The Deep Sea Death Quintology: Deep Rising / Sphere / Deep-Star Six / Virus / Leviathan

blue_deep_sea_digital_art_under_water_1920x1080_77407Hollywood is a copycat industry. If a film finds an audience and makes money there is every chance that studios will try to jump on the bandwagon so that they can milk the (cash) cow for all it is worth.

Examples? Well how about…

Creatures Arachnophobia / Bats / Anaconda /

Natural Disasters – Volcano / Deep Impact / Armageddon / Titanic

Swords n SandalsGladiator / Troy / Alexander / Kingdom of Heaven

Tween Franchises – Harry Potter / Twilight / Red Riding Hood / Hansel & Gretel

And so on… What I never thought of – and never thought possible – was that there might be no less than five totally different productions made over a ten year period where the central plot was a threat of some kind menacing the crews of vessels either above or below the water. With this undoubted similarity it was quite easy to compare.

Unfortunately for me the most obvious similarity is that none of them are very good. Let’s get the first – and worst – out of the way early. (From my 2009 review.)

deep-rising-211x300Deep Rising – 1998

This movie redefines underwhelming, I hated this film.

Before I watched it I thought that it had all the hallmarks of a good B monster movie, within minutes I realized that there was no chance I was discovering a new Tremors, Slither or The Blob, I was just watching a shitty movie.

Given this website continually references and highlights low profile and low budget films, I find myself wanting to like films at times when I know they aren’t really that amazing, that lasted only seconds here.

Deep Rising is like a meat pie, it takes bits of hundreds of things and tries to make them appear more appetizing. You know you probably shouldn’t eat it but sometimes you do anyway, as it’s quick and easy. Replace “eat” with “watch”, and take out probably. This isn’t so bad it’s good, it’s so bad it’s fucking awful.

The first alarm bells rang for me before I watched a single scene, the film is preceded by an onscreen blurb informing the viewer that parts of the ocean are pretty deep and have never been explored, or something similar.

It’s never a good sign when this occurs in a horror or action movie, especially one as cheerfully stupid as this one. If you aren’t smart enough to tell your audience key information through dialogue or action you might need to reconsider your ability.

I’ll recap what I witnessed in the first three minutes:

  1. Bad Music
  2. Bad Acting
  3. Bad Dialogue
  4. Bad Jokes

First the music is terrible and inappropriate, almost to the point where I wondered if the man responsible had even seen the movie or knew what it was about. The acting is just awful, like they are rehearsing and the director said “that’ll do”, but in a half-hearted defence of the actors I must say that when you have to make ludicrously cheesy dialogue and try to sell crap jokes I might coast too.

The plot is unnecessarily convoluted, a boat is chartered to take a team of mercenaries to an undisclosed location, we soon realize that this location is a massive new cruise liner called the Argonautica, apparently on its maiden voyage. We meet the team of mercenaries and I immediately added a new category: Bad Accents

As an example one of the mercenaries identifies themselves as an Australian, (I am also Australian), but in the next scene I could no longer work out which one was Australian as none of the team used even a vaguely recognizable Aussie accent.

In the first scene involving the mercenaries, full of just pointlessly fake macho dialogue, I was able for the first time to differentiate between B movie actors and B grade actors. B movie actors can often be good at their jobs, B grade actors are just bad. This is straight B grade all the way.

Famke Janssen does her career no favours by playing a pickpocket who is aboard the cruise ship to rob the wealthy passengers, in yet another sign that this isn’t a Best Picture nominee she is able to get into a high tech computer controlled vault using bubblegum! After being caught in the act she is locked in a storeroom.

Shortly after this the ship’s supercomputer is shut down in seconds by a virus, again a multi-million dollar structure is rendered vulnerable simply and almost instantly.

While I am on a roll pointing out stupidity why use Famke in the role of a pickpocket, hot chicks don’t bother robbing rich guys, they marry them.

Of course now that the liner is incapacitated somewhat “something” hits the ship, passengers panic and scatter, taking cover where they can. In yet another logically deficient scene, a lady locks herself in a bathroom and sits on the toilet, only to be sucked into the toilet in a spray of blood. Shortly after when we see what is aboard, we realize that this wasn’t actually possible but was put in because it supposedly was cool.

