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All Epidemics Start Somewhere
by T.J. Tranchell

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Warning: A fondness for bad movies lies ahead.

Warning: A fondness for bad movies lies ahead.
A potential global epidemic of swine flu is breaking out all over the news. OK, I know, it's serious. People have died, lots more are sick. So what better way to escape the horrors of real life than by watching a scary movie? And why not watch one that relates to the current world conditions?

There are many options. You could watch 28 DAYS LATER or its adequate sequel 28 WEEKS later. You could rent the recently released QUARANTINE or search around for its superior Spanish version [REC].

The ultimate globe-spanning flue movie is the miniseries of Stephen King's THE STAND. I think you know about me and Steve, so I will spare you (for now) from more of my idol worship. Instead, I want to tell you about a little movie you've probably never seen.

In 1985, a film crew set up shop in the small town of Payson, Utah. Actually, it was the second time in two years that Hollywood came to visit. Remember FOOTLOOSE? This time around, however, Hollywood wasn't interested in teen rebellion, dancing or a kick-ass soundtrack. This time, they came to ask what
Twelve years later, I would walk this same hall. Everyday.

Twelve years later, I would walk this same hall. Everyday.
would happen if an accident happened at a biological weapons laboratory.

What's that? You've heard that plot before? Of course you have. Films like OUTBREAK, 28 DAYS LATER and RESIDENT EVIL have all explored what happens to the world in these situations. In WARNING SIGN the difference is that the plot is contained (pun intended) within the building itself and the small town sheriff trying to save the people he knows who are trapped inside.

Much like 28 DAYS LATER, the virus in WARNING SIGN makes people crazy and violent. Most of the deaths in this mostly goreless film are due to an infected person killing someone else. In one memorable shot, a guy in a hazard suit swings an axe at Kathleen Quinlan. I remember how his eyes looked like they were about to burst.

I was five. These are the things you remember.

I also remember one shot of a mob outside the building (a building very, very close to my grandparents' house, by the way). The camera pans the building, sort of a mob's-eye view. As more of the crowd is taken in, a head of curly red hair
This is Gary Sinise's What the hell am I doing in Utah? look.

This is Gary Sinise's "What the hell am I doing in Utah?" look.
appears, nearly filling the screen.

That head, folks, is my mom. That's right; my mom was in a horror movie. Sure, it's a subpar film, but go back and look at that list of movies that, in one way or another, ripped off its plot. Serious actors came out to be in the movie, too. Besides Quinlan, Yaphet Kotto had a major role and Sam Waterston played the sheriff, looking for a way in, when everyone else wanted out.

Tragically, I haven't seen WARNING SIGN in many, many years. We'd rent it if we saw it at a video store, but never looked hard enough for a copy to buy. I think it is on DVD now. I should poke around for a copy, for two reasons. First, it captures Payson at a time in my childhood that resembles my memory. So does FOOTLOOSE, but in a totally different way. If you visited Payson now, the recognizable landmarks from both movies are almost all gone. The ones that remain are surrounded by new houses, new businesses and new people.

Do you think other people get as nostalgic as this? Maybe all the people who go to Astoria, Oregon, for the
WARNING SIGN is definitely this monkey's uncle.

WARNING SIGN is definitely this monkey's uncle.
GOONIES conventions understand.

The second reason I need to get a DVD copy of WARNING SIGN is that last week was my mom's birthday. That would have made a pretty good present, I think, especially since I can't give her back the town of her youth, let alone the town of mine.

Now that I think about, WARNING SIGN isn't even that scary. I do believe it has a place in the pantheon of “outbreak” films. Sure, its premise was already trite in 1985 when it was released, but at the time, AIDS was just being recognized as a deadly disease and RESIDENT EVIL wasn't even a dream. People were still playing Pac-Man and Asteroids.

I loved Asteroids. I wasn't very good but that didn't matter because it was fun and provided a good memory.


When all is said and done, more people will probably get swine flu than have seen WARNING SIGN. That should be a good excuse to go out and watch it. You know, before you get sick and can't do anything. Let me tell you, if you do get sick, watching WARNING SIGN is the last thing you will want to do.

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The Show Begins at 10:31.
Every other Friday

Take my hand and follow me to the darkest corners of the theater. All your favorite monsters, psychos and masked killers are here, waiting for you to say hello.

Other Columns
Other columns by T.J. Tranchell:

Feeling (Rob) Zombie-fied

Hit the road, Jack

Camcorder Carnage

The scariest movie of all time

Universal's forgotten fiend

All Columns

T.J. Tranchell
Born on Halloween and raised in a single screen theater managed by his grandpa, T.J. now spends more time than should be healthy staying up past midnight reading Stephen King and watching Friday the 13th movies. Part 3 is the best one.

If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to T.J. Tranchell by clicking here.

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