Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Ruin's Tone: "The Runestone" (1992)

The Vikings discovered America, but not to start a mediocre NFL team, no, they had to bury a giant rock half a mile under modern day Pennsylvania.

The rock held a Norse demon who can only be released when the stone is dug up...and guess what archaeologist Mitchell Laurance does? Laurance calls his former love Joan Severance, who brings her new hubby Tim Ryan, and everyone has a gander at the giant runestone, which resembles a big candy bar with strange etchings in it. Before you can say "uff-da," Laurance is possessed by the creature and begins to run around New York City virtually unnoticed. Severance seems to be the prey, but maybe the creature is just trying to get some of Stella Adler's basic acting guides delivered to her.

Cue a gaggle of unnecessary characters. William Hickey is a crazy old man (what a stretch) who knows all, and is promptly dispatched. His grandnephew, mopey teen Chris Young, finds out later he is integral to the killing of the demon, thanks to legend, folklore, myth, hearsay, and other convenient exposition. Peter Riegert is the Pez popping, cussing detective who keeps shooting the indestructible creature but cannot seem to convince boss Lawrence Tierney that something is killing policemen by the claw full.

The late Alexander Godunov, who was so good in "Die Hard," "Witness," and "The Money Pit," is brought in way too late to help matters. His entire role until eighty minutes into the film consists of standing in a room full of clocks and and uttering nary more than two words. Once he gets going on the demon, he proves he should have been a major action star who never seemed to find that breakout role.

Eventually, David Newman's excellent, bombastic, and all-wrong score indicates the big finale, complete with collapsing skyscraper floors and dimension travel. Most of the violence takes place off screen, but this seems to be a budgetary decision more than anything. The gore is there, but nothing special. The creature effects are especially weak, all claws and fur, but with a most unconvincing mask. One shot shows the masked actor's eyes a little too clearly.

"The Runestone" is a noble failure that should have worked on more levels than it does. I will slightly not recommend it. (* *) out of five stars.