Fast forward a sec, the mercenaries are now aboard what appears to be a deserted ship, with what CSI would call “evidence of a struggle”. Famke is able to once again MacGyver herself out of the storeroom by cutting all the wires on the security system at once, just like the pros do it!

The next ten minutes maintain the usual low standards, bad special effects, stupid red herring scares and blatant rip offs of other (better) films. The highly trained mercenaries have never heard of short controlled bursts and just blaze away randomly.

In one supposedly tense scene our heroes are running away from the massive squidy grooblers, but decide that they have time for a calm composed chat in an open hallway. I’d laugh but I was too busy crying.

The comic relief is provided by the ship’s engineer, who whines his way through the movie sounding like the Squeaky Voiced Teen from The Simpsons and spits out lame joke after lame joke, in the latter stages he is shot in the leg and just spends the remainder of his scenes limping mildly. Now I have sprained my ankle many times, and I am aware that being shot in the leg would be far more serious, yet when I sprain my ankle I am unable to even limp without pain, let alone jog around.

Further blatant ignorance of logic occurs, when the heroes escape by shooting the control panels of several doors, one of which opens out to the sea for some reason, perhaps poor design?

The ending comes far too late for my liking and predictably enough is worse than your average sit-com, where someone cracks a bad joke and they freeze frame on fake laughter.

I have read recently that changing a director can have a radical impact on the finished film but I don’t usually think too much about such things, here though is a case where I am positive that 75 other directors could come up with a far superior picture using the same basic material. A quick check on imbd shows me the same guy made Van Helsing, another laughable effort, notable only for Kate Beckinsale wearing tight pants.

The director blatantly ripped ideas and scenes from Die Hard 2, Alien, Predator, Alien: Resurrection, Tremors and Anaconda and even the worst of these (that would be Alien 4) is several times better than Deep Rising. It’s rubbish.

I hope I have made myself clear. I hated this film. Easily the worst film I have watched since I started writing about them on this site.

(In case you were wondering, I deliberately avoided listing character names or describing too much more than the flaws, this film simply doesn’t deserve attention to detail.)

I HATED THIS FILM.

Final Rating – 2.5 / 10. In retrospect I can’t even see where the 2.5 points are earned, I just need room in case something worse comes up. I’ll be waiting a while I think.

I guess Liev lobbied to have his face taken from the poster.Sphere – 1998

Yep. Predictably enough, the biggest budget film with the biggest stars is pretty much the Biggest disappointment.

…America’s best and brightest across many fields are helicoptered to the middle of the ocean after being informed they are to assist with the aftermath of a plane crash. Upon arriving at the site they soon realise that this is not the case, and we soon realise that their actual specialties are irrelevant, for from here on in all they seem to do is compare IQs and one-up each other in the bad decision department.

Some guy that looks like Eric Roberts is the boss of the mission. He briefs the group and let’s them in on the real truth of the matter; a sunken UFO has been found and now that the army has had the chance to construct an underwater base from which to commence investigations, the brains trust are to be unleashed.

The quartet include Dr Norman (Dustin Hoffman), a psychologist, Dr Beth (Sharon Stone), a biomechanist, Dr Harry (Samuel L Jackson) the mathemagenius, and Dr Ted (Liev Schreiber) the astrophysicist. Despite their disparate skill-sets all four have dealt with each other in the past (were there other alien discoveries?), with rivalries and resentment already evident among some. Soon after they commence the trip to the murky depths the team are told that a storm is coming which may impact communications with the outside world and that they will be unable to return to the surface until after a lengthy decompression period.

After a short break at the underwater home base and ‘jumping off’ point, the Docs enter the facility. This is where the confusion starts, and unfortunately it will be a long time before it ends. They make discoveries strange and frankly nonsensical, amazingly the least crazy of which is a huge glowing sphere that does not seem to reflect the doctors, not does it seem to have mass. Meanwhile at the home base the comms are lost as the storm arrives, dials and computer screens buzz, flicker and blink, and we understand that any mission headed by a guy who even looks like Eric Roberts is doomed before it begins.

I checked out right after the angry jellyfish, yet in spite of my request that the film end immediately the damn thing continued on its dopey way for another 90 minutes – coincidentally the length of Sharon Stone’s career as a movie star.

