Disaster Zone: Volcano in New York

Disaster zone: your DVD player
☆☆☆☆☆
Released: 
2005
Director: 
Robert Lee
Starring: 
Costas Mandylor, Alexandra Paul, Michael Ironside, Michael Boisvert, Eric Breker
The Setup: 
Evil energy corporation digs seven miles under Manhattan and unleashes hot magma.
Discussion: 

I could watch disaster movies forever. I do indeed SO enjoy scenes of mass destruction. I enjoy them so much, in fact, that I’m obviously drawn to watch crap like this, having merely stumbled across the cover in this shitty used video store I frequent. Besides, I’d been eager to watch Volcano again. And this one’s in New York, right? And I live in New York, and I could watch my favorite monuments get destroyed. Yay!

Well, the title is very accurate: this really is the movie Volcano, just set in New York. And with 1/256th the budget. We see some stock footage of New York City while we hear a fake radio broadcast that makes the best attempt it can to tie anything and everything into this supposed “energy crisis.” There is a fair amount of content on this “energy crisis.” Then we meet some young buck who is applying for a job with the Sandhogs, these people who are digging new water tunnels next to the old water tunnels underneath Manhattan. Also starting that day is a beautiful young woman with horrific approximation of a Brooklyn accent, who, although she could reasonably be pursuing a career as a model, has chosen instead to dig tunnels with a bunch of skuzzy construction guys. And who says there’s no such thing as penis envy?

We then meet Michael Ironside as a pill-poppin’ hard-ass boss who is in charge of this project that is digging seven miles underneath Manhattan in order to harness thermal heat from the inside of the earth and solve this energy crisis we’ve been hearing so much about, so we can “not depend on these third-world sandbox countries.” Both Ironside and his boss [who will later totally turn on him] are these kind of bellower-bosses who don’t listen to their employees but just bark orders to drill faster, deeper, or whatever. A sample one, straight from the movie, I swear, is: “You! Make that drill go! Now!”

By now you will have noticed the herky-jerky camerawork, all hand-held, constant zooms in and out, and if you haven’t you’ll have plenty of time, because IT NEVER STOPS. For the duration of the movie. It’s all this faux-documentary style and, what, are we supposed to think this is a documentary? Are we trying to harness that shot-on-the-fly feel? I eventually got used to it but if that kind of thing bugs you, here’s just one more reason not to watch this film.

So there’s an earthquake while the non-essential Sandhogs are on the job, and some of them get sprayed with what looks like hot water but is actually acid. This is not explained, however, until quite a while later, which makes you think the filmmakers are just total idiots in the meantime. We see a guy’s face burn off [several times] and a black guy get his entire abdominal wall eaten off, causing his guts, which resemble smooth red tubes, to come tumbling out.

Also in here are the typical couple who used to be married and now have to work together, eventually finding love, respect and mutual trust again. It’s so beautiful. Then there’s the homeless people who all sleep in Central Park on a giant steam vent, and eventually get gassed to death by some sulfur gas blowout or whatever. You know, why must the homeless always pay for man’s hubris and greed?

In here also are views of New York that look so fake you will swear they are the worst models ever [though apparently they’re not], and poorly-matched close-ups from Vancouver, where this thing was filmed, that in no way resemble the actual streets of New York.

Anyway, so there’s also some guy who is this FBI terrorism expert who believes that everything that’s happened so far is the result of terrorists. Then the driller folk drill even deeper and I think a guy falls in somehow, and the hole spews out his flaming skull, which we get multiple loving close-ups of. Then some boat is cruising on some muddy body of water that is clumsily superimposed next to some postcard image of the Statue of Liberty [minus the New Jersey Skyline], in a manner that makes the entire thing look ever so bracingly realistic. The water beneath him boils, leading to the point where he can skim his net across the surface as pick up fish, crabs, and a lobster—you know, whatever they had at the plastic seafood outlet that day. This is intercut with stock footage of lava spewing out underwater. Then his whole boat explodes.

So the drillers have created this fissure in the Earth, and some suburban DADDY with a white goatee is watering his lawn [presumably in New Jersey?] when there are ominous rumblings, causing him to say [and this is a direct quote]: “What? What the? Jesus! Holy hell!” Then a bunch of manhole covers pop 20 feet into the air. I was unaware that the average New Jersey suburban street contains upwards of six manholes within a one-block space. One of them lands on the birdfeeder right in front of JerseyDad, causing him to exclaim “What’s with that?” He then walks to the side door of his house. Upon opening it, lava pours out, the entire house apparently having filled up with molten lava [through the toilet perhaps?], and Daddy’s incinerated. Good thing he thought to line the entire interior of his house with material that can withstand temperatures in the thousands of degrees, don’t you think?

In here somewhere we see the mayor of New York—black, of course, so progressive—as he watches the smoke rise behind the Flatiron building. This means that his office is located directly across the place where 5th Avenue crosses Broadway, which would indicate that he shares office space with the Year-Round Christmas store. But I suppose New York’s first black mayor WOULD be just that democratic and egalitarian.

SPOILERS [WELL, YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN] > > > Anyway, Ironside has been fired—by the guy who was earlier barking at him to drill, drill, drill, but now has reversed himself and is trying to blame it all on Ironside—and he mentally snaps and runs out with a gun, demanding that the guys keep drilling. Wow, this guy is REALLY concerned with finding an alternate energy source! It’s nice to see that at least someone is committed to protecting the environment, even if he has to incinerate Manhattan to do it. We see a bunch of piss-poor CGI lava shooting toward the surface, but the only thing that ever comes up is flames. Somewhere in here Ironside gets burned over half his face, but even this does not deter his quest to free the states from dependence on foreign oil.

So now all hell starts breaking loose, or at least, as loose as it can get on a budget of like $13.27. Now, even though the drilling is happening on the far west side, we see the New York Library on Fifth Avenue a few feet deep in lava. There’s a [VERY] few shots of other damage, but then we start having footage of lower Manhattan shrouded in smoke—and you realize that this is ACTUAL FOOTAGE FROM 9/11! Is that in good taste? For all the grief the remake of The Omen got for alluding to 9/11 as part of the impending apocalypse, how about just using actual footage of a tragedy as stock footage for your preposterous movie about some ludicrous volcano? Bad juju, indeed.

Anyway so the sandhogs do their thing and divert the lava through underground tunnels out into the river, where it cools safely, and everything is fine. This is, you will note, the exact same solution they came up with at the end of Volcano. I told you the title Volcano in New York was uncannily accurate.
< < < SPOILERS END

All in all, a total bust. Now I loves me a good disaster film, no matter how cheesy, but almost all the fun of those things comes from special effects, that show you scenes of mass destruction that are ever so delightful. Here they don’t have the budget for that, so you’re left with a bunch of TV movie-level acting, dialogue, and characters, which is not what you want. The few special effects in here are so piss-poor they’re hardly worth watching for, and are things I suspect virtually anyone could accomplish themselves on a modern desktop PC. The only reason to watch is for the sweet cuteness of Michael Boisvert [above] as Ace, though even he’s not in it that much and never takes his shirt off. You, me, everyone alive deserves better than this.

Should you watch it: 

Maybe if it’s on TV and you’re in a hospital bed in traction, and can’t reach the remote control. Otherwise, under no circumstances.