Saturday, October 29, 2011

In short: Leviathan (1989)

The crew (played by an ensemble consisting of Peter Weller, Amanda Pays, Richard Crenna, Ernie Hudson, Hector Elizondo, Michael Carmine, Lisa Eilbacher and Daniel Stern that isn't exactly challenged by the material) of an experimental deep sea mining project is looking forward to the end of their stay underwater in just three days; it's probably just early enough to keep people from kicking the shit out of each other.

Things take a turn for the unpleasant when the dumbest, most unpleasant and least long-lived of the crew stumbles upon a sunken Russian military vessel, the "Leviathan". Finding a ship and stealing its safe are one, of course. The safe doesn't contain much of value: there are the personal effects of quite a few dead Russians, a videotape speaking of some kind of plague on board, and a bottle of vodka. Personally, I'd abstain from drinking that particular stuff, even if I were into harder drinks, what with it coming from a plague ship and all, but then I'm not a character in a horror movie. It won't come as much of a surprise when the fittingly named Sixpack and his female buddy Bowman show fewer inhibitions toward suicide and soon come down with a lethal case of severe genetic mutations.

The dead crewmen don't stay dead, though, or rather, after some time their bodies transform into a single monster with too many mouths, tentacles and other fun appendages that then proceeds to go on a rampage. As if a deadly monster on board of a deep sea station weren't enough, the surviving crew members take their dear time before they decide to evacuate. Once they do, they learn why one shouldn't work for a company with Meg Foster in a leading position.

Leviathan is another film belonging to the small yet fun late 80s SF horror movie sub-genre that - probably trying to borrow some of the fire of James Cameron's Abyss (aka "be nice, or we'll kill you all, for we are space Americans") - puts either Alien or Aliens from space into the deep sea. While this isn't the height of creativity, I always do respect the willingness of certain producers to rip off more than one successful movie at once; it sure is more interesting than ripping off only one film.

In George Pan Cosmatos' (a director without a directorial personality if ever I saw one) Leviathan, the producers decided to borrow from the first Alien movie (and a bit of The Thing, too, for good measure), just without everything that could be read as feminist, and in general without much of that "subtext" stuff the eggheads are always talking about. That Cosmatos isn't as great at building a mood of dread even before the monsters appear as Ridley Scott was will come as no surprise. However, to be fair to the movie at hand, it's perfectly entertaining if you don't compare it with the film it's ripping off, and instead just roll with its ambition of being a decent monster flick taking place underwater.

Cosmatos is certainly competent competent enough when it comes to staging gory (and pleasantly rubbery) effects scenes. The effects themselves aren't works of genius but certainly do suggest that someone on the effects team liked his shape-changing anime creatures with heads and mouths at the wrong places well enough. Which does come in handy for me, as I do too.

I'm also bound to like a competently made traditional monster movie, no matter if it takes place in New York, in space or underwater, so Leviathan is fine by me.


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