I had seen this at the theater when it was out and it definitely showed me a good time. Plus it features the fabulous Famke Janssen, in a fairly fun role for her, and she’s always delightful to see. This was directed by Stephen Sommers, before he rose to fame with the Mummy pictures, and it is an early example of his sense of goofy fun unfettered by logic. Mr. Sommers is currently rotting away at Guantamino Bay for cinematic crimes against humanity related to his releasing of the poisonous Van Helsing into crowded theaters in 2004.
We open with an ominous title informing us that there are spots in the ocean that are like, SUPER deep, and lots of ships disappear there for unexplained reasons. This is followed by a monster’s-eye POV sequence as it swims long the ocean floor, where we see a variety of sunken ships going way back to Galleon times. We then have the credits, giving us time to ponder what the title could possibly mean. Is the deep itself rising? Or is there a type of rising that is particularly deep?
So now we meat Treat Williams as Finney [aka Finn] who drives a mercenary ship delivering a cargo of thugs and their payload to a point in the middle of the ocean. He makes a point of just taking the money and not asking any questions. With him is hot Asian Layla and annoying mechanic geek Joey, who speaks in a Bobcat Golthwait rasp and never shuts up, which is supposed to be charming. Joey snoops and discovers that the payload they’re delivering are some big-ass bombs. They are driving through the contractually-obligated big storm.
We now have a digitally-assisted zoom toward a huge cruise liner that seems to follow right inside into the ballroom. This is the maiden voyage of the huge ship, which is the most expensive ever or something, is filled with rich, mostly Asian passengers, and boasts a Chinese decorating theme. The owner of the ship is Canton, who, we will soon discover, hired the thugs to steal the jewels in the vault and sink the ship for the insurance money. Also interested in those jewels is Famke as Trillian, who steals the security card off some guy and heads down to the vault, where she gets caught. They lock her in there as punishment.
So Canton uploads a virus that shuts the ship completely down and leaves it dead in the water. Then, suddenly, the ship is rammed by… something… and we have a bunch of disaster-movie shots of the partygoers being thrown off balconies and such. In the panic, one woman takes refuge on a toilet and is soon pulled down through the tiny opening by some monster. This, of course, requires us to think about whatever icky tentacles the monster has coming right up at her exposed orifices. Meanwhile, Finn and the thugs run into one of the cruise ship’s lifeboats, which causes Finn’s ship to be disabled and need repairs, as is often the case in movies like this. And, although the engine needs serious work and they have no power, they somehow manage to move it quite a ways RIGHT to the cruise ship and tie themselves up right outside the big hole. As if by MAGIC!
They are stunned to find no one aboard, and there is a short scene in which the thugs display their sheer enjoyment of firing off machine guns. One of these thugs [they are a multiethnic rainbow coalition] is a super-hot Australian, at right. As you can guess, a few of the thugs get snapped up by the beasties, as does Layla, who stayed behind to repair the ship and was menaced by one of those pesky leaping corpses. Soon they open the vault and discover Canton and later, Trillian. In here is a lot of talk about “Those things are everywhere,” although later it kind of seems like there’s just one, and this confuses me to this day.
SPOILERS > > >
So they get in an elevator to go to the top, but it ends up plunging—and plunging like 50 stories, although there are clearly at most 15 levels to the ship. At the bottom they get a good look at the monster, which appears to be a big snake with a mouth that opens out in multiple mandibles toward a big, Vagina-like throat. We also see one of the thugs that got taken earlier, still alive, but with a hole in his skull exposing his brain and a hole that lets you see right through his hand. It seems that the creature swallows you whole then slowly digests you while you’re still alive. Lovely!
By now we’ve had reason to note that Famke and Treat Williams have a pleasant, easy chemistry together, and that Treat is quite well-suited as a hero of this type. Then they find out that the tentacles can shut and lock doors, and is herding them in a particular direction. They end up splitting up, and in one of my favorite touches, a thug shoots the annoying Joey [who is in high gear annoyance mode by this point] just to give the monster something to eat—other than him. Unfortunately, he lives.
So Famke and Treat end up in the ballroom together when Treat gets picked up by a tentacle and then we see that it’s just part of this massive octopus. Cool! But wait a minute—are they saying that it’s been one monster all along, and its just been using its arms to feel all along the corridors to menace our heroes up to this point? Or are there multiple octopi? Or is there one big octopus and a lot of separate worm-things? I’m not sure we’ll ever know.
Anyway, they escape, but by now Canton has gone full-on crazy and is going to do that thing where he’s obsessed with his original plan and it doesn’t make an impression on him that circumstances have changed and he needs to just worry about getting out alive. At one point it seems as though he’s going to rape Famke and it’s like—so the ship is going to explode in a few minutes and you’ve got a hungry indestructible monster around every corner, yet you’re going to take time out NOW to rape this woman? It’s just one of the ways the movie tries to raise all sort of distasteful possibilities in order to titillate its audience.
So they escape and get to the required nearby island [I thought they were miles from any land?] and the movie has a bit of a witty ending. First we discover that annoying Joey is STILL alive, despite being almost sure he was dead. And now they’re stuck on a desert island with him. Anyway, they’re standing on the beach, when they hear the roar of ANOTHER crazed beastie, and a long shot shows us these trees being ripped up, King Kong-style, as something travels toward them. It’s funny and lighthearted, and is a good, goofy ending.
< < < SPOILERS END
All-round, pretty good! Sure it’s just a compilation of monster movie clichés and well-worn situations, but it acknowledges that and has fun with it, and keeps the mood light and fun throughout, even during its horror moments. It has fairly likeable characters, made more approachable by the fact that none of them is a crusading do-gooder, but are all mercenaries and thieves. And you have Treat Williams, who one doesn’t often see, let alone see in roles like this, where his intrinsic lightness works for the character. Famke isn’t quite right for her slippery jewel-thief character [she seems best matched to Jean Grey, where she can be tough but also deep and vulnerable], but she’s always welcome and she has a great chemistry with Williams. And it’s got a lot of fun scares and a suitably gross monster.
This can be seen as an early example of Stephen Sommers’ brand of post-Spielberg entertainment, where you try to have a ton of action elements going on at once, logic be damned [The cruise ship is undergoing a once-in-a-lifetime jewel heist/sinking and at that MOMENT they encounter a sea beast unknown to man?], trying to generate a frisson from all the breakneck pace of all these crazy elements going off at once. Here it kind of works because of the inherent silliness of the material and how the movie plays with that, but one can see this formula getting strained in his later movies—particularly when he tries to add an element of emotional depth, which only negates the fun of the goofy parts. So while the first Mummy was kind of fun in an inane way, the second one, where we had some hand-wringing over an adorable tot, was pretty much a bummer, and then Van Helsing with its floating dead woman in the sky represented the nadir of Western Civilization.
Anyway, but this one is fun, so go for it.
Yes, it’s a goofy, crackling monster movie that only wants to show you a good time.