surprised when you wake up one day to see that zombies have overtaken your city.
Finally, I just have to mention the pretty good practical effects. I especially liked the makeup that looked quite nasty although there’s not much gore here. Especially for a movie of this genre. On the other hand, the soundtrack was spot on.
Director: Hal Barwood
Writers: Hal Barwood, Matthew Robbins
Cast: Sam Waterston, Kathleen Quinlan, Yaphet Kotto, Jeffrey DeMunn, Richard Dysart, G.W. Bailey, Rick Rossovich
Fun Facts: Using “BioTek” rather than “Biotech” avoided issues with real corporations that used the proper spelling, and “agronomics” is a play at the words “agricultural” and “economics” put together.