Saturday, February 6, 2016

Deep Rising (1998) Review:

When Ridely Scott’s Alien (1979) was first released, it was one of the first films to depict realistic horror in the setting of space. During the beginning of the last half of the 20th century, space exploration had a big influence on culture and society. Making the leap forward in science and technology made people very curious about what was beyond our planet. One of the most imaginative movies to be released during the 1970s was the ever popular Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977). It was an ambitious movie and was a large stepping stone for future filmmakers. For Alien (1979), what made it memorable was that it explored the darker side of space and how dangerous it could be. Ever since Ridley Scott’s original film, many directors and writers attempted to recreate that formula. This formula ended up molding into the form of people aboard trapped vessels with a monster on the loose inside. During the late 1980s, the setting took place underwater. During the late 1990s, the setting then moved to ship derelicts.

"You know I'm the best actor here"
Written and directed by upcoming filmmaker Stephen Sommers, this action horror flick is fun but on a very average level. There a number of good components but there's also an equal amount of the bad too. The plot is about a boat transport crew finding out the people who hired them brought explosives with them. Simultaneously they come across an abandoned cruise liner that has a lack of life in it. However, they are not aware of what lurks on the ship. This is just the skimmed version. The writing tends to be a hodge podge of ideas that sometimes feels random and convoluted. The characters don't receive enough development and most of their fates are predictable and cliché. There are even subplots about character backgrounds that are brought up only to be forgotten. What's the point then? There's also forced exposition by certain characters that only serve the purpose of the plot and nothing else. Topping that off is a slew of characters that aren't very likable.

Leading this group of individuals is John Finnegan (Treat Williams), a headstrong navigator who thinks saying "now what" will be the next big catchphrase. Following Finnegan is Joey Pantucci (Kevin J. O'Connor), the sidekick complainer. The people Finnegan is transporting is led by Hanover (Wes Studi), a leader who barely changes facial expressions. Under his command is Mulligan (Jason Flemyng), Mamooli (Cliff Curtis), Mason (Clifton Powell), T. Ray (Trevor Goddard) and Vivo (Djimon Hounsou). Aboard the empty ship they come across Simon Canton (Anthony Heald) as the ship's owner and Trillian St. James (Famke Janssen). Of these actors, the only highlight to this cast is Treat Williams because of his B-movie presence. Even with him repeating his non-worthy catchphrase, Williams is able to make his presence known and enjoyable. No other actor matches his skill and that's rather shocking considering Janssen would later be more known for role in X-Men (2000).

The action in this movie is mostly present here. There's probably more of that than gore but they both are there. There's several shootings, explosions and even a couple nasty blunt trauma attacks. For gore, this is actually director Stephen Sommers first rated R film. Before this, all of his works were PG and Sommers definitely shows he wasn't going to be scarce with the carnage. The blood isn't flowing all over the place but there is a hefty amount. This ranges from severed limbs, to skeletons and bloody floors. This particularly belongs to the set design, props and special effects.  If there's one more thing to say that doesn't work, it's the special effects. Not every shot looks really fake but there are moments where the CGI and live-action background do not mix well enough to look authentic. There's also a scene where the distinction is jarringly different. This is when the actual actors are supposed to be touching the monster. The creature design itself is okay though.

Those special effects though...
It's not the most original concept but it does make some gross noises, is rather agile and has an interesting way of killing people. The camerawork was decent though. The director of photography to this project was Howard Atherton. Atherton also worked on Fatal Attraction (1987) and Michael Bay's Bad Boys (1995). Although Atherton's work is competent and captures as much of the set as he can, it does get angular at times. Apparently Atherton likes to have dutch angles. They aren't super tilted but for some it could get annoying. The film score was composed by Jerry Goldsmith, a veteran of this type of film genre. Goldsmith also scored the music to Alien (1979) and Leviathan (1989), of which focused on people being trapped in a small place. The music isn't the most recognizable but it does have a main theme for the title and its monster. The cues also contain a lot of horns and percussion beats to emulate the power of the creature. It's alright.

This movie has been seen before plenty of times with a group of people on an isolated vessel trying to survive a creature attack. It's disappointing too because Treat Williams is literally the only highlight to the cast. The music, action, horror and camerawork are fine but Stephen Sommers' writing didn't get enough revisions. Unfortunately, it's only mediocre at best.

Points Earned --> 5:10

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