Saturday, 22 October 2011

Deep Rising (Film review)

When it comes to the filmgoing public, everyone has at least one bad filmmaker they love. Directors who either churn out laughably bad scripts and fantastically cheesy pictures, or studios who produce endless streams of laudably bad movies. The Asylum, Paul W. S. Anderson, Roger Corman, Ed Wood, Uwe Boll if you’re particularly deranged, we all have our favourites. My own favourite is a bit of a dubious one as, unlike some of the above listed examples, he’s made some well-known and commercially successful films. His name? Stephen Sommers, the creator of the Van Helsing and Mummy films, and the guy who had a main character killing a Cobra with a forklift. When it comes down to his films they’re undoubtedly bad, self-referential hamtastic but above all fun. Especially when riffing on them MST3K style.

Despite his overall fame, or infamy depending upon your opinion of him, his best flick is probably the least known one: Deep Rising.
The overall plot is fairly simple: a group of people on a smaller boat are planning to pull up alongside a cruise liner and rob it while the thing is at sea. When they board the boat they quickly realise something is missing and very much amiss with the crew and passengers all being dead or missing. The protagonists quickly begin to realise they are not alone and something on board is stalking them, worm-like sea monsters which latched onto the liner’s underside and forced their way on-board.

It’s undeniably stupid and has some fairly obvious shortcomings, but it’s definitely a fun horror film which balances humour with scares and a lot of lampshading of clich├ęs. Probably the most famous example of this within the film’s small following is the guns the protagonists use, which are prototype handheld miniguns with thousands of bullets. The reason for this? The writers needed a way to get around the characters having seemingly unlimited ammunition. Yep, it’s that kind of movie.

The biggest reason to watch this when it was first released would have been the effects. For its time the CGI was fairly good with some occasionally great moments, the poster openly advertising the effects team on it, but on the whole it has not aged well.
It looks like the sort of CGI you’d get in the background scenes of the Star Wars prequels or Lost in Space, and while it does give the whole film a great B-movie vibe you can’t help but feel they should have gone with animatronics over them. In spite of this Deep Rising thankfully does have some pretty good physical effects when it can’t directly show its monsters. It’s usually here that they’re at their most effective, because when they are moving about they’re frequently slamming into things or ripping up the floor, shredding the scenery in an incredibly satisfying manner. It feels far more intense than when they’re fully visible on screen.

Speaking of the scenery though, the cast spends a lot of time chewing it. There are a lot of recognisable actors amongst the cannon fodder, Anthony Heald, Jason Flemyng, Clint Curtis to name a few, all of who deliver the sort of performances you’d want in a film like this. Heald is especially noticeable for hamming the film up in every scene he’s in, but again it’s something which is in all honesty totally fitting of the film and blends well with the humour and fast pace of events.

The film does have a horror element with its monsters and they actually have a few good ideas behind them. How they devour people is gruesomely original and allows for the gore to be ramped up to the level you’d see in the Evil Dead films. What they do is they swallow a character alive and begin to painfully digest them, draining their fluids and using them for sustenance before spitting whatever is left of the person back out. Throughout all this, even after being spat back out, the person is still alive and dies shortly afterwards.
That’s got to rank up there with facehuggers in terms of unpleasant science fiction deaths.

All in all, the film is enjoyable to watch. It tanked at the box office and people have somehow gotten it into their heads that it is a blatant Aliens rip off, how I’ll never know, but as something to watch on Halloween you could do much worse than this. It’s cheap to buy these days and the film’s trailer is up on youtube, so I’d suggest checking it out if you’ve got nothing better to see this year.

Deep Rising and all related characters and media belong to Hollywood Pictures.

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