9 Mar 2016

ZOMBIE FILM RULES - Warning Sign (1985)

Every genre has cliches, but how well do films with a "rage virus" follow the Zombie film rules?

Warning Sign (1985) is about an outbreak of a man-made virus in a secret government lab that seems to cause the death of its victims, followed by rage-based attacking the uninfected.

The following analysis may contain spoilers for


When his wife is trapped in a government lab when a virus gets loose, the local sheriff must enlist the help of a disgraced scientist to get inside and find a cure...


There will be no warning...

"I... WARNED... YOU!" ~ Tom Schmidt.

There really is a warning... sugn.

1a.  Eerie - The every-day scenes of farming and crop-dusting are somehow eerie.  The lab is even more so.
1b.  News - Although the there are journalists in the film, within our context, Joanie Morse in security acts as "news" for the outbreak.
1c.  Sudden - The outbreak is pretty sudden, but the appearance of the revived inflected isn't.


There may be sex and nudity.

"We could do our cooking in bed." ~ Cal Morse.

2a.  Nudity - Tom Schmidt showers (but nothing is seen).  Dana's bra is briefly seen.
2b.  Sex - Cal and Joanie Morse, despite being married, make playful references to having sex.  Joanie also turns out to be pregnant, which some sources connect to the sexual act.


Unknown cause.

"You son of a bitch.  It's germ warfare." ~ Cal Morse.
"Biological warfare research was outlawed by international treaty in 1972.  The Soviet Union signed it and so did we.  You're not saying that Uncle Sam doesn't live up to its international obligations, are you?" ~ Dr Dan Fairchild.

3a.  Unknown origin - The origin is know: illegal work on biological weapons.
3b.  Vague hints - Said outright.
3c.  The originators - The scientists and the military.


The Living Dead.

"Dr. Nielsen!" ~ Joanie Morse.
"Very much alive, despite what they told you!" ~ Dr. Nielsen.
"You're sick!" ~ Joanie Morse.
"I was, for a moment, but not anymore." ~ Dr. Nielsen.

4a.  Dead - The victims seem to die but get up again.  This could be an assumption made by those looking at the victims on video, however, Bob "dies" with people around and they cover his body, so it seems to be actual - or a very, very good simulation - of death.
4b.  Rising from the grave - Not buried.  Bob is covered with a plastic sheet and rises, but that's the closest you're going to get.
4c.  Instant decay - No decay, but horrible warty things on their faces and hands.
4d.  Origin - Biological/viral.
4e.  Spread - Airbourne, but limited to the lab.
4f.  Rudimentary IQ - Far more than rudimentary intelligence, but they're controlled by rage.  Although they're all (or mostly) scientist - and some very high level ones - they don't show it, so their intelligence may be reduced.  They know enough to drill a hole in a door and force a bent piece of wire through to open a door, but prefer to smash at doors with fire extinguishers.
4g.  Rudimentary speech - They speak normally.
4h.  Lost memory - They know names and how to do things, so seemingly no memory loss.
4i.  Slow/Shambling - They can run, but it's often stumbly as is their walking.
4j.  Swarms - They mostly travel in mobs, under direction of a leader.
4k.  Stealth zombies - They liked to ambush people, so yeah.
4l.  Feeding - They don't seem to want to eat the uninfected, just kill them.
4m.  Destroy the brains - Can be killed normally.
4n.  Exploding heads - No exploding heads.  Yeah, I felt the same disappointment.
4o.  The Z Word - No real words used to describe the infected.


The Living.

"You don't understand.  My wife's in there." ~ Cal Morse.

5a.  Individuals - Employees of the lab, not disparate individuals.
5b.  Group of survivors - Certainly includes in-fighting, but already together.
5c.  Characters - The main group will include:
  • The hero - Cal Morse.
  • The heroine Joanie Morse, Cal's wife.
  • The bossy guy Major Connolly, the government representative.  At times Tom Schmidt.
  • Bossy guy's female companion - N/A.
  • The secondary hero - Dr Dan Fairchild.
  • The weepy girl - Joanie a little, but not badly.
  • Child - None, unless you could Joanie's pregnancy.
  • The crazy guy - Dr Dan Fairchild, as the ignored expert.  Vic Flint is a way.  And obviously all of the infected.
  • Unbeliever - N/A.
  • The gang leader - Tom Schmidt as the head of the "uninfected" scientists.  He does get dragged away when he realises things have gone too far.  Tippet briefly takes over.
5d.  Man is the real monster - One (mostly) uninfected was killed by a norman person, while 6 normal people were killed by the infected.
5e.  Steep learning curve - Joanie and Cal quickly learn to science.
5f.  Final Girl and Final Guy - Joanie, Cal and Dan.



"It's not a disease.  This is a weapon of war.  It's designed to produce casualties, sure, but it's also designed to promote maximum tactical confusion." ~ Dr Dan Fairchild.
"Make it simple, what are you saying?" ~ Joanie Morse.
"It drives people crazy, that's what I'm saying.  That soldiers turn on their comrads, civilians victim turn on their doctors,  And then they die." ~ Dr Dan Fairchild.

