Sunday, July 17, 2011

#345. Leviathan (1989)

Directed By: George P. Cosmatos

Starring: Peter Weller, Richard Crenna, Amanda Pays, Daniel Stern

Tag line: "The True Meaning of Fear"

Trivia:  Very few scenes in this film were actually shot underwater

Leviathan borrows heavily from a pair of Sci-Fi / Horror classics: 1979's Alien (A motley crew of miners, miles from civilization, are hunted by a strange life form) and 1982's The Thing (Without going too heavily into spoilers, let's just say the “strange life form” I'm referring to has a lot in common with John Carpenter's snow-bound alien). To say Leviathan doesn't measure up to the films that “inspired” it isn't exactly fair; truth is, most fall short when compared with these two. The problem with Leviathan is that it only mimics Alien and The Thing up to a certain point, adopting similar ideas and situations, but failing to infuse them with the raw tension necessary to bring it all to life. 

Miles below the ocean's surface, a team of miners are days away from completing their 3-month assignment when they make a startling discovery. Hidden deep within a chasm, two of the miners: Six-Pack (Daniel Stern) and Williams (Amanda Pays) stumble upon the remains of a Russian ship named Leviathan, which, from the looks of the wreckage, was intentionally sunk. When the two return with a safe they found hidden on-board the Leviathan, they also bring with them a dangerous organism, one that threatens the safety of the entire group, and neither their boss, Beck (Peter Weller), nor the doctor (Richard Crenna) know how to stop it. 

It isn't long before Leviathan starts showing the cracks in its armor. In the opening moments of the film, the entire mining team is hard at work on the ocean floor when one of them, a young guy named DeJesus (Michael Carmine), suffers a malfunction in his protective suit. To make matters worse, the doctor, who's supposed to be manning mission control with Beck, is nowhere to be found. With time running out, Beck, who has little command experience and no medical training whatsoever, must act quickly if he's to have any hope at all of saving DeJesus. Sounds pretty exciting, doesn't it? Well, it isn't. In fact, this entire sequence is paced far too methodically to generate even the slightest bit of suspense. It's a problem that will plague Leviathan for the bulk of it's running time, and even when the creature is finally loose inside the base, knocking off miners one-by-one in the most gruesome ways imaginable, it's hard to give a damn about any of it. 

The few scenes that do work in Leviathan (the film's best moment involves the premature disposal of two dead “bodies”) aren't enough to make it a worthwhile experience. Instead of this film, I'd recommend going straight to the source by watching either Alien or The Thing; you'll essentially get the same story, but with these two, at least you know it'll be done right.