Warning Sign (1985)

You could definitely call “Warning Sign” a precursor to “28 Days Later,” but the latter film just handles the premise so much better. Hal Barwood’s movie is a shockingly bland meshing of science fiction and horror that is never quite sure what it wants to be. Sometimes it’s a science fiction movie about government conspiracy and a top secret disease gone out of control, and other times it’s about three bystanders battling disease ridden rage induced zombies, and the undead. It bounces back and forth between grim science fiction to gruesome horror and feels so ill-conceived and poorly constructed.

In a seemingly mundane laboratory where scientists are researching agriculture, the staff is also secretly developing a biological weapon. After an accident allows the bacteria to spread within the facility, security guard Joanie Morse is tasked with shutting down the entire center and sealing the infected in. As the infected staff members begin turning in to rage fueled, violent zombies, Joanie struggles to stay alive with a fellow co-worker and keep them from breaking out. Now with a shifty team of government operatives outside looking for a way in to contain the virus, Joanie’s husband and a former biological scientist team up to infiltrate the lab, save Joanie, and possibly cure the disease, before it’s unleashed on the population.

It’s surprising how much “Warning Sign” fails, because it has so much going for it. The set up is tense, and Hal Barwood fills the screen with immense character actors like Sam Waterston, Jeffrey DeMunn, Kathleen Quinlan, and Yaphet Kotto. It’s just that “Warning Sign” never feels like a completely thought out narrative, and inevitably dips in to silly plot devices. At the convenience of the narrative our trio of heroes discovers a magic cure for the rage disease, and develops an antidote within an hour. Barwood also stages an “Assault on Precinct 13” style showdown with the characters running around shooting antidotes in to the zombies. It’s surprisingly flat since the whole idea of it is so absurd. All that’s missing is a bomb that’s counting down and our heroes running out just as it detonates in a ball of fire.

You’ll also find it hard not to laugh at how they’re rushing to develop an antidote one moment and are lighting the infected on fire with a makeshift flamethrower the next. The rules of the disease itself are also never developed quite well with so many contradictions left and right. Sometimes the infected are filled with rage, sometimes they’re over amorous, and they walk around twitching and fighting among each other. And there’s even a moment where a character seemingly dead from the infection rises as a pus filled monster. There’s not a ton of reason why this small lab in the country were developing a top secret serum, either. And what was the reason for developing this germ as a weapon? “Warning Sign” has all the right elements, but it’s a sluggish and somewhat dull genre effort that could benefit from a remake down the line.