Deep Rising (1998)

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Directed by: Stephen Sommers

I was flicking through Sky Movies this afternoon and decided to watch ‘Deep Rising’. I hit the ‘i’ button on the remote before the film began and learnt that it was about a bunch of pirates who attempt to rob a cruise ship, unfortunately “something had already got there first”. After watching the first fifteen minutes of the movie I assumed that the something was actually a “someone” and that stealthy sleek jewel thief Famke Janssen was the person who would outsmart the pirates. What I didn’t expect was a flesh eating multi-tentacled sea creature to turn up and kill everything in sight.

It was not until the cruise liner comes to a crashing halt and an Asian woman is killed in a toilet cubicle that I realized – hang on a minute, there’s something strange going on here. This is a monster movie.

Disappointingly it all goes downhill from there. The survivors battle against the odds, as one by one they get picked off by the monster in gruesome fashion. You’ve seen this movie before, either with an alien, a serial killer or a supernatural beast. It’s that formulaic. Our heroes and heroines discover something horrible, panic about the discovery, run away for a while, and then eventually escape.

Famke Janssen was my teenage movie crush in the nineties, and she’s the leading lady in this film, playing the sneaky Trillian St. James. I think my attraction to Janssen may have had something to do with her crushing Russians in her well-toned thighs in ‘Goldeneye’ or as an authoritative teacher in teen sci-fi horror ‘The Faculty’. Given that I’m regressing back to my horny teenage lusting period it makes sense to say something that I probably would’ve said back in the late nineties – Janssen smokes up the screen with her hotness. For a while she wears a tight fitting red dress, when the monster is raising hell she changes into something casual and ultimately more practical attire for fleeing from a blood thirsty sea monster.

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‘Deep Rising’ could’ve been dramatically different had the hero role of John Finnegan gone to Harrison Ford, instead Treat Williams got the gig and he does ok. Though I can’t help but wonder if he’s trying a little hard to be Jack Burton from ‘Big Trouble…’ (replace truck driver for hire with boat captain for hire), kinda bumbling along confidently despite having no idea what he’s going up against. For one thing he and his crew agree to ferry a group of heavily armed pirates and their torpedoes out on an ocean trip, destination unknown. Finnegan’s pretty dumb not to be at least a little curious about his passengers.

The multi-tentacled sea monster is able to do things that I’ve never ever seen a sea monster do on screen before, somehow it is able to stretch itself miles through pipes and corridors; its tentacles splitting off into several nimble angry fanged openings, hungry for anything with a pulse. The monster feeds on the ship’s crew and passengers, and then the invading pirates, leaving skeletons in the bowels of the boat. Despite seemingly being powerful enough to stop a ship in its tracks, and smash through iron, and even clever enough to sneak up on its victims, it has real difficulty catching the final few survivors, consistently getting outsmarted by them.

‘Deep Rising’ cost forty five million dollars to make, and made just over eleven million at the box office. It was a stone cold flop, and can be best described as a damp squid of a movie.

– RJW
4/10

Deep Rising on IMDB

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Creature from the Haunted Sea (1961)

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Directed by: Roger Corman

In recent months I’ve been reviewing movies in bunches. The films I’ve reviewed have had a uniting theme, such as forgotten gems of the early nineties or outlaw biker films. Given that the last film I reviewed was ‘The Fifth Estate’, it is asking a lot to try and connect a film about WikiLeaks with ‘Creature from the Haunted Sea’, but both somehow they both fit under the airy umbrella of ‘films with a political theme’. See, ‘Creature from the Haunted Sea’ is set against the backdrop of cold war paranoia, and the United States embargo against Cuba.

I’ve been thinking about politics a lot recently, mostly populist rhetoric. Russell Brand’s interview with Paxman on ‘Newsnight’ to promote the latest issue of ‘The New Statesman’ has got a lot of my friends excited about the possibility that revolution is in the air. Although if I’m not mistaken similar sentiments were sung by forgotten singer songwriter Sandi Thom. I’ve watched the interview a few times and all I hear is a charming witty verbose man using a lot of big words but ultimately saying nothing. If anything Brand seems to be advocating the continuing wave of apathy that lurks around the ballot box. Forgetting that exercising your right to vote doesn’t just mean National Elections, but at local level as well. It is here, locally, where significant changes can be made, and in his words provide “a service to humanity”. Change can happen, and indeed has happened thanks to a democratic political process. I respect Brand as a comedian, and admire has stance on drug rehabilitation, but he just seemed a long way off the mark here.

Phew… went a bit off track there. ‘Creature from the Haunted Sea’, Roger Corman’s black and white B movie, brings together spies and sea monsters. Imagine James Bond meets ‘Sesame Street’. The film begins when a shoe shiner gets murdered by two bearded men. Prior to getting shot the shoe shiner had got off his fuckin’ shinebox and put a message in the sock of an American agent who goes by the alias of Sparks Moran, his real name is SK150.
SK150 meets a woman in a shady bar; their dialogue is hilarious, taking me back to childhood memories of Leslie Nielsen and Priscilla Presley’s exchanges in ‘The Naked Gun’ franchise. After finishing a game of chess a woman says “Long live the king”. SK150 asks her “Is that supposed to be a political remark”. The woman says “I don’t know anything about politics”. After the bar scene we’re treated to a cartoon montage that explains to us the overthrow of the Cuban government.

The spy’s job is to retrieve Cuban gold that is being held on a boat Captained by a dodgy fella named Renzo who’s done a deal with the Cuban treasury to transport some the loot out of the country. The crew comprises of crooks, gangsters, Cuban military and a moll called Mary-Belle. All of the crew have several aliases and Corman introduces us to almost each and every person on board. The best of the bunch is a simpleton who imitates animals, he makes a guttural sound after his introduction and we’re told “that for instance was the mating call of a Himalyan Yak”. He becomes more annoying than Michael Winslow in the ‘Police Academy’ films.

‘Creature from the Haunted Sea’ drifts along until the boat is deliberately crashed by Renzo into the rocks; he tries to blame this accident and the disappearance of a crew member on a mythical sea monster. This bizarre opportunity allows SK150 to try and get the treasure away from the clutches of Renzo. When the crew find themselves on a desert island we finally get introduced to the creature. This sea beast looks like the entry in a playschool competition for making your favourite ‘Sesame Street’ character. The whole film takes a bizarre turn when the creature appears. Not least because it encourages the local islanders, a bunch of bad Latin stereotypes to get in the way.

At times the scenery literally falls apart around the actors, in one scene somebody is on the phone and a bit of shrubbery drops on them. Corman’s intention with ‘Creature from the Haunted Sea’ seemed to be to make a comedy that parodies our fascination for mythical monsters. The movie provides a host of laughs, and demonstrates the appeal of a giant farce. Everything is ridiculous, and that’s what makes it wonderful. Corman when filming ‘The Last Woman on Earth’ in Puerto Rico decided to put together this movie with the same cast because of tax incentives. It showcased his abilities as a filmmaker, because somehow he managed to put together something unique like this on the fly.

– RJW
7/10

Creature from the Haunted Sea on IMDB