Deep Rising (1998) – A Review
A group of mercenaries and thieves board a luxurious cruise ship in the middle of the ocean all for their own nefarious purposes. However, something very strange is going on.
There’s not a passenger in sight! Where did everyone go? What happened? Something must be wrong here! They uncover the mystery when they encounter a sea monster that is gorily dispatching every human it can get it’s long slimy tentacles on.
Now they have to figure out a way to get off this ship to safety! It’s a good thing the group has a bunch of guns with an endless supply of bullets, handy zippy one-liners for any given situation and a pack of movie clichés to fall back on that might help them survive this seafaring voyage.
Deep Rising is such a silly, stupid grabbag of other movies it’s hard not to view it as a cheap knock-off to better action and horror movies. Right from the start other films flashed before my eyes – The Poseidon Adventure, Aliens, Anaconda, Leviathan, you can just go on and on with similar stuff that this movies does. It’s like they tried to create a ‘greatest hits’ of horror/action movies and anything they could even remotely steal they did. So there’s nothing that we haven’t seen before.
But that’s not to say it doesn’t have some charm and in some instances is a fun, goofy, B-movie that I could understand it moving into the category of a ‘guilty pleasure’ for some movie fans. It almost appears that was the intention writer and director Stephen Sommers was gunning for with Deep Rising. The movie wasn’t designed to break new ground or offer anything new, but to just simply give fans a fun, entertaining monster movie.
The cast fills the prototypical roles for a movie like this. The no-nonsense soldiers, the slimy, never-can-be trusted suit, the wacky comedy relief, the sexy kick-ass girl and of course the everyday joe who rises to the challenge, is super cool all the while and has some of the most quote worthy dialogue out of anyone.
Treat Williams is the standout here as John Finnegan. He is fun to watch and seems to be enjoying playing the action lead with a sense of humor in this monster romp. I imagine he was not the first choice here. I always thought when I saw Williams in a movie it was because a list of other actors had passed on the project and it eventually ended up on his name.
He’s not bad though. The movie does try to provide him with a recurring catchphrase with, “Now what?”. He utters this everytime a new monster action sequence is about to begin. It’s so blatantly obvious they’re trying to make it a memorable line it’s amusing.
The rest of the cast aren’t particularly memorable. They are given their cookie-cutter roles and for the most part they fulfill their duties adequately enough. The tough guy soldiers begin with a real gung-ho attitude but not surprisingly they’re picked off one-by-one as the movie progresses.
Anthony Heald makes for a fine devilish slimeball ship owner. I’m used to seeing him playing a dishonorable jerk that when he showed up here I knew he’s trouble and has to have some hidden agenda. They might have done better if they went the untraditional route casting that part, but what the heck the guy is really good at playing those roles.
Famke Janssen plays Trillian St. James a thief who’s onboard to steal whatever jewels she can get her hands on. She arrives on the scene as a smart woman who can handle herself and that’s pretty much how she runs through the rest of the movie. She does look great in this.
Janssen was a last second addition to the cast and it made me wonder why she agreed to be in this. Deep Rising did have a pretty decent-sized budget. This wasn’t really a cheap production and I imagine there were bigger hopes of success when they were making it. It bombed pretty bad though and wasn’t really a film that helped Janssen’s career in between her appearance in GoldenEye and the start of the X-Men films.
So everyone is running down dark corridors, knee-high water-filled rooms, getting trapped in elevators, you know all that jazz while avoiding these monster things with tentacles. There’s apparently a really big one hanging out somewhere too.
The movie doesn’t really try to offer up a clear explanation as to what these things are, where they come from or how they got on the ship. They came from the bottom of the ocean and that’s good enough. Maybe if they had a scientist in the group they could have come up with a theory, but as it stands the cast knows it’s a dangerous monster so let’s get out of here! Simple enough. Probably better they didn’t do much explaining.
The monster themselves don’t look very special. They kinda look like slimy graboids. There’s that 90’s CGI that might have looked passable at the time, but now looks much more antiquated.
Although on the plus side there is some effective use of practical gore and body parts throughout the movie. The roomful of skeletal remains is convincingly disgusting. All those effects hold up well enough.
There’s a certain amount of self-referential attitude about Deep Rising. The filmmakers knew what kind of movie they were making and it has a less serious attitude than what one might think going into it. I mean, the constant wisecracks and one-liners are evidence of this. Along with their endless supply of bullets they can fire at the creatures. Hey, why not!
Yet, that doesn’t help make it any more entertaining than if they played it completely straight. I just couldn’t get into the spirit of it and it was certainly not as well-made a satiric monster movie as say compared to Tremors. It has a few funny moments, mainly thanks to Williams and it gets some mileage out of its tongue-in-cheek tone, but the majority of it is watching tedious carbon copy scenes from much better movies.