Routinely generic, THE PRESENCE is a TV sci-fi knockoff that falls back on biotech mumbo-jumbo and military-industrial misdeeds to dress up an otherwise uneventful restaging of MYSTERIOUS ISLAND, sans Ray Harryhausen and his stop-action animation. Aired originally on NBC in 1992, it has
neither the budget nor the pop imagination to deserve much further life on video.
A pack of Hollywood hipsters are stuck in some Caribbean backwater shooting the equivalent of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue (enter Kathy Ireland) when indigenous rebels in paramilitary gear overrun their tourist locale. Somehow, the film crew makes it onto the same plane out as embassy
attache and rumored CIA pot-stirrer Ben Field (Richard Beymer), as well as vacationing schoolteacher Kate (June Lockhart), who keeps a diary throughout (which begins to assert itself as voice-over halfway through). When the overloaded plane is forced to land at sea, some 20 passengers successfully
navigate the lifeboats to a nearby uncharted island. Luckily, food seems to be in ample supply, and they begin to arrange shelter. But when the fruit they've gathered begins to decay before their eyes, and one of them begins to mutate into a giant lizard, they decide that all is not as it seems.
Organized reconnaissance reveals a locked-down military command post, which mysteriously stands vacant. Meanwhile, their leader, Rick Pearsall (Gary Graham), is also affected by what they now realize is a new virus.
Once inside, they find evidence of biological warfare research. Following the copious records left behind, they identify the secret antigen which may prove to be their salvation. Pearsall becomes the guinea pig and is saved by the antigen, which has the curious side-effect of heightening
prescience, giving him a trippy ESP that allows him to experience life on the island as it once was. He discovers that the government, and Field in particular, were crucially involved in this experiment gone awry. The story ends with a passage from Kate's journal, which remains guardedly
The premise here is pretty lame to begin with, and the sudden presence of a top-secret, capital-intensive government fortress out in the middle of Gilligan's Island is a little hard to swallow, and certainly doesn't advance the credibility of the bogus science. This low-budget effort generally
looks and feels as if we're on some backlot somewhere, and its single well-mounted scene--in which soldiers take the crowded resort beach--makes one long for the coming days of interactive video, which would enable the viewer to leave the narrative behind and hike up to one of those tourist hotels
in the background. However, that Kathy Ireland sure does look swell in a swimsuit. (Violence.)
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1994
- Rating: NR
- Review: Routinely generic, THE PRESENCE is a TV sci-fi knockoff that falls back on biotech mumbo-jumbo and military-industrial misdeeds to dress up an otherwise uneventful restaging of MYSTERIOUS ISLAND, sans Ray Harryhausen and his stop-action animation. Aired or… (more)