For the remainder of the film Norman and the gang spend as much time talking to a computer screen as they do to each other, and the tone of each conversation vacillates wildly as suspicions are raised and accusations levied. It seems everyone gets a turn at being the bad guy, and similarly a shot at casting aspersions at their crew mates.

A film that is essentially underwater Event Horizon somehow dodges every opportunity to improve itself, instead stealing only the worst elements from several other better films.

The only thing that unites all characters and viewers is the feeling of confusion and disappointment, as Sphere twists and turns to the extent that it ties itself into one messy knot.

Final Rating – 5 / 10. Sphere, like the 60s funk song, is a ball of confusion.

deepstar-six-poster

Deep Star Six – 1989

The oldest and perhaps most forgettable of these deep sea danger films is Deep Star Six, which features a faceless cast, rudimentary special effects and exactly one decent scene lasting only a few minutes.

Wish the cool poster didn’t suck me in.

Taking place on another undersea rig with a racially diverse crew Deepstar Six takes a long time to get moving. Even when the operation inadvertently opens a hole in the sea floor nothing happens for a long time.

After some strange sonar blips the crew decides to investigate and document. Do these guys know how to party or what?!?

With the operation spread across different segments in separate vessels and locations, it takes a while before the crew are forced together by circumstances. Specifically by an ‘accidental missile launch’ that puts all their lives in danger. Initially everyone points the blame at others for the missile’s firing, however when the same guy who pulled the trigger ‘accidentally’ spears another crewmate minding his own business a few moments later the case for the prosecution has every reason to rest.

This second incident at the hands of the clumsiest guy ever to head below the ocean’s surface occurs in the only decent sequence in the film. I think the poster gives enough of a spoiler to permit me to say that the crew aren’t the only ones capable of killing each other, but like the rest of the film the creature too is adequate but unremarkable in every way.

I did like how it hid in waist deep water though despite being about 12 feet tall…

The effects sequences are all the evidence that you need to prove this film was made in the pre-CGI 80s, with the constant use of miniatures making it seem like you’re watching the events in a fish-tank for an hour and a half.

Final Rating – 5.5 / 10. Deepstar Six is 96 minutes long. None of them are bad. Only 4 are good.

afficheVirus – 1999

Can Jamie Lee Curtis, the queen of low budget crap, save Virus from mediocrity and relegation to ‘crappy movie’ status?

Nope. Virus is awful in every way. Thankfully one of those ways is funny. This at least alleviates some of the pain normally associated with such cinematic tripe.

Captain Everton (Donald Sutherland) is the boss of the Sea Star, a tug boat that has just lost it’s tower amid heavy seas caused by a freak typhoon. It is in the momentary calm within the eye of the storm – that seems to take several hours by the way – that they come across a huge Russian ship floating aimlessly like an unloved rubber duck.

With no response to contact, the rag tag crew of the Sea Star, so anonymous that it is ‘headlined’ by Jamie Lee Curtis and a Baldwin who wouldn’t be selected in the top 5 of a Baldwin pick up game, boa the vessel and find it vacant, with as many signs of life as Demi Moore’s career.

Further investigation shows other causes for concern, but Captain Everton – already a loose cannon by this point – convinces them that bringing in this huge high tech vessel will be worth millions in salvage dollars. Dollars that he will gladly split in as many ways as it will take to convince them.

Only momentary thought is given to why an incredibly expensive and massively kitted out ship could possibly be deserted.

The reason quickly emerges. And it is ridonkulous.

Think Skynet crossed with Short Circuit. The menace aboard this ship is embedded in everything electrical, though it manifests itself by essentially building its own soldiers from metal and computer parts. This results in a lot of running and screaming in corridors as lumbering Radio Shack back shed Terminators of varying sizes peek around corners and bash against walls, while we the audience try to work out if we give a shit as to who is killed next.

We don’t, and only a few days removed from watching the flick I already can’t remember how it ends, but I know this; Virus is as stupid as stupid gets, and I would watch it again laughing incredulously all the way.

Final Rating – 5.5 / 10. From the horrible opening credit sequence to the ridiculous and hackneyed climactic moments, Virus offers the best and worst of B movies in one sloppy package.

LeviathanLeviathan – 1989

Last chance café for the Deep Sea Death series. Can the film with a poster that looks like it takes up from the Deep-Star Six one save the day? And my weekend?

