Disaster Zone: Volcano in New York
directed by Robert Lee
(Marvista, 2006)

If you love really bad, embarrassingly cliched, low-budget disaster movies, Disaster Zone: Volcano in New York is right up your alley. Not only does it feature an increasingly ludicrous plot (with the obligatory reunion of the main character and his ex-wife) and plenty of uninspired acting, this film goes the extra mile of giving viewers what may well be the cheapest, most pathetically unconvincing special effects I've ever seen. It looks like they were doing the CGI on an old Commodore 64 or something.

Frankly, I'm embarrassed for whatever special effects team turned in this shoddiest of work -- a group of first-graders could have done better. The effects guys also threw a little stock footage into the mix, as well; this seemed like a good move on their part -- until they illustrated the citywide disaster playing out here with a shot taken in the aftermath of 9/11. Personally, I find it unconscionable that they would exploit that tragedy in such a way for even a single second -- and this definitely damaged my opinion of the film as a whole (which was pretty bad to begin with). And what's up with always using New York for disaster movies, anyway? Why not pick a city that isn't still feeling the aftereffects of the worst man-made disaster in history? (I nominate Chicago.)

So you're probably asking how a volcano could possibly erupt underneath New York City. Well, it doesn't happen naturally. It turns out, you see, that one of those wacky scientists is conducting a dangerous experiment and is so obsessed with making himself famous that he ignores what should be some pretty obvious dangers. Aided and abetted by a corrupt politician, Doc Levering (Michael Ironside) is working to tap the geothermal energy deep inside the Earth to produce a cheap and almost limitless source of power. Hmmm ... opening up a fissure into the magma section of the Earth's crust -- what could possibly go wrong? Well, the guys and gal of the Local 147 "Sand Hogs" could tell them (the ones that lived, anyway), as they are the first to obtain direct evidence in one of their underground tunnels. Naturally, no one in any position of authority believes the team's supervisor, Matt McLaughlin (Costas Mandylor), when he reports seeing lava down there. Even as periodic tremors shake up the city and one neighborhood suddenly goes up in flames, all of the government "experts" are pointing the finger at terrorism.

You won't believe this. Dr. Susan Foxley (Alexandra Paul), one of the scientists sent to investigate the tunnel disaster, turns out to be Matt's ex-wife. Why, why, why must every disaster movie feature a lame romantic subplot like this? Is the impending death of millions of people not enough of a human interest story in and of itself? Apparently not, as every disaster film ever made follows this same stupid formula. Gosh, you don't reckon these two will team up and try to save the day in the end, do you?

Before closing, I would like to list just a few of the things I learned from this movie: 1) If you're totally consumed by magma-heated flames for 20 seconds or more, there's a good chance you'll only suffer cosmetic damage to one side of your face; 2) It's easy to identify the one scientist working alongside a group of underground miners to save millions of lives -- she'll be the one asking which way to go next while walking down a one-way tunnel; 3) Volcanic gases can apparently freeze clouds (in both time and space) way up in the sky; 4) When digging a deep shaft into the Earth, you should put the emergency backup ladder as far as possible from the precariously secured elevator.

Disaster Zone: Volcano in New York delivers numerous moments of unintended comedy, but I really can't recommend it to anyone apart from my fellow bad movie addicts.

review by
Daniel Jolley

4 December 2010

Agree? Disagree?
Send us your opinions!

what's new