Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Film Review: LEVIATHAN (1989, George P. Cosmatos)

Stars: 4 of 5.
Running Time: 98 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Written by David Webb Peoples (UNFORGIVEN, SOLDIER, BLADE RUNNER). Starring Peter Weller (BUCKAROO BANZAI, NAKED LUNCH, ROBOCOP), Ernie Hudson (THE SUBSTITUTE, GHOSTBUSTERS), Richard Crenna (RAMBO, UN FLIC), Amanda Pays (MAX HEADROOM), Daniel Stern (HOME ALONE, narrator on THE WONDER YEARS), Hector Elizando (PRETTY WOMAN, AMERICAN GIGOLO), Meg Foster (THEY LIVE, STEPFATHER II). Music by Jerry Goldsmith (CHINATOWN, ALIEN, RAMBO). Special effects by Stan Winston (PREDATOR, THE TERMINATOR, JURASSIC PARK).
Tag-line: "Welcome to your worst nightmare, welcome to Leviathan." (...Butt-horn?)
Best one-liner: "Say 'Ahhh,' motherfucker!"

"That's JUST great! You tellin' me we got a god damn Dracula in here with us?" Like its human-absorbing, hybrid fish-creature star, LEVIATHAN is a film built entirely from pre-existing components. Everything here, we've seen before, be it in THE THING or ALIEN or THE ABYSS. We've already seen Peter Weller (ROBOCOP) and Ernie Hudson (GHOSTBUSTERS) hoist gigantic futuristic weapons around.

Daniel Stern (HOME ALONE) opens soda cans with his mouth and is always talkin' about how much he'd like the female crew members to sit on his face. There's the British woman (Amanda Pays) who requires no character development, because her accent already tells us that she's a quick-witted expert of some kind. We got Richard Crenna (FIRST BLOOD) sitting in front of an ancient monitor, shaking his head at some statistics, EXACTLY like Wilford Brimley does in THE THING.

The creature even drains the blood supply! We've got a nefarious corporate master played by the evil chick from THEY LIVE.

And it's a cautionary tale: the chain of events (that causes slavering, mutating monsters to emerge) all starts with a practical joke and some purloined booze. Somehow that's even worse than the Jason movies, where sex begets death. Jokin' around equals death? Jeez! Cut us some slack!

Anyway, I don't think I've yet mentioned that I really enjoyed this movie. Like ACTION JACKSON or UNDER SIEGE, you don't really care that it's completely unoriginal. Plus our eel-man comes courtesy of FX master Stan Winston, and the screenplay's by David Webb Peoples (BLADE RUNNER, UNFORGIVEN, TWELVE MONKEYS), so clearly this isn't really catering to the least common denominator. And Weller is great.

Wearing a hot pink and blue trucker hat, he exudes layers of 'performance' (as an actor in the film, and pretending to be a 'tough as nails captain-type' for the benefit of his crew), and ends the film by punching a woman in the face. Only you can get away with that kinda thing, Pete. Four stars.

-Sean Gill


GuyR said...

Just saw this one yesterday.
It sure takes the cake at ripping off the best! I thought it had an uneven pace and some things were a little cheap compared to the films it copies.
But Peter Weller is awesome, as usual, and the ending puch seals the deal : schweet movie!

Sean Gill said...


Heh, yeah it certainly does. Though I never saw any of the other ABYSS-era rip-offs like DEEPSTAR SIX, LORDS OF THE DEEP, THE RIFT, etc. And of course, watching Peter Weller do his thing is always a joy, too.

PrimitiveScrewhead said...

Extremely fun derivative. This film is one of my favorite guilty pleasures. Actually, I don't even feel guilty about it. I loved it. Sure, it has/had a myriad of flaws but... Yeah... It's great. I thought the acting was pretty top notch, good effects. It didn't have the claustrophobic, paranoid, intense or cutoff atmosphere I would have liked. Instead it just goes for the fun, and for the most part, it succeeds.

It's also ten times better than the next 1989 ABYSS-inspired underwater movie (that would be DEEPSTAR SIX). The worst of that bunch was LORDS OF THE DEEP. Shame on you, Corman.

Sean Gill said...

Primitive Screwhead,

This is indeed a damned fun time. I never caught DEEPSTAR SIX, but it's been in my queue forever. Never caught LORDS OF THE DEEP, either, but I've long had an interest in Juan Piquer Simon's (PIECES, SLUGS) entry to the ABYSS-rip-off genre called THE RIFT (it co-stars R. Lee Ermey and Ray Wise and the tag-line was "You Can't Hold your Breath & Scream at the Same Time!") I've just never been able to get my hands on it.