Very Occasionally, I’ll spot an old movie on Blu -Ray and purchase it without hesitation. It’s an impulse buy thing that I’ve not been able to keep under control. The problem is that I do this with films I’ve never seen before, a risky 50/50 game with any unseen title. Sometimes it pays off, the films great, but mostly it doesn’t. Scream Factory’s 2.34:1 transfer of Leviathan is one of those impulse purchases I made, I think mostly because I love the cover art. I remembered seeing it on the shelf at my local Video Store, but I never got around to watching it. A thing that was not to change for a very long time. In fact, the box has been sat on my shelf for about a year now just gathering dust. This weekend, between the manic catch up of TV shows (too many) the endless housework (too much) and the preparation for the weeks’ editorial (too little), I managed to throw in a film for good measure and Leviathan just so happened to be the first film to hand. I’m ashamed to say that within my 30 odd years, I’ve never seen Leviathan, a film that was released 28 years ago. And that’s just shameful.
Peter Weller (wahoo Robocop, I fucking love this guy!) stars as Steven Beck the crew chief on a submerged mining operation that is mining silver from the sea floor. The crew is on its last few days of their shift, when they discover a sunk Russian submarine decaying at the bottom of the ocean, the “Leviathan. Thinking that they are have discovered a treasure trove of loot, they unknowingly bring on board vodka spiked with a genetic altering drug that the Russians had been experimenting with. I think you can see where this is going, and indeed, it does. Several of the crew are infected with the mutagen and begin to transform into a deadly creature with a ravenous appetite.
I’m a huge fan of practical effects and so of course I love the goofy looking Creature that eventually rears its ugly head in the third act. With tentacles, mouths and pulsating bodies, it’s all rather messy and gruesome. It’s not quite up to Rob Bottin’s spectacular creatures from the Thing, but it sure is fun nerveless. Though you never really get to see the creature very well, you build up a picture in your mind what it might look like. The more you see of the creature, the more credibility it loses, it’s not poorly designed, it’s just not scary when you realise it’s just a guy in a suit
The is films script is simple and well written. Horror fans will enjoy the genuine attempt at making something purely entertaining rather than trying to bog the audience down with twists and turns. It’s this straight-shooting scriptwriting that makes the film rather compelling. However, You cannot deny the similarities between 1989’s Leviathan and the 1951 space thriller The Thing From Another World (or the 1982 remake The Thing for 80’s enthusiast) and 1979’s Alien. I guess it’s hard to write story about a mutating creature that roams long corridors and picks off crewmembers, without falling back on two hugely popular films for inspiration. That said, Leviathan does deserve some respect for trying. But try as you might, you’ll find similarities around every corner.
Interestingly, Leviathan was not the only underwater film to emerge (submerge?) in 1989, it found itself squished between two more prominent films that dealt with underwater shenanigans; Sean S. Cunningham’s Deep Star Six and James Cameron’s The Abyss. Stuck in the middle of two similar films, Leviathan was seemingly overlooked by many.
Leviathan starts out slow but moves to a sprint as the crew numbers begin to dwindle. It’s atmospheric, well-acted (for the most part) and is genuinely an entertaining film. It does, however, raise many questions. I found myself wondering why anyone would drink something they found sitting in a deserted ship, or how on earth a thing of that size could get through the tight nooks and cranny’s in