The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan

"LEVIATHAN"

Leviathan

Released in March of 1989, Leviathan was rightly regarded as little more than an Alien knock-off, albeit one set on the ocean floor rather than in outer space. That said, if you're going to crib from another movie, you might as well crib from the best. Leviathan is not nearly as effective as Ridley Scott's 1979 classic, but it's also far better than most of the other Alien knock-offs. Scream Factory now brings the film to Blu-Ray with some notable supplementary material.

The story takes place in a deep-sea mining facility. Peter Weller plays Steven Beck, a geologist commanding the operation. While exploring outside their vessel, one of the crew members, Sixpack (Daniel Stern), stumbles across a sunken Russian ship and a case of vodka inside. Not long after, strange things begin happening. Sixpack develops disgusting legions all over his body. A couple other crew members become ill, too. The facility's doctor (Richard Crenna) doesn't know what's going on. Beck tries to notify the executives at the corporation that's funding the expedition, but it becomes clear that they don't want whatever's down there coming up to the surface. The bodies of the ill crew members begin fusing together, ultimately turning into a genetically mutated creature hellbent on adding to itself. Beck has to try to find a way to save his surviving colleagues and get back up above water.

Leviathan very closely mirrors the structure of Alien. Both movies give us some time with the characters in the facility before chaos strikes. Both have someone making a shocking – and ultimately catastrophic – discovery while out exploring. Both have sequences in which humans run up and down hallways trying to escape from a hideous monster. Both gratuitously get the female lead (Amanda Pays, in this case) into her underwear for the big climax. And, of course, the notion that the characters are far away from any sort of conventional help is also similar. Perhaps the biggest difference is that where Alien had a creature terrifyingly burst from one man's chest, Leviathan has a moment in which a creature burrows into a man's chest.

I hated Leviathan back in 1989, but watching it again now, I find myself liking it more. Has the film changed, or have I? Yes, there are some slow spots, and because it so closely mirrors a horror classic, there's not a lot of originality or surprise. But the acting is pretty good, and Stan Winston's visual effects are excellent. My guess is that Leviathan feels more fun now because we've become so used to CGI effects that are “realistic” but not always convincing. The practical effects used here don't always look 100% real, yet they are always clearly occupying the space right next to the actors. There's good old craftsmanship in them. Scenes designed to make you squirm do indeed cause squirming. Moments intended to shock offer up some truly gnarly visuals.

Directed by George P. Cosmatos (Rambo) and co-written by David Peoples (Unforgiven), Leviathan isn't a great film, but it does the trick if you're in the mood for a silly but amusing creature feature.

Blu-Ray Features:

Scream Factory's Blu-Ray sweetens the deal with some good bonus features, starting off with a 40-minute documentary looking back on the movie's special effects. Noted effects guys Tom Woodruff, Jr., Shannon Shea, and Alec Gillis appear to discuss creating Leviathan's signature scare moments. We learn that there was considerable friction between Cosmatos and Winston, as well as some pressure caused by similarities to two other underwater adventures, The Abyss and Deep Star Six, released around the same time.

Cast members Hector Elizondo and Ernie Hudson each get individual interview segments in which they relate memories of the production and its challenges. The theatrical trailer is here, as well.

For more information on this title, please visit the Scream Factory website.


Leviathan is rated R for violence, gore, and language. The running time is 1 hour and 38 minutes.


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