Sunday, November 04, 2012

I Think It's The Girl From Ipanema

DEEP RISING is one of the best monster movies you've never seen. Mill Creek Entertainment just released it on Blu-ray along with THE PUPPET MASTERS, a decent but flawed film adaptation of the Robert A. Heinlein novel. Currently available at Amazon for less than nine bucks, this disc would be worth it for DEEP RISING alone. Consider the Heinlein film a glorified extra. Both films look sharp in 1080p, though PUPPET MASTERS' audio is lacking.

But let's talk more about DEEP RISING, an exciting and often hilarious man-against-monster flick set on the high seas. Made with energy, wit, and tongue-in-cheek style, Hollywood Pictures and distributor Buena Vista did it a real disservice, saddling it with a confusing title (what’s a Deep Rising?) and giving it a post-Christmas January 1998 release with the rest of the flotsam studios don’t think they can sell. Stephen Sommers, DEEP RISING’s writer and director, who went on to A-list action features like VAN HELSING and G.I. JOE, effectively mixes humor and horror, and leading man Treat Williams, who hammed up the villain role in THE PHANTOM, portrays his devil-may-care hero with tongue pushed deftly into cheek.

John Finnegan (Williams) is an adventurer who rents his boat to anyone willing to pay cash—“If the cash is there, we do not care.” He and his crew, including sexy spitfire Leila (Una Damon) and bumbling mechanic Pantucci (Sommers regular Kevin J. O’Connor), transport sinister Hanover (Wes Studi) and his gang of terrorists to the middle of nowhere, where the bad guys plan to hijack a luxurious floating casino. However, when they arrive, the cruise ship has been trashed, blood is splashed everywhere, but no bodies are found.

A few survivors finally appear, including a gorgeous jewel thief named Trillian St. James (Famke Janssen, who had just starred as Bond girl Xenia Onatopp in GOLDENEYE). It quickly becomes clear that the passengers and crew were consumed by slithering sea monsters (designed by THE THING’s Rob Bottin) with long tentacles with mouths and big teeth at the end of them that “drink their victims alive and excrete the skeletal remains.”

Sommers takes time to set up the geography of the cruise ship and the relationships among the characters (maybe a little too much time), and then jumps into the action with guns literally a-blazing. The obligatory scientific explanation of the monsters’ origin is quickly dispensed with in a winking tone (‘cause who really cares), and the CGI creature effects manage to be genuinely unsettling and gory. The cast is careful not to go over the top, and the deft comic moments never overwhelm the scares nor dilute the monsters’ sense of menace.

DEEP RISING was no hit, opening at number eight while TITANIC was still topping the box office charts, so we never got the sequel promised by the clever final shot. Jerry Goldsmith’s energetic score adds heft to the action and thrills, and Williams and Janssen look as though they’re having a ball. Anthony Heald (BOSTON PUBLIC), Trevor Goddard (MORTAL KOMBAT), Jason Flemyng (X-MEN: FIRST CLASS), Cliff Curtis (COLOMBIANA), Djimon Hounsou (BLOOD DIAMOND), and Derrick O’Connor (DAREDEVIL) co-star.


Rick Robinson said...

I rented this one a couple of months after it came out on VHS (or was it DVD?) and thought it was okay for what it was and tried to be, bur nothing to rave about. Still, I would have rented a sequel if they had made it and maybe that was the problem, it should have been straight to video.

Thomas T. Sueyres said...

Never seen? My friend, I saw this in the theater when it came out! We had fun, but for some reason I haven't seen it since. I definitely should fix that.

Jack Badelaire said...

One of my trash-film-phile friends back in film school saw this and told me I needed to check it out. I remember thinking it was pretty entertaining fun, a schlocky B-movie a step above sci-fi channel movies. I probably won't pick it up, although if this makes it to Netflix instant any time soon, I'll give it a re-watching.

Marty McKee said...

Jack, for under $10 (it was under $9 when I got mine), it's a good deal (plus a free extra movie!). Your friend's description--schlocky B-movie a step above SyFy--is accurate, as far as it goes.

Harry44 said...

Scored this at Wal Mart for $5. Thanks for the recommendation.