So for some reason I get juiced to see both this and Deep Rising around the same time, and they both delivered! This one came out the same year as another deep sea monster film, Leviathan, and I always used to get them confused in my mind, but now I realize that there’s a very easy way to remember which is which: Leviathan sucks.
So I see that this DVD is presented in the “Pillarbox” format, which means that the image is a nearly square, TV-sized image, leaving black vertical pillars on the sides. The hallmark of quality! Then we have our credits, during which we receive the good news that this is produced by Mario Kassar and Andrew Vajna, whose names in the 80s MEANT cheesy movie fun. Then we also see that this film features Nia Peebles, who had a few minor 80s dance hits. This film hails from the golden time when music stars were just beginning to get minor roles in films, as opposed to today, where they get movie roles and have clothing lines and fragrances. Why don’t they start having lines of soup? Or toilet bowl cleaner. Rihanna Sparkle Toilet Bowl Cleanser. Can’t you see it now?
So we have the second of our moments of delighted surprise as we see that one of our main characters is going to not only have a beard—virtually unheard-of in the decades since—but be a bearded 80s hunk with spiky hair and looking like he’s late for an aerobics class. Yyyyyessss. He’s got a blonde girlfriend named Collins and they have some relationship talk. And now, here’s where it all came together and I lost it in a singular rush of dopamine to my brain: That this movie hails from that sweet spot in movie history where they were still using MODELS for submarines and spaceships, and these ones are kind of delightfully B-grade, flying past bubbles that would be the size of Volkswagens, and just remain cheesy in the MOST endearing way. They also fly around the seafloor exploration lab like spaceships, and then, when the title came onscreen in THIS font, that’s when I came:
Okay, so we introduce our crew of various characters—if you’ve seen Alien I don’t need to go through them—including Richardson, some very familiar-looking very 80s-type guy, Miguel Ferrer as the snotty and snide Snyder [get it?], and NIA PEEBLES as Scarpelli. Okay, I can’t stand it, and I’m going to have to link you to a Nia Peebles video. She looks like—well, she looks like an 80s dance music star, which makes it HILARIOUS when she’s trying to talk seriously about the scientific knowledge that would be lost if they fail to explore some cavern to look for the biological anomalies [big animals] her research has indicated might live there, all while wearing a hot pink tank top and her hair shellacked into one of those curly blades coming off her forehead. Her seriousness is not helped by her having to run off and work out to blow off her steam, then hop right into the showers. The real misfortune is that she doesn’t turn out to be our final girl—oops, spoiler!
Anyway, for some reason I can’t remember now, they have all these nuclear weapons on the sea floor, and for some other reason, they have to blow a hole in the sea floor. This opens up a hole into a cavern [that Nia just has to explore!] and you know what that means. The two mechanic guys, obvious first victims, send the remote camera in, it gets eaten, and then they decide to follow it. Now, he’s something nit-picky, but amusing: To simulate the undersea environment, the effects people have superimposed floating specks in the water. Only thing is, the specks seemingly turn along WITH the sub when it makes a turn, and the specks reach speeds of 100 MPH at times! Those are some super specks! So the two mechanic guys buy it, then some mean beast comes out into the open sea, and hits the remote lab where Collins is, causing it to slide almost off the required nearby precipice. Oh, and by the way, you’ll notice that even though the model is hanging off the precipice at a sharp angle, the inside of the lab remains perfectly level!
Then the captain dies, which is too bad, because he was hot. Then we have cause to notice that Snyder’s snide dialogue, as written, is not exactly scintillating. So far he has been consistently insulting to everyone, with a constant tone that everyone but him is an idiot. Then McBride [that’s the bearded 80s hottie] goes over to the capsule to rescue Collins and bring her back. If you watch carefully, you’ll see that the cast has trouble convincingly coughing and sputtering as though they’ve just held their breath for five minutes, and look, why, as though they were supposed to start coughing and sputtering when someone yelled “action.” Then Collins tells McBride that she’s a’havin’ his baby, and they decide to marry. You know, it’s never a good idea to make snap decisions to marry based on an accidental pregnancy, and one must admit that agreeing to marry and raise a child to have a reason to survive an attack by a Neolithic sea monster is also probably not the most clear-headed decision ever made.