…Some 16 thousand feet beneath the surface of the Atlantic ocean, a deep sea drilling operation is underway. As we are told in the early stages deep sea drilling is a dangerous vocation even in normal conditions, so we might understand how the eight person crew might be on edge 87 days into a 90 day stint.

I mean imagine living in such close proximity, in the same recycled air as you grow first accustomed – then ultimately aggravated by – each others’ traits and foibles. In fact what differentiates Leviathan from the ‘competitors’ in this sub-sea marathon is the strength of the characters. Each one is carefully drawn to the extent that they have backstories, personalities and identities, some of which make the alliances and decisions made later in the film more credible.

Which is a good thing. Because once the already dangerous op discovers the sunken Russian vessel, this could have easily developed a case of ‘Deep Rising-stupidity’, ‘Deepstar-Six-boringness’, ‘Sphere-pointlessness’, or ‘Virus-inanity’. While Leviathan might lack the guilty laughs of the latter, it is in my opinion the best sea-based-crew-terrorised-by-non-human-threat film in this quintet of mediocrity and worse…

Back to the discovery. The Russian boat in this film is quite waterlogged, having been sunk some time previous and the crew with it. The actual investigation of the submerged vessel goes off almost without a hitch, with only a temporary unscheduled break in transmission causing momentary tension. In fact the crew delight at the discovery of some fine vintage Russian vodka, chilled by decades of unplanned storage in the icy depths. A couple of swigs, some brief respite and then the shift continues into the final days…

… Then rough and ready crew member ‘Six Pack’ gets sick. Fast. He dies within hours. Badly. As Six Pack was one of those to go aboard the Russian ship all eyes move uncomfortably to the other members of the boarding party, and those that had contact with Six Pack in the time since he returned.

With the previous warm feelings brought on by the discovery – and the vodka – now gone, the morale sinks back rapidly to new depths. Now the only priority is getting home. But it seems that Six Pack might have brought back more than just a bottle of ancient alcohol.

Leviathan is at times strongly reminiscent of Undersea Alien, with several easy parallels to be drawn from the set up of the crew, namely the ‘hard working stiffs’ vs the ‘padded chair management’. However once it becomes evident that no-one can hear you scream underwater either, the tone changes abruptly to become more like The Thing, and the pace picks up immediately as the survivors start being picked off.

Leviathan is at times tense, at others compelling. It might be a direct result of watching this after the underwhelming Virus that I feel this is the strongest film of the five, but that still doesn’t make it a great or even good film. Granted being in a pressure cooker environment might cause someone to act before thinking, but given what happens in this film I would not be hanging around as my crewmates started coughing and scratching at their sores…

Final Rating – 6.5 / 10. While fine parentage such as Alien and The Thing is admirable, you can’t help but feel you would be better served watching either of the originals.

Seasick Horror Five in Summary

Well that’s it. Five films of the allegedly horrific genre, none of which made me feel anything more than seasick. Nine hours of moisture related mediocrity.

Deep Rising sank horribly and painfully, which happens when Treat Williams is one of your stars. Sphere submerged millions of dollars in budget and the careers of a few actual actors (temporarily). Deep-Star Six was sincere but ironically ‘out of it’s depth’. Virus took to uncharted waters in its failure, but had the sense to remain silly. Leaving Leviathan, at a mighty ‘so-so’ 6.5 as the best of the bunch.

Watch Leviathan if you must, but my advice is stay out of the water… The bends is more fun than this.

As people we are afraid of drowning. We are afraid of going overboard in unchartered waters. We are afraid of giant monsters wherever they may pop up. And if some aren’t they should bloody well be!

With all those fears already acknowledged it’s strange that filmmakers haven’t yet managed to come up with an even half-decent deep sea horror film.

They’ll keep trying, and on the strength of this display they’ll keep failing. I’ll keep watching them all just in case.

OGR

About OGR

While I try to throw a joke or two into proceedings when I can all of the opinions presented in my reviews are genuine.

I don’t expect that all will agree with my thoughts at all times nor would it be any fun if you did, so don’t be shy in telling me where you think I went wrong… and hopefully if you think I got it right for once.

Don’t be shy, half the fun is in the conversation after the movie.

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