Directed by: Andrew Stevens, Jim Wynorski
Starring: Kevin Sorbo, Gigi Erneta, Alex Meneses, Andrew Stevens, Maeghan Albach, Glenn Morshower
If you’re into exploitation, sexploitation or just general trash cinema, you might be familiar with the name Jim Wynorski, a.k.a. H.R. Blueberry, Jay Andrews, Salvadore Ross and a number of other pseudonyms. Mr. Wynorski is the auteur behind films like Not of This Earth (featuring Traci Lords’ first mainstream role), The Bare Wench Project and sure-to-be-classic Dinocroc vs. Supergator. With Fire From Below, he joins forces with writer/director/producer/actor Andrew Stevens and the thespian talents of Kevin Sorbo to bring us…a piece of junk. I love the disaster film genre, but sweet Jeebus what a load of horse hockey one has wade through to find the good stuff.
Kevin Sorbo is a brilliant (and dashing, it must be said) seismologist. Kevin’s present girlfriend is also a brilliant seismologist. Kevin’s ex-girlfriend works for Andrew Stevens, who is the greedy head of a mining operation digging lithium out of the ground. This particular form of lithium is fantastically reactive and could be used for weapons, which is a nice business plan right there. But the operation releases lithium gas which ignites instantly when it comes into contact with water, meaning the entire region is in lethal danger. As random people and finally an entire small town perish, Kevin Sorbo and the U.S. military respond in the only possible way: by blowing stuff up.
The screenwriting in Fire From Below can only be described as lax, giving the impression that the absolute minimum of effort was invested. It has a cut-and-paste feel with its completely generic storyline, flat dialogue and almost nonexistent characterizations. The supposedly funny oneliners are slightly embarrassing, and the acting is perfunctory. As for visual effects, a critical part of any self-respecting disaster film, they range from decent (the flaming gas clouds that chase our heroes) to pretty bad.
But let’s give credit where credit is due. Fire From Below is more bloodthirsty than many of its made-for-cable colleagues, and at least a couple of deaths are entertainingly creative. A small town is suffocated by the toxic gas and that sequence has some eerie potential. A waterskier is chased across a lake by a fireball that finally incinerates both her and her friends in the boat, and later a teenage kid taking a leak explodes as his urine ignites the reactive gas. The latter scene is one of the more original disaster movie deaths I’ve seen in a while, and that’s worth something. I LOL’d, as the kids say.
But is that enough to bump the rating an extra star? Sorry, but no. These short moments can’t really balance the not-really-trying feel that permeates much of this movie.