1998, R, 106 min. Directed by Stephen Sommers. Starring Treat Williams, Famke Janssen, Anthony Heald, Kevin J. O'Connor, Wes Studi, Derrick O'Connor, Jason Flemyng, Djimon Hounsou.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Jan. 30, 1998
“Cheese Rising” might have been a more apt title for this Giant Monster from the Depths throwback. Despite its obvious drawbacks, however, this patently silly horror show is good, stupid fun if you can just manage to leave your intellect at home for a while. Sommers (The Adventures of Huck Finn) is well and truly into the spirit of Roger Corman here, although with some blisteringly wicked special effects work from longtime genius Rob Bottin (The Thing, The Howling) and Dream Quest Images (The Abyss, Total Recall), the film manages the look and feel of something far more than the sum of its many-tentacled parts. Williams plays Finnegan, a seadog-for-hire who rents his boat to a gaggle of modern-day pirates planning on looting a giant cruise ship in the South China Sea. Things go predictably amiss when the intended target turns out to be devoid of (human) life, and has instead become the feeding ground for some kind of giant sea anemone from the deep. Luckily, the pirates (led by Studi and Amistad's Hounsou) have brought along a baker's dozen of cruise missiles (!) and a small arsenal left over from Schwarzenegger's last action film. Anyone who's ever seen such classics as It Came From Beneath the Sea! knows that tentacles + firepower = fun, and despite Deep Rising's off-the-scale cheese factor, it's still a rollicking good time, frequently poking fun at itself and assorted horror film conventions. There's a priceless scene during which ship designer Heald takes a preposterous stab at explaining the origin of the creature (“It appears to be a giant form of Astopithea Mastopopius [or something like that],” he states, and then leaves it at that, to the howls of the audience. Brilliantly goofy scenes like that keep the film from sliding into outright pretentiousness and make for an enjoyably ridiculous ride. Also on board are Goldeneye's Janssen as a leggy thief and the priceless Kevin J. O'Connor as Finnegan's wisecracking engineer, the kind of character you just know is going to die but ends up getting all the best lines. While the film is essentially Aliens aboard a luxury liner, Sommers keeps thing fast and loose, negotiating some splendid action set-pieces within the cramped confines of the mammoth ship (christened the “Argonautica,” in tribute to pioneer effects master Ray Harryhausen's Jason and the Argonauts, I'll bet). It's brainless, bloody fun, but fun nonetheless.