Jarv’s Schlock Vault: Leviathan
I realise you must have gone through hell.
Gone, Bitch! We’re still here!
Jarv’s Rating: 2.5 Changs out of 4. Enjoyable monster film.
Recently, much against my better judgement, I’ve been revisting things I saw on VHS when a child that I remember really enjoying. I always find this to be a somewhat risky proposition; on one hand there’s been the undeniably classic Split Second, but on the other there’s also been the somewhat disappointing Critters 2. Leviathan falls somewhere between the two of them, being a great monster movie, but not the film I remembered.
This is my second attempt at writing this review. My first attempt was a valiant effort to make it all the way through without mentioning any of The Thing, Alien or The Abyss, but that turned out to be impossible. So this time out I’m mentioning all of them right at the start. Leviathan is basically a cross between Alien, The Thing and The Abyss without being anywhere near as good as those three. It’s derivative as fuck, but still manages to remain fun.
Leviathan is the story of a group of undersea miners that are terrorised by a monster. If I outline the plot in detail, then it’s flagrantly obvious what it is copying. A group of miners working for the nefarious Tri-Oceanic Corp happen across an abandoned Soviet ship. They misguidedley bring back some loot, one of them gets infected and the crew are picked off one by one, before the survivors escape killing the beast. In the meantime, it turns out all the crew are expendable.
Sound familiar? Swap “undersea” for “deep space” and “Soviet ship” for “Crashed Alien Spaceship” and that could be a neat synopsis of Alien. To make things more derivative, the doctor on board decides that the only course of action is to sacrifice themselves to save humanity, which could be straight out of The Thing, as could the fact that they review video footage of the Leviathan’s last days.
Regardless of how derivative Leviathan is, the first half of it is still top-notch stuff, and this is generally down to the cast. Peter Weller plays Beck, and is on good form, but his support of Richard Crenna, Amanda Pays, Ernie Hudson, Hector Elizondo and Daniel Stern all turn in really enjoyable performances. The characters may be a touch clichéd, and by a touch I mean the touch of an Elephant, but that doesn’t matter a jot to the actors who all put in professional turns.
The set design is straight out of the Abyss, not that that is a bad thing, and the spacesuits diving suits remind me of both the suits in Alien and the diving suits from Cameron’s water going masterpiece. The dialogue is witty, and the score adds to the excitement. All in all, it has to be said that director Cosmatos did a solid, if uninspired, job in most respects.
The exception, and probably the single bit of flair in what would otherwise be quite an unremarkable effort is the monster: homo aquatis. Stan Winston was hired for the creature effects, and the brief- a fish headed monster that absorbs its victims who must still be facially recognisable (somewhat like The Thing, on which point- if it gets a bit cut off then that bit can work independently) must have been a right bastard. Cosmatos went through 60 different designs before settling on the final one, and I have to say that all the hard work really paid off. It’s an excellent monster, although they do also make the wise decision to hide it in shadow for most of the film. In the days of shit CGI being ubiquitous, I have to say that I really enjoy watching these 80’s films which held practical effects sacrosanct. They look great, and they really haven’t aged either. Top work all round.
There are problems with this film though, and they all come in the last third. The escape sequence just isn’t exciting compared to the films it borrows off. That isn’t to say that there isn’t any tension at all, because there is, but it feels a bit lacklustre, especially when compared to the lovingly put together first half. The timer is set on the rig, in this case because it’s due to implode due to the monster buggering up something in the pipes, so the characters have to make it to their only reasonable source of escape. However, I never felt for a second that the main characters weren’t going to make it. Also, to be honest, there are too many of them trying to escape. By this stage of the film, there should be one escapee, the rest should all be fucked. Preferably it should have been the female character, Willie, but it would have been fine with either Beck or Jones. What it is not fine with is all three of them, as they can hold the doors open for each other, or if one of them gets in a bit of shit then they can help out. Both of which instances occur.
Overall, would I recommend it? I have to say that despite the slightly flat last act, I think I would. It really is good fun, especially the first half, and the acting is miles above par. Furthermore, the monster is superb, and any film with practical effects in it as good as these are is more than worthy of a spin. It isn’t the best monster film I’ve ever seen, and it isn’t remotely as good as the three films that it is clearly derived from, but all in all Leviathan is a fun 80’s creature feature.
Anyway, any film that includes the pay off line “Say hi motherfucker” is well aware of how dumb it is, and as such is always going to be entertaining.
Until next time,