SPOILERS > > >
So by now Nia Peebles has been discreetly killed, disappointingly. I was really hoping she’d be our final girl. Anyway, the crew is being evacuated to the surface! Yay! Only they have to flip the doohickey or arm the whoseywhatsit before they leave, which they send Snyder to do. The computer program is somewhat ambiguous on the proper procedure, but looks like it’s telling him to detonate the missiles before they leave. He tries to ask, but no one has time for him. So he goes ahead and spitefully blows the missiles up, igniting several nuclear explosions at the bottom of the ocean, which sounds like a good idea anytime. It’s all crisis, crisis, and blaming of Snyder, who protests that he was just following procedure, and what’s cool about it is that they have a minute or two before the pressure wave hits them, things calm down, and then another hits them.
But someone has a plan! It doesn’t matter what it is, all that’s necessary is that someone have a plan to save them, which will give them something to do and some hope to strive for, as without one they’d have nothing to do but sit around and get eaten, which is dramatically unexciting. Part of this plan includes Richardson getting dolled up in the big deep sea armor suit, and going out to prepare the doo-dad, which will save them. But something goes amiss, and they reel him back in, and—here’s the big scene that blew me and my friends away in our younger years—the monster comes right in, bites Richardson right in half through the iron suit, in front of everyone, and escapes into the inside of the lab.
Now McBride is pretty pissed at Snyder, and boy does he look cute when he’s pissed. They quickly surmise that the monster is attracted to light—don’t think too hard about that one—and try to lure it somewhere to kill it, and here comes my favorite part. They’ve armed themselves with spears with charges that will inflate with nitrogen [or whatever] upon impact. The monster leaps up, and Snyder accidentally [although if you watch again it doesn’t look like pure chance] stabs this other guy in the back. His chest inflates, and his chest bursts open, and—this is the best—Snyder looks at it and turns away, shouting “NuuuugGHHHHH!” as if this, his own handiwork, is just SOOO GROSS. Then he RUNS like a coward, gets outside the room, and locks everyone else inside! You gotta love this guy. In a movie, at least.
So Snyder has locked them all in with the beastie, and when they finally get out McBride has a few choice words to deliver and—nrrrrr, what a babe. I need to go back in time and get me a bearded 80s dude that looks like a personal trainer. Anyway, Snyder is starting to really freak now, and they overpower him and give him a shot. Then Snyder snaps and has a vision of the bloody ghosts of his victims, while I’m at home saying “Wow, this has a lot of psychological depth for a stupid Alien rip-off monster movie.” Anyway, Snyder takes the escape pod and goes to the surface without decompressing, which proves not to be good for one’s complexion. Or organs. So, goodbye Snyder, my favorite coward. But! His taking the sub means that the people below have no way of getting out! Sucks to be you.
Then McBride has to go outside the lab for something. You know, crushing water pressure and sub-freezing temperatures don’t bother you when you’re a REAL MAN. Inside, Collins prays, addressing God by name, as the music goes all devout and—guess who’s gonna live? In movies, you'll usually find that people who trust in the Lord enjoy a much higher survival rate. Then the older, Dr. Crusher-type doctor electrocutes herself to save them and it looks like the monster’s bought it, so Collins and McBride step into the decompression chamber and, a mere three minutes later—voila! No more tedious days and days of decompression with the rapid decompresso!
So they get in the—well, I don’t know what vehicle they have left—I think they grab a balloon of air and—or do they just ride the shock wave of the huge explosion? Or was that Sphere? I forget. I watched this a while ago. Anyway, they’re fine, science be damned, and it’s all clear skies. Except—the monster! Which has lived its entire life in high-pressure, but—well, I don’t know why I’m even going into it. Then it looks to Collins like McBride blows himself up in order to kill the monster and save her baby, but—he lived! Because as you know, if you have a searing hot explosion above the water, you need only be an inch or so below the water to FEEL NO EFFECT. Plus, he’s alive because he and Collins used to be selfish, no-commitment types, and now they’re going to have a baby and BECOME A FAMILY. Plus, she prayed to God. So they’re essentially unkillable. So it’s a gorgeous day and sure they’re in the center of the ocean with no food or shelter from the elements and no one knows they’re there, but those kids’ll be FINE!
< < < SPOILERS END
All in all, good fun. It hits all the familiar “Alien-but-underwater” clichés, but with gusto, and you have all the wonderfully cheesy 80s models [lllloved that], and it just goes through its familiar paces with a little more oomph than most movies of its type [see: Leviathan], and—well, who am I kidding—I really have nothing more to say.
Yes! It’s a good, gory, fun 80s Alien rip-off monster movie.