Leviathan (1989)
By: Mr Intolerance on March 6, 2009  | 
MGM (USA). Region 1, NTSC. 2.35:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 2.0, French DD 2.0. English, French Subtitles. 98 minutes
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: George P. Cosmatos
Starring: Peter Weller, Richard Crenna, Amanda Pays, Daniel Stern, Ernie Hudson, Michael Carmine, Lisa Eilbacher, Hector Elizondo
Screenplay: David Peoples, Jeb Stuart
Country: USA
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Atlantic Ocean, 16000 Feet Deep. Tri-Oceanic Mining Corporation. Mission: Extraction of Silver and Other Precious Metals. Classification of Mission: Extremely Hazardous. Mining Shack #7. Habitat and Operations. Day 87 of 90 Day Shift.

Deep-sea mining is a perilous way of earning a living, as the characters of this "I think I've seen this story before" gleefully B-grade tongue-in-cheek romp are about to discover. If the plot isn't familiar to you, you really haven't been doing your homework. The back cover proclaims it to be "Alien under water", and I can't think of a better comparison myself, albeit a comparison that fails to notice the lack of Alien's budget, directorial flair and nail-biting, edge of the seat terror. A bunch of miners in seclusion through sheer dint of being a long way away from the surface of the Atlantic Ocean turn up something that they really wish they hadn't, and not via the red-herring clue we're given early on in the film, just prior to a brush with explosive decompression that's actually pretty damn tense.

Our characters are stereotypes and introduced pretty immediately through the aforementioned scene – our geologist captain Beck (Weller) is the outsider from the rest of his crew, due to being the authority figure who does things by the book; Doc (Crenna) is the vaguely shifty guy who may well be a plant of the mining corporation, and seems to know a little too much for the comfort of the rest of the crew; Williams (the always eminently watchable Pays) is the dependable and sympathetic character who I think is meant to represent us, albeit a rather aspirational us, what with her wanting to be an astronaut and all; Jones (Hudson) is the veteran everyone can count on to deliver tough-guy dialogue (think Yaphet Kotto's character in Alien) and a voice against the power of the Man; Six Pack (Stern, in a wonderfully sexist, redneck turn – he's definitely having some fun with this, just as he did in C.H.U.D.) is the unlikeable slob; Cobb (Elizondo) is the life-time employee who actually prefers it away from the workaday world; De Jesus is the panicky rookie; Bowman (Eilbacher) is the more than once around the block chick – the Emilia to Williams' Desdemona; Martin rounds out the main players as the ice-bitch Company mouthpiece. We've seen 'em all before, and the fact that they are stereotypes makes it easier for us to get on with enjoying the film.

Now of course, these characters, having been in close proximity to each other for the better part of three months, have had a few contre temps, one of which leads to Williams (or Willy, as the crew rather unfortunately refer to her) and Six Pack having to go on outside duty, where they come across a ruined Russian military/scientific ship, the Leviathan. The Leviathan is a bit of a mystery – it's meant to have been on active duty a long way away in the Baltic Sea, not gracing the ocean floor of the Atlantic. A bunch of things from the Leviathan are brought back aboard Shack #7, including a bottle of vodka and a hip-flask that it'd be a bad idea to drink out of, as well as various effects of the seriously deceased crew members, and the video diary of the Leviathan's captain which briefly details the death of the crew members. The plot thickens...

The dodgy hip-flask gets passed between crew members and things turn pretty bad, pretty quickly. It seems that while the bottle of vodka was parasite-free, the hip-flask contained the remains of a Russian genetic experiment (when you remember that this thing was filmed during the dog-days of the Cold War, that kind of makes sense, like say that Afghan Knights exploited the so-called War on Terror, or Outpost made a big deal of the lawlessness of the former Eastern Bloc countries, as did Hostel and Hostel 2). Two of our crew members are about to have a very bad day, with the kind of hang-over we all think we've had, but never really have, thankfully.

Something is definitely up, and the Company know about it. They order Beck to not evacuate the crew, having obvious designs on what's breeding inside the bodies of the two now obviously infected crew members – shades of the Alien franchise anyone? Or maybe you're too reminded of It! The Terror From Beyond Space (well, it's from Mars, actually), or Humanoids From The Deep or maybe even John Carpenter's version of The Thing. Like I said, this is kind of derivative, but it doesn't stop the entertainment meter from beginning to creep from here on in. Trapped – in an enclosed space – with a murderous monster? Yeah, I think I'd be reaching for the power-tools soon, as our heroes do here, and very soon too. Let's face facts – when confronted by an inhuman monster from the deep which has gestated inside and then tears its way out of a human body, you'd be going for the most insanely violent and visceral weapons known to mankind too.

