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, 


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About Jarv

Workshy cynic, given to posting reams of nonsense on the internet and watching films that have inexplicably got a piss poor reputation.

27 responses to “Jarv’s Schlock Vault: Leviathan”

  1. kloipy says :

    I never did get around to seeing this one. I always liked the cover albiet a ripoff of Jaws among many other posters. I’ll give this one a try. Great review Jarv

  2. Droid says :

    Yeah, I have this at home. Haven’t seen it before. Need to watch it.

    • Jarv says :

      Hope you enjoy it- by no means the worst film that I’ve reviewed

      • Droid says :

        From the sounds of it i’ll enjoy it.

      • Jarv says :

        At the very least, the cast is exceptional for an 80’s film.

        I wonder how this got greenlit. There must have been a fair whack of magic pixie dust going round the studio at that time.

      • Droid says :

        I’d say it got made to capitalise on similar monster movies.

        Looking at Wiki, it’s written by David Peoples and Jeb Stuart, who aren’t exactly chumps. I’d say that I’m surprised it isn’t better after reading that.

      • Jarv says :

        The script IS good- that quote I used is only one of many cracking moments in it-

        It’s the direction, especially in the last third. Cosmatos (who also made Rambo and Tombstone, so in theory should know better than this) got the pacing wrong. There’s one scene in particular that is meant to be a real cliffhanger edge of your seat thing that seems to involve 2 characters looking at what’s happening to the third.

        The first half is all script driven character stuff. We know all about the crew in detail from their dialogue- and it’s really well handled.

      • Droid says :

        Russell has gone on record to say that he directed Tombstone and that he hired Cosmatos because Sly guaranteed that he would let him direct. Which probably means Sly directed Rambo 2 and Cobra as well.

        I have no idea why Russell didn’t just direct it himself though.

  3. lordbronco says :

    To quote the immortal American Movie reviewer Joe Bob Briggs: He called this movie a mashup of of The Abyss and Moby Dick.

    One word:


  4. Tom_Bando says :

    It’s also the same basic plotline as the X From Outer Space. You gotta love the Japanese. Naming their space-base FAFC. You know you can actually do quite a lot w/ those initials if you try hard enough….

  5. xiphos0311 says :

    I don’t remember ever watching this which seems odd. Did this come out before or after fists of fury Cameron’s crappy deep sea movie?

  6. Tom_Bando says :

    It came out after. Was in the winter/spring of 1989, while the Abyss was in ’88.

  7. MORBIUS says :

    Rather enjoyed this film upon first viewing, your review a reminder I should seek it out once again.

    I Come in Peace…

    And you go in pieces asshole!

  8. koutchboom says :

    This sounds like Pandorum. In that its good but not as good as all the shit it steals from.

    I wish they made more movies like these though, just sort of solid fun movies that don’t need to be taken to seriously, and are SyFy.

  9. ThereWolf says :

    Spot on review. Love this movie. But then I’m an utter mug for underwater movies. Even mush-mouthed Amanda Pays doesn’t derail it.

    Annoys me there’s been no decent DVD release. If Deepstar Six can get one, surely this can.

  10. ThereWolf says :

    Fuck knows.

    Who is it, MGM? I think they need a strongly worded e-mail…

  11. DocPazuzu says :

    I love Leviathan.

    Derivative as hell, yes, but produced with panache. Terrific score, great sets, awesome practical effects and a sterling, cynical turn by Richard Crenna (“Good evening. Name’s Thompson. Party of one. My reservation was 8:15.
    Not too near the orchestra, please.”)

    The only true crime of Leviathan was Lisa Eilbacher not getting ’em out, as they looked fan-fucking-tastic in those sweats. Day-um.

    Also, what the hell ever happened to Meg Foster? Creepy looking woman…

    • Jarv says :

      Richard Crenna is awesome in this:

      “Well, I’ll only play 9 holes then”.

      Meg Foster has one of the creepiest stares I’ve ever seen.

      Also the English bird that played Willie is smokin, and there’s a few gratuitous wet T-Shirt shots of her to keep the kids amused.

      In all honesty, I also love this film, but all my problems with it come down to the last act, and how familiar I am with the films it is borrowing from. It just doesn’t measure up.

      Having said that, any film that ends with Peter Weller punching meg foster in the face for leaving him to die is clearly awesome.

  12. Droid says :

    I just watched this. I really enjoyed it even if it was a complete mishmash ripoff of all those films you mentioned. The biggest problem I had, and it probably knocks half a chang (at least) off the rating, is the ending after they surface. It’s laughably stupid, with fucking sharks milling about and that stupid english broad yelling “Jones! Look! Look, Jones! Look!” He can fucking see the helicopter, bitch! He’s the one that shot the fucking flare!

    It was redeemed by the hilarious last line.

    Corporate bitch: How do you feel?


    Becks: Much better.

    And I may be wrong, but I thought his payoff line to the beastie was “Say aah, motherfucker!” cause he’s throwing the explosive in it’s gob.

    I really liked the sets, and it did have good actors in it. Elizondo and Crenna were great.

    Much better than I expected.

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