Deep Rising (1998)
By: Julian on October 22, 2008  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Reel (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 4:3. English DD 2.0. English Subtitles. 106 minutes.
The Movie
Director: Stephen Sommers
Starring: Treat Williams, Famke Janssen, Anthony Heald, Wes Studi, Kevin J O'Connor, Derrick O'Connor
Screenplay: Stephen Sommers
Country: USA
External Links
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If you look at Stephen Sommers' three best films – this, The Mummy and Van Helsing, they all share a common thread – they're exceedingly fun action movies, filled with quips and hammy acting, with dollops of some seriously dark violence. Deep Rising is perhaps the best of those three, in that it makes the most use of these elements. Which may not necessarily make it a good film, but it what it does make it is thoroughly enjoyable.

The Agronautica, a behemoth of a leisure cruiser, is making its maiden voyage at full capacity somewhere in the South China Sea, under Derrick O'Connor's Captain Atherton and Anthony Heald's Simon Canton, the latter an entrepreneur and the 'face' of the ship. Also on board is Trillian (GoldenEye Bond girl Famke Janssen), a socialite and a con-artist, who is thrown into the ship fridge after she's caught trying to crack the vault.

Following the Agronautica's movements is a far less luxurious vessel captained by John Finnegan (Treat Williams), and supported by the neurotic Tooch (Kevin J O'Connor, Beni from The Mummy) and his girlfriend Leila. Finnegan's boat carries a troupe of very suspicious characters led by Hanover (Wes Studi), and all of whom are armed to the teeth. Their goal, unbeknownst to Finnegan and his crew (his world-weary philosophy, 'if the cash is there, we do not care') is to commandeer the Agronautica and steal the untold millions of dollars worth in cash and valuables of the rich guests. Finnegan is blissfully ignorant that he is carrying a mob of pirates until Tooch discovers a warhead below-deck. However, Finnegan's plans to abandon the voyage are shot to pieces after their motor is damaged in a collision – seeing the Agronautica on radar, they decide to approach the liner for spare parts and petrol.

By the time Finnegan, his crew and occupants get to the Agronautica, though, it's a disaster – initially, there's no one to be found. Windows are shattered and all communication and directional equipment has failed. Soon, it emerges that Atherton, Canton and Trillian are the only remaining survivors – with everyone else in various states of dismemberment and disarray in a ballroom that is more of an abattoir.

As it turns out, the massacre aboard the Agronautica is down to a creature or creatures unknown, and it reveals itself as an obscenely huge sort of octopus that eats its human victims whole with a giant mouth at the end of one of its tentacles. Its victims are digested alive and, if they're unlucky enough, spat out for future reference – leaving a melting mass of flesh and grue as seen in one of Deep Rising's most memorable scenes. Now, the survivors left aboard the Agronautica, Hanover's mercenaries and Finnegan and his crew must unite against a common enemy, lest they are all given a watery grave.

There has to be something pretty off about you, as a filmgoer and as a human being, if you don't get anything out of this – and I won't go masturbatory anti-film pseudo-critic and say this is a great movie, but there's no doubting its entertainment value. It's cool as hell, and I've never felt so gleeful at a rubbery monster pay-off since Tremors. Sommers uses Deep Rising as his playground for experimenting with the grandiose action set pieces that he emulates in his later films and some of them are really very good, hyper-kinetic affairs.

Deep Rising actually far better represents what Sommers achieved with his following films – a horror/comedy, quite thrilling and dark when it wants to be, but filled with camp reprieve. It comes across as corny and poorly acted when Sommers screenplay misses the mark, but most of the time it works. It also evokes the finest of the B-grade monster movie days of yore – Hollywood Pictures pumped $45 mil into this, so it's far from a low-budget film. Deep Rising, if without any other impact on the film industry, certainly consolidated studio faith in the director, who was given just under double that green a year later for The Mummy, and four times as much for Van Helsing.

Deep Rising has been drubbed as an Alien rip-off, but this comparison is broadly unfair – though that's not to say this film, which was peddled by Sommers in the nineties under the title Tentacle, is a work of profound originality. It draws from the best of them – The Thing to name but one. But before the cursory chestnuts 'why didn't you just rewatch some Carpenter?' are unleashed, I'd like to extend a pointed 'fuck-off': it's not a better film, but this was just as much fun.
The picture is presented in 1:33:1, which severely crops the original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Cropping aside it's adequate, but colours are muted and there's occasional grain in the blacks.
One English Dolby Digital 2.0 track, which, again, is okay but nothing special. Jerry Goldsmith's score is typical, bloated orchestral horror fare.
Extra Features
Nothing, unfortunately – not even chapter stops (they're done automatically at the ten minute mark). Very disappointing, but a quick look on DVD Compare proves that all releases of this one are light-weight extra wise – the best is a Region 2 Dutch disc, which has an 11-minute featurette and about ten minutes worth of interviews with the key players, ranging from twenty seconds to three and a half minutes each.
The Verdict
I loved it. This review was the product of a number of re-watches for me, and it loses no appeal a few times 'round. A great, rollicking giant monster flick. 
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score

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