Landslide (retitled as Buried Alive when it was released on DVD in America) is a made for TV movie that borrows heavily from the 1970’s formula of low budget disaster movies. For that, I personally found a lot to enjoy in its crooked, camptastic delivery. Landslide works with its budget, one-sided characters and provides a predictable but satisfying afternoon of entertainment.
The disasters faced
Funnily enough… a landslide! Man-made of course. Add to that dodgy electrics, a nefarious bombing expert, killer scorpions, thieves, a lack of oxygen and the classic TV troupe – ‘woman in labour’ and you have plenty to get your teeth into.
Mark and Emma have separated, with Emma taking their son Steven with them to a new remote town. You know they’ll be together again by the end as Mark puppy dogs everything and she is angry which means she secretly loves him still. Ah… TV movie scripts… Emma and Steven move into an apartment block owned by her dad Donald and so she gets in early before its really finished. Donald’s second in command Stewart has been busy cutting corners to blast more of Diamond Back Mountain than is safe to do so. He wants to pull the rug from Donald and own his own business and that all goes horribly wrong when his blasts bring on a landslide. The mountain literally crashes down on the apartment block and other parts of the town (strangely left unmentioned).
Inside the block are Mark and Steven who join up with ‘thief who didn’t sign up for this’ -Harold. They need to get to safety as their side is badly hit and rescue everyone else in the process. Donald is trapped with his secretary Ginger. Ginger is the Shelley Winters of the movie although she is given very little to work with. Having survived the landslide, they’ve got deadly scorpions in their office! Elsewhere Maria was having the worst baby shower with only Nicole in attendance but the landslide has sent her into labour.
Emma, a landscape architect by trade, was on her way to the shops when this all kicked off. She teams up with Maria’s husband Danny to sort out some rescue efforts because Stewart doesn’t want to help. He would rather continue blasting ‘to stop any further deaths’ and bring the whole place down. In no sane world would this be a good plan but its a TV movie so we’re going with it. With Mark leading the charge of the survivors inside and Emma trying to solve issues outside – how will they fair? Will everyone survive? There’s only one way to find out!
Why is it worth watching?
If you’ve enjoyed some disaster movies from the 1970’s you’ll notice that this film takes a lot of the set up from The Towering Inferno and places it in an avalanche setting. It then takes the ‘we must keep moving forward’ progression from The Poseidon Adventure and puts it in a hotel. Is it low budget? Yes but Landslide understands how to keep a film moving and that is a third of the battle won.
All the characters have two very specific modes. They all start off with one character trait and then have a moment and then switch into their second mode. Mark bonds with his son Steven. Emma chills out. Harold realises being a thief is wrong. Nicole changes up from freaking out to taking charge. Donald wakes up and realises he is a shmuck. Jack, Stewarts’ right-hand man, realises he needs to right some wrongs. In a 90 minute film, it is easy to criticise these hard-knock character switches but the message of empowerment, truth, honesty and warmth comes through. Corny it may be but the movie does its best to give you warm fuzzy feelings by the end.
The film is well-paced too. The action begins quite early on and because there is always forward momentum as the hotel collapses on itself, the characters are moving from one problem to another. I’d have liked to have seen others aside from Mark (who is a fireman admittedly) do the donkey work though. Often the others are regulated to being worried or shouting a bit.
Lastly, for a TV movie, the acting is decent enough. No one will win an oscar but no one stands out as being poor. They all embrace the camp element of the movie in a way that evokes the mid-1990’s TV serial. Yay for that.
The effects fall into two parts. The actual landslide is a mixture of some great practical effects and some ropey greenscreen/CGI. CGI is used noticeably about three times and it is not great. What is great is the set design. Donald and Ginger’s room rotating onto its side is really well done and the way how the hotel is filled with sand and rubble from room to room is well designed. Kudos to having real fires in the backgrounds and proper explosions in the car park. In 2005 when Landslide was made, it was just on the turn from practical effects to CGI and this film ages and looks much better for sticking with practical effects.
I’ve spoken earlier about each character having two emotions and that’s it but I still enjoyed them all on the whole. Alexandra Paul has played these types of roles so many times, she just naturally fits in a disaster movie. Vincent Spano plays the lead male very well too and both Spano and Paul bring an element of kindness to their roles. Mia Cottet as Nicole should find herself as many gay movies to apply for as possible as she would get a legion of fans.
(Any of Harold’s monologues about what will kill them next)
Three memorable moments
- The actual landslide itself for being a decent display of carnage including the hilarious moment where Emma’s car is swiped off the road like a toy.
- The car park explosions.
- Baby monitor and walkie talkie chats between Mark, Nicole and Maria.
The obligatory weird moment
Landslide doesn’t have many weird moments but I found the whole scorpion section a bit silly. Its a giant room and there are two scorpions. How can so many people make such a faff of trying to escape them? Of course, the whole premise is from another world but I won’t hold that against them. We need these movies to happen in the first place!
The drinking game
Have a shot for every time Stewart talks about detonating his charges. As a baddie, he only has one mode and that is money-making evilness. He does it well.
Landslide is one of the more enjoyable TV movies. It doesn’t overextend itself in the effects department or script but it knows how to weave characters together and keep them on their toes. It could certainly teach a lot of today’s made for TV production line of Sci-Fi yawns how to make a competent and cheap movie without going for 80 minutes of people looking at computer screens. Above average.
Rating: 3 / 5 – Good
If you liked Landslide then you may like…
- Avalanche – Made for TV cheese-fest with The Hoff as a killer
- Buried – Ryan Reynolds has been buried alive. Claustrophobic!
- Nature Unleashed: Avalanche – Lets get buried in a ski resort!