Disaster Zone: Volcano in New York (2006)
R1 - America - Echo Bridge Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Jari Kovalainen (15th December 2006).
The Film

Next in line of the TV disaster-movies is “Disaster Zone: Volcano in New York (2006)” from director/co-producer Robert Lee (e.g. “Absolute Zero (2005)”). Like these always do, this time the “inspiration” comes from e.g. “Volcano (1997)” - the big Hollywood blockbuster, only with drastically downscaled effects and a “mad scientist”-angle. Matt (Costas Mandylor - from e.g. TV-series “Picket Fences (1992-1996)”, “Saw II (2005)”, and “Saw III (2006)”) is the leader of his group of tunnel diggers - “sandhogs”, who dig the water tunnel deep under Manhattan in New York City. This is the part that is actually happening as we speak, since “Water Tunnel No. 3” - a massive 50 year project, should be completed on 2020 under the “big apple”. The film even implies that Matt is “old school”, since he wants to use dynamite (the method was abandoned in the early 1990s). One ordinary day in the underground turns into a nightmare when, quite suddenly, the minor earthquake strikes and steaming hot water is bursting out from the cracking water pipes. The water does its damage to some of the men in quite a graphic way, since one guys intestines are coming out (!) and the other one burns his face badly. After bailing out in panic, Matt sees something strange; lava is coming out in the crack of the wall.

Building a disaster-movie from this rather effective opening (apart from the unconvincing fact that some guys burn badly, while the others don´t have a scratch) probably would´ve been the wisest choice, but unfortunately the filmmakers had other ideas. Soon we´ll meet Dr. Levering (Michael Ironside - e.g. “Scanners (1981)”, “Total Recall (1990)”, and “Starship Troopers (1997)”), who has the secret scientific project under way; he´s trying to drill to the earth´s core to find a huge geothermal energy source. And of course to be rich and famous. Do I have to add that Dr. Levering is a bit mad? And that he has some shady connections to the city officials, funding his project? Too bad for the city, as the risky experiment fails, unleashing the powers of nature. Hot lava starts to rise from the core and this increased volcanic activity is first killing 100 homeless from the Central Park and then causing some other isolated destruction. It´s only a matter of time before the lava pours to the city streets. Unless... Yes, unless Matt, his team and ex-wife Susan (Alexandra Paul - e.g. “Melrose Place (1999)”, and “Baywatch (1992-1997”) can find another way for the lava than the streets of the city. Nobody really believes Matt seeing any lava at the tunnel and FBI Agent (Matthew Bennett) is convinced that the terrorists have attacked. Mayor of New York (William S. Taylor) gives some time to find the proof, before the “Martial law” brings chaos to the streets.

“Disaster Zone: Volcano in New York” - produced by “MarVista Entertainment” (premiered on the “Sci Fi”-channel), just tries too much when the “lava + New York City = destruction” would´ve been just enough for the watchable TV-movie. Scenes with Dr. Levering and FBI agents are not very necessary for the story and the whole “scientist”-aspect goes way over the top at the end. The actors are still decent and I actually almost (note - almost) liked Costas Mandylor and his subtle approach to the role. They could´ve gotten more out of his character, though. Still, little these actors can do when the screenplay is weak and the budget is low. Lava and destruction effects are partly mediocre CGI and stock footage and they are not very pretty. A few of them work better, but it´s tough to make a decent disaster-movie if the effects are amateurish. With these TV-productions, you just have to live with that. “Disaster Zone: Volcano in New York” is a film that has some potential, but which falls short rather quickly, offering only a few decent moments here and there. Next time, just keep it simple.

Video

The film is presented in Anamorphic 1.78:1 and it´s shot in the similar style to e.g. the “NYPD Blue” TV-series. This means handheld camera with minor “zooming” and changing the composition during the shots. This probably helps to give a certain restless feel to the film, but together with a flat and dull look it makes the film visually less attractive. The transfer is overall a bit soft and somewhat faded, like a certain amount of colour is missing. It´s hard to say which was just intentional by the filmmakers, but I doubt that this originally looked this soft. Some edge enhancement can be spotted. “Single layer” disc is coded “R1”, and the film runs 92:07 minutes (NTSC). There are 15 chapters.

Audio

The film offers one audio track, which is English Dolby Digital 5.1. There are no subtitles, but English Closed Captions are included. The track is a disappointment, since it´s basically a “3.0 Mono” (if I can use such expression) - meaning that you get the same track from all front channels, including the dialogue. You have some mild “artificial echo” on the rear channels, but no proper surround really, not even in the action-scenes (at least the dialogue is not coming from the rears). Since the track is what it´s, probably choosing “Stereo” from your receiver is not a bad option at all.

Extras

There are no real extras (only chapter-selection and a very basic menu), but 2 bonus trailers are included before the “Main menu” (they can be skipped); “Final Days of Planet Earth (mini-series/2006)” and “10.5: Apocalypse (2006)”.

Overall

Another mediocre disaster-movie, which includes several rather useless plot-points and weak effects. Still, not a total waste. The DVD presentation left also something to be desired and there are no extras.

For more info, please visit the homepage of Echo Bridge Home Entertainment.

The Film: Video: Audio: Extras: Overall:

 


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