Jan 12, 2011
One thing that was always consistent is my infatuation with high seas terror. Included in the past several decades are many of the quintessential selections of these low-brow nautical creature-features. With a catalog spanning such titles as Deepstar Six, Leviathan, The Beast, and Deep Rising, my love for the genre is timeless and dates back to the first horror obsession I ever had, Jaws/Orca. Having the chance to revisit Deep Rising was a dose of nostalgia that was fluttering and had begun rekindling many fond memories of the excellent creature design. I recall the release of Deep Rising faintly. The praise was irregular but the excitement was unanimous. To add to the suspense, I caught wind of a still featuring one of many of the invading tentacles and my interests were beyond aroused. One might be able to link my fascination with unnatural marine life to a deep-rooted sexual anonymity that is present in the abyss. Not to call phallic on tentacles but within the deep, dark mystery of the world's blinded oceans exists something that we cannot imagine. What I'm referring to can not be simply labeled a "monster", rather, worthy of life and instincts just as we are. This conception of bizarre and terrible life is what makes these films so animated and grotesquely plausible. It's as if unfortunate marine life is a fail safe for horror films, something one cannot debunk as easily.
What Stephen Sommers set out to do with Deep Rising was to finally put to tape an action/horror film that is worthy to the legacy of Aliens. In that regard, Sommers failed miserably. Deep Rising channels none of the atmosphere, claustrophobia, or extraterrestrial nihilism of James Cameron's sequel. With Deep Rising, he abandoned the dream of fleshy beasts and created a creature entirely out of digital animation. Dated now, Deep Rising was actually a marvel and a bit of a breakthrough for its time, plastering the magazine pages of Fangoria and Cinefantastique. For whatever it is worth, Deep Rising is not a bad film in any way. In regards to the quality, once must keep in mind the aged, immature characters and the inferior visual effects are glaring. But, as it is, Deep Rising might also pack the most punch of any of the bio-horror realms within the oceans. It doesn't contain the suspense or gall of the crew aboard the Orca in Jaws but Deep Rising features a wonderful force of opposition and the comical deaths of many nuisances.
In case you've never heard of or seen Deep Rising, a short synopsis is in order. Treat Williams stars as Finnigan, the captain of a dodgy transport vessel who just so happens to be employed by a group of hijackers armed with torpedoes planning to plunder the Argonautica, the greatest luxury ship of its time. Once aboard the ship, the villains notice immediately that there is no sign of life on this once bustling ship. Ring of Koontz's Phantoms, anyone? Using this opportunity to hurry the process of looting the valuables, several confined survivors are discovered and begin to blabber nonsense about an infestation of killer "...things." With Famke Janssen and Kevin J. O'Connor, Deep Rising only begins roll call with the recognizable cast of Djimon Hounsou and Cliff Curtis, not to mention Wes Studi's scarred visage illuminating a scene in which his last bullet in the chamber is wasted towards spite instead of ending the misery of his own. Deep Rising isn't perfect, though. Through the affable corridors of the sinking cruise liner are many flaws and obstacles known for impeding the joy of this oceanic carnage. For one, Treat Williams' archetype has been stamped vigorously for an element of "cool", leaving his character without a word of wisdom but with an unsuited ego that spells out popcorn suicide.
Yet another strong aspect of Deep Rising is the general ambiguity of the creature. But with further research, this cloud of mystery can be fanned away. The ship's creator mentions in the film that it is "some kind of strange offshoot of the Archaea Ottoia family." When you juxtapose this information with a snippet taken from an interview with Sommers, "I shot a whole opening sequence about underwater nuclear testing that’s created something beneath the ocean.", the answer and origins are given. It's a shame this scene wasn't detailed in the final print but seeing as how Deep Rising already suffered so much at the hands of the merciless box office, this could-of is easily shrugged off. One can hope that the day Deep Rising does get a proper video release comes. Perhaps Sommers will have warmed to his masterpiece enough to complete his vision. Late 90s horror films don't get much better than Deep Rising. Committed to shocking and severing many-a-victim, the tentacles in Deep Rising represent a high point in monstrous creativity. If you could not muster the characters quirks and oafish lines, perhaps watching them be digested would serve an excellent experiment in catharsis.
Posted by Soiled Sinema at 12:40 PM
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