6a.  Standing around talking for no reason when endangered - Not really, although Cal and Dan seem to wait before injecting everyone with the cure.
6b.  Grieving - Not endangeringly.
6c.  Making accidental noises - Not really.
6d.  Being unable to smell decaying flesh - No decay.
6e.  Engaging hand-to-hand combat with zombies - Mostly.
6f.  Hiding secret bite - No bites.  But a lot of not knowing they've been infected.
6g.  Unwilling to kill the bitten - N/A.
6h.  Unwilling to kill the undead - Doesn't really occur, but they're cured later so the killing of them is problematic (but necessary for defence.)
6i.  In-fighting - Some of the "uninfected" scientists attacked Joanie with an axe.
6j.  Fighting at all - The "uninfected" group attacks Joanie.  The mob of locals attack the government officials.
6k.  Having sex - No one has sex.  Previous sex actually saved everyone.
6l.  Being cowardly - N/A.
6m.  Betraying the group - N/A.
6n.  Going anywhere they shouldn't go in a slasher film
  • Down to the Basement - Perhaps Dr Fairchild and Cal sliding down a vent to get in counts.
  • Upstairs - N/A.
  • For a Shower - Showering seemed safe.
  • Into old sheds or out buildings - No one was allowed out.  Dr Fairchild and Cal did break in through a glasshouse.
  • Running off to the “safety” of the forest - N/A.
  • Anywhere alone - Joanie, but she doesn't have a choice.
  • Anywhere Remote, Isolated or Confined - The lab sort of counts.
  • Any Old, Abandoned or Presumably Haunted Buildings - N/A.
6o.  Relying on anything they shouldn't in rely on a slasher film
  • Communications devices - Radio works fine, there was a small issue with the phones.
  • Lighting - The infected destroy the mains because they don't like lights.  Later the heroes sabotage the outside lights.
  • Vehicular Transport - Cal crashes his police vehicle into a building, but it's OK, the next scene he has another one.
  • Their Own Legs - Joanie trips.
  • The Authorities – The federal authorities are the bad guys in the story, and they fail badly on their attempt at going in.  Cal is a member of the local authorities (although his deputy seems incompetent.)
  • Weapons – Joanie doesn't use her gun on uninfected people.  One soldier shoots an uninfected, but later they're too confided to use their weapons.
  • Escape Routes - N/A.
6p.  Being over-confident - Possibly the government when they sent their team in.
6q.  Making a plan that is too complex - The government's plans fall apart.
6r.  Making a plan - The plans were pretty simple and worked out.
6s.  Assume they're safe - Dr Schmidt's group make that assumption.
6t.  Be happy - N/A.
6u.  Just one last thing - N/A.
6v.  Never assume anyone or anything is dead - Pretty mich the premise.


Standard Plot.

"Listen, my friend.  There are 85 people trapped down there.  Trapped in your mess.  And you're going to help me get them out." ~ Cal Morse.

7a.  Normal life - As normal as lab-life can be.  Pushed in the heavily expositional phone call between Joanie and Cal dumps details of their normal lives on the viewer.
7b.  Sudden outbreak - A little, but contained and slow to manifest.
7c.  Meetings - N/A.
7d.  Civilisation will collapse - The virus doesn't get out of the lab.  The mob does attack the government, though.
7e.  Looting becomes scavenging - N/A.
7f.  Gangs/bandits/cannibals - The "uninfected" group becomes a dangerous "gang."  The local mob, as well.
7g.  Finding a place to hole up - Joanie finds a couple in the building.  The cafeteria group sort of too.
7h.  Avoiding contecting to people - N/A.
7i.  Suicidal - Dr Nielsen commits suicide.  But he's fully infected.
7j.  Undead loved-ones - No one is attacked by a loved one.
7l.  Limited food/water/bullets - No time for that, really.
7m.  Escape from a place - People try to escape, but the place is locked down.  The locals try to break in to free them.
7n.  Armoured vehicle - N/A.
7o.  Don't let me turn/save a bullet - Near the end, Cal loads a gun and gives it to Joanie and says "If I get sick don't let me go crazy."
7p.  Injury - Joanie drags around an sick Dr Schmidt for a while.
7q.  Heroic sacrifice - N/A.
7r.  Death of the last survivor - Happy ending.


There will be social commentary.

"I feel rage, Joannie! BEAUTIFUL RAGE!" ~ Dr. Nielsen.

8a.  We are already zombies - The rage-fueled infected mobs and surprisingly similar to the rage-fuel uninfected mob that attacks the government officials.
8c.  Racism - Not covered.
8d.  Working together - Not covered.
8e.  Man is the real monster - The government.  Angry mobs.  The fact that the infected 
8f.  Zombies are people, too - Pretty literally this time.
8g.  Other - Science is bad.  The military is bad.  The government is bad.


There is no happily ending.

"You're pregnant. Congratulations." ~ Dr. Dan Fairchild.

9a.  Downer ending - No downer ending, almost happy.
9b.  Sudden end - Slow wind-down.
9c.  Disaster porn - Not really.  The places was boarded up, but it wasn't disaster looking.
9d.  No cure - They actually do come up with a cure. Plus a cool air gun to dispense it.

RULE #10


“Clint Eastwood would love one of these!” ~ Cal Morse.

10a.  Sequels - No sequels.
10b.  Remakes - No remakes.
10c.  Adaptations - Not adapted from anything.  It should be noted that the name of the project is the "Blue Harvest Project."  Blue Harvest was the filming title for 1983's Return of the Jedi to keep fans away from the production.

Extra.  Versions - No real alternative versions.


"We're all crazy now, the whole world... he was part of it Cal, so was I!" ~ Joanie Morse.
"Yeah but he knew about it and you didn't... I guess sometimes when people see a problem they've just got to solve it." ~ Cal Morse.

  • Rules that are followed in this film: 6, 8, 10.
  • Rules that are partially followed, or not clear, in this film:  1, 2, 4, 5, 7
  • Rules not followed by the film: 9.

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