Everyone loves a good monster flick. From Godzilla, to King Kong and even those super cheesy Sharknado movies, monster movies are fun. Does anyone recall those ‘90s monster tales such as Anaconda, Tremors, Lake Placid and even that super creepy film Mimic? Sure, some were bad while others were immensely entertaining, but there is one that is largely overlooked and that is Deep Rising. You may not recognize this title but this monster B-movie was written and directed by Stephen Sommers (who went on to co-write and direct The Mummy) and he delivers exciting thrills, gory kills and just a fun time with this flick. So, in the spirit of Godzilla vs Kong grabbing our attention, let’s take a trip down memory lane at one movie that fell through the cracks and yet has a cult following even though the movie itself failed at the box office.
The plot of Deep Rising is fairly simple. A group of mercenaries are out in the South China Sea enroute to an objective that is shrouded in secrecy to the crew who is transporting these bad boys. The captain of this boat and debacle is named Finnegan (Treat Williams) who has a simple life motto, “If the cash is there we do not care.” All the mercenaries have loaded strange cargo onto his boat and Finnegan doesn’t appear to care as to what’s in them. His second-in-command Pantucci (Kevin J. O’Connor) is mildly curious and gets himself assaulted by the mercenaries when he starts snooping around. All Finnegan knows is that the contract that was agreed upon was several hours with these guys, there and back and then he gets paid.
It turns out that the mercenaries are looking for a cruise ship named the Argonautica (a luxury cruise liner on her maiden voyage) and we get the impression that they will either rob the ship or something worse. After a mild inconvenience that disables Finnegan’s boat, they arrive at the cruise ship. Finnegan and Pantucci are threatened with guns and even certain death if they disobey but they willingly comply. Once onboard the ship, everyone begins to notice that something is off. No passengers are found, everything is quiet and the ship itself is not even moving! Finnegan is the first to make these points known but these gun-toting thugs are only interested in their objective.
We learn that something did indeed occur on the ship prior to Finnegan’s arrival. A saboteur disabled the navigation and communications equipment. The ship is sailing blind and there’s no way to notify anyone of their situation. Problems only get worse when something from deep within the ocean rises to the surface and attacks the ship. The ship is thrusted to a violent stop and the passengers disappear without a trace. A giant sea creature has attacked the ship and now the mercenaries are at odds with this growing predicament.
This creature has giant arms that attacks its victims through the air vents and can even hide in the water once the hull of the ship was breached. The movie then turns to an all-out war between the mercenaries and unwillingness of Pantucci and Finnegan who just happened to be there in order to give a ride. They even find some survivors inside the ship which includes the ship’s owner Simon Canton (Anthony Heald) and a passenger named Trillian (Famke Janssen) who was arrested for stealing. The movie itself is just over ninety minutes is really nothing more than an alien clone that takes place on a cruise ship. The action is furious, exciting and a bit goofy. Some of the gory effects look similar to Escape From New York and the creature itself resembles something from The Thing which was done by Rob Bottin who worked on The Thing and Robocop.
The remainder of the movie consists of shootouts, gory kills and the mercenaries running for their lives and it all ends in a final scene that was supposed to turn into something more but after years in development hell became Peter Jackson’s King Kong!
Deep Rising was originally scheduled to be released in the summer of 1997 but after countless delays with the special effects department, the film was released in theaters in January 1998, a month after the release of Titanic. You may have caught on that the cast wasn’t really filled with A-list stars which may have contributed to the film’s poor box office results; not to mention Titanic being a monster at the box office already. Harrison Ford was initially cast in the film but after he parted ways Treat Williams was brought in and the film’s budget was significantly cut. Famke Janssen was essentially the biggest co-star of the film after her appearance in Goldeneye. Famed film critic Roger Ebert listed Deep Rising as one of his most hated films.
Be that as it may, I’m here to defend this film. Sure, it borrows from countless other movies of its genre but the main reason for the film performing poorly was that it rode the wave of other monster movies such as Anaconda, Mimic and The Relic. After all the delays that Deep Rising occurred, I think the film just had bad timing and audiences weren’t interested in another monster flick. Deep Rising itself isn’t a great movie by any measure, but it’s still a fun ride. I enjoyed the acting, the action and even the gory effects (which seem tame by today’s standards).
This is also the movie that would see young actors who went on to be big stars which includes Jason Flemyng, Cliff Curtis, Clifton Powell and even Djimon Hounsou. Wes Studi is the mercenary’s leader too and unlike his other roles that he’s known for, he isn’t a nice guy in this movie. Additionally, the movie is one of those rare treasures where there are no heroes or good guys. We have the mercenaries who are brutal and a bit savage, Finnegan takes a job no matter the risk as long as he gets paid; although Pantucci is a wild card here. This is also the first collaboration between Kevin J. O’Connor and Stephen Sommers who would work together again on several others films, most notably The Mummy.
One Last Thing
If you love monster movies, then Deep Rising is one to not miss. I will be the first to admit that the film itself is cheesy, goofy and utterly insane and I love it for all those reasons. This is a movie that knows what it is and tries its best to give the audience a good time. Unlike Anaconda, which took itself a bit too seriously, Deep Rising is just plain fun. Like I said before, the plot is simple, the action is thrilling, there’s plenty of comedy in the film and the creature itself proves to be one heck of a badass. Deep Rising is the perfect B-movie and while it didn’t achieve success in the box office, it has gained a cult following. I love movies like this that feature simple plots, fun characters and a sense of style that is meant to be seen for one reason- entertainment.
It’s full scream ahead and Deep Rising is certainly a blast to watch. If the movie were ever to be released back into theaters, I would be the first in line to purchase my ticket. If you love goofy monster movies, then you’ll enjoy this trip down memory lane!