The theory of “peak oil” has been bandied about since the 70s. And as The Intruder Within (1985) points out, a full decade after the concept had been the cause of many a sleepless night: “There’s no such thing as easy oil anymore…”
Since then, drillers have had to go further and further afield to find black gold. Much like how horror directors have had to look for new and novel ways of putting people in harm’s way. In The Intruder Within, it’s an oil rig.
Here, “roughnecks” aboard the wonderfully-named Zortron 101, which might as well have been spat straight from the mouth of The Simpsons’ Professor Frink, are digging down…way way down (20,000 feet in fact). And what they find while plumbing those dark depths many leagues below is icky.
The film is this reviewer’s first oil rigger-themed horror, and it’s a pretty intriguing novelty. If anything should go wrong, help is days away because far out in the middle of the ocean, you can’t very easily pull an Arnie and “get to ze choppuh”.
It’s from the deepest, darkest depths that the crew pulls up what one of ’em calls, “a sea lamprey of some sort,” into their shale shaker.
The creature munches on one of their compatriot’s arms in thoroughly non-engrossing fashion, spurring a disinterested scientific examination by the vessel’s geologist, who puts parts of the weird life form (which looks like all-you-can-eat oysters) into a container. They ooze out, and it turns out their carapaces emit some kind of toxic gas. Soon, roughnecks are dropping dead at a breakneck pace.
So…this is a high seas Alien, right?
Basically, any time a group of people in close quarters encounters an embryonic creature from which there is no escape, comparisons to Ridley Scott’s classic are darn near inevitable. (But as far as shameless rip-offs go, at least this film’s Canadian and not Italian – the country that’s spawned so many of these. For those who are interested, definitely check out our Contamination podcast.)
Once things naturally go haywire, the radio equipment picks the perfect time to conk out, and the crew has to figure out how in the hell they’re going to escape the ravages of the deep sea goo.
Director Peter Carter also gave us the highly underrated classic The Creeper (aka, Canadian Deliverance, aka, Rituals) and adds a few fun flourishes here.
The Intruder Within is surprisingly watchable, and there are quite hilarious romantic machinations afoot, involving two of the most attractive women ever to board an oil rig (now, or since).
**1/2 (out of 5)