Monday, October 20, 2014

31 Days, 31 Horror Movies: Deep Rising

Deep Rising

Look, I like Deep Rising, okay. I've admitted it. That's the first step, right?

Deep Rising should really be called Deep Cheese, or maybe Cheap Cthulhu. It's a low budget monster movie in a decade that really didn't do low budget monster movies very well. You've got Mimic - which is halfway decent. Relic, which is also fairly decent - until the monster arrives. Does Anaconda count? I think so. Godzilla... Let's not count Godzilla. No, that's being mean - let's count Godzilla. Really, the only monster flick in the 1990's that didn't come with a lot of caveats was Tremors, right? Deep Rising is at least as good as Relic. And I had a heckuva lot more fun watching it.

The Medium
I have Deep Rising on Blu-ray. Look, the DVD is out of print, alright? And it was a double disk that also includes The Puppet Masters, so...

That doesn't make it any better, does it? It was $4.97, does that help?

There's no reason for Deep Rising to be on Blu-ray - certainly the picture quality isn't that great and there are no extras (beyond the trailer). It's probably marginally better than an upscaled DVD would be.

The Movie
Deep Rising is an unapologetic B Movie. There's no meta awareness, really, none of the self-referential dialogue that seemed to infest 90's horror films after Scream. There's a monster, there's a hero, there's a damsel, there's bad guys, there's comic relief, there's explosions and gunfire and a lot of running.

I think Roger Ebert called this movie a cheap knockoff of Aliens, except on a boat. I think it's actually a throwback to a much older sort of monster flick. It's really an adventure movie, more like King Kong than Aliens. Treat Williams even looks sort of like those square-jawed heroes of the old black and white monster films, like James Franciscus in The Valley of Gwanji.

"Let's go rope some dinosaurs after this."

The basic setup: John Finnegan (Williams) is transporting a group of mercenaries across the South China Sea. They're rendezvousing with... something. He doesn't ask questions. His crew, Joey the (Kevin O'Connor) and Leila (Una Damon) are a little more nosey and find the mercs have brought torpedoes on board. Meanwhile, a huge ocean liner, the Argponautica, is on its maiden voyage. Somebody sabotages the navigation and communications and then something attacks the ship from below. When Finnegan and the mercs arrive the ship appears deserted, but there are survivors. And of course, there's what they're survivors OF.

Everyone is introduced in typical action movie style, with some kind of unique quirk that's supposed to suffice for character development. There's the sex fiend, the Aussie with a chip on his shoulder, the tech guy, the African badass and so on. They're caricatures, but it's a monster movie and they're all going to be eaten anyway, so why get attached? There's a little more given to the 'good guys' - Finnegan is the Crook With a Good Heart, very much in the same mold as Mal in Firefly. Joey is the Motormouth Mechanical Genius. We've also got Famke Janssen as a high-class thief and Anthony Heald as a slimy businessman, but there's really not a lot of room for them to stretch - there's way too much running for that.

"But what's my motivation?"

The monster design is fairly cool, seemingly based off a bobbit worm (Google it if you feel like giving yourself nightmares.) The creature is all tentacles with hooks and multiple flanged mouths for most of it, but there's a huge thing that shows up near the end that's either octopus or Cthulhu. The biggest drawback is that it's early-days CGI, so it's a bit dodgey at times and too smooth and shiny. (Still better than Relic, though.) Other effects, including a poor, half-digested mercenary, fare better and the gore factor is decent, though the blood and guts is more sticky and pink than slick and red.

I am NOT cleaning this up.

Things go pear shaped pretty quickly once our heroes arrive and there's a substantial amount of running, shooting and screaming. Parts of the film resemble disaster movies, including a bit where the survivors have to traverse a sunken corridor to get to safety. (Spoiler - they don't all make it.)

I like the humor of the film quite a bit, but it's one of those things that could make or break it for you. Kevin O'Connor makes the best of the gags he's given and his resigned way of admitting how stupid they are is sort of endearing. One of my favorite bits involves a merc who's already being partly eaten by the creature. He gestures to Joey to give him a gun that Joey has and Joey, realizing that eating a bullet would be more merciful than being eaten alive, gives it to him. And then the merc shoots at Joey! Joey screams "Asshole!" as he runs. The merc shrugs, then puts the gun to his temple - but that was the last bullet. Serves him right.

The ending of the film is the best part, though (no, not in the same way as hitting yourself with a hammer). The survivors find themselves on an island, so far so good. Then a roar erupts from the jungle and the camera pans back to give us a shot of your typical Monster Island setup with a volcano erupting in the background and some huge - thing - tearing up trees by the roots as it makes its way to the beach and our heroes.

Do I see Marshall, Will and Holly?

The Bottom Line
There's not a lot of real quality meat in Deep Rising - it's all Grade-Z, mostly circus animals, some filler. It's horror movie junk food - but sometimes that's what you crave and a good steak-and-cheese (hold the steak) can be just as satisfying as a filet mignon if you're in the right mood.

I would totally have gone to see a sequel.

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