This is about the point where the film turns seriously gooey and bloody, and where the monster appears and all kinds of violent shenanigans and antics occur. In other words, this is where the good shit really begins, and it's a white-knuckle roller-coater ride from this point on. Like I was saying before, this is a 1950s horror film in all but context. Watch and see what I mean. The director and sceenwriter have no sympathy for their characters in the slightest, and those that fall prey to the monster do so in ways that will definitely make you go "urgh".

Once the monster gets loose inside Shack #7, all bets are off, and we've got a siege mentality going down, as it can do most everything in terms of infiltrating the base. And, as gets told to us, the creature's adaptation and infiltration techniques are pretty impressive, much like Carpenter's The Thing. And much like that creature, this one presents a real threat, an evil, brutal one, and one that could break out at any moment. This is not nice to be around, to say the least. And of course there is the horrible idea that the damn thing could spread to the wider world, and that becomes even worse, especially when you see how it propagates the species... I was left in mind of Emil and his toxic waste quandary in RoboCop, just in terms of one character's helplessness, and his pal's willingness to help him.

And so the tension grows. And so the awesomeness of this film keeps on giving. Blood is spilled, characters are killed and the plot just keeps on spinning out of control. It's a good thing. The more over-the-top Leviathan gets, the better it is, just like any 50s horror film. Just when you think things can't get any worse for our heroes, things get much worse and like you wouldn't believe, with all the blood and the guts and they hey and the ho (I'm starting to turn into Professor Frink from The Simpsons here).

Basically, by the end, when we've worked our way through to who's going to survive and who's not, we've either fallen prey to or subverted all kinds of Hollywood laws of survival, and there's one great punch which basically the audience has been wanting to see since an earlier part of the film, and it makes for a great resolution. And it's that willingness to deliver which is why you should watch.

Man, do I love a monster film, and Leviathan is a highly entertaining one. It never takes itself seriously, delivers all manner of thrills, spills and chills, and basically sets out to do what it intends to – it entertains the fuck out of its audience. If you've never seen it before, check it out and have a ball, and if you have, well, you know what sort of good friendly violent fun (as Exodus once put it, in their wisdom) to expect. It's a product of its time, what with the Commie-fear, the mistrust of big-business authority, the throwback to 50s sci-fi horror themes melded seamlessly with the late 80s post-punk mindset of hating the Man – there's plenty of reasons to love Leviathan.
Sadly, there's quite a bit of speckle and grain, especially at the beginning. I'm therefore assuming that re-mastering this film was not terribly high on anyone's list of priorities at MGM. The image itself is pretty sharp, but with the blemishes we can see, it's kind of a bummer. It gets better as the film progresses, but when you see the jobs that Criterion, Dark Sky and No Shame do on older films with a fraction of the resources, it kind of makes you a bit cynical about MGM's motives in releasing the film to say the least. "Here's yer fuckin' film, now where's our money?" seems to be the order of the day. At least this film is in the OAR.
Quite a good Jerry Goldsmith score, but where the hell is the 5.1 mix (apparently the region 0 Korean copy has such a soundtrack option)? This is an action film as much as it is a sci-fi horror, and you need to be surrounded by what the hell's going on. Oh well, maybe there'll be a special edition Blu-Ray. Other than that it's a crisp soundtrack that delivers what it can, given the limitations MGM have imposed upon it.
Extra Features
Not a sausage. Nothing but the theatrical trailer – and by that I mean not even a bunch of production stills. Shame, MGM, shame. This film deserved more than this shabby treatment.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
A constant re-watcher, Leviathan is great big fun. From its constant B-grade sci-fi patter, delivered by a veritable wall of US B-grade late 80s talent, to its gooey special effects and plot half-inched from Alien, The Intruder Within and It! The Terror From Beyond Space, Leviathan is a sci-fi horror that simply keeps on giving. Okay, so it may be a bit derivative, and yeah, the characters are cardboard cut-outs often delivered by phoned-in performances (which isn't exactly a glowing recommendation of the direction), but generally there's enough verve and gleefully hammy acting with a script that probably could have done with a few more drafts to make it worth your while. Salty, buttered popcorn? Check. Ice-cold beer? Check. Bunch of your mates around to share the fun? Check. Welcome to a great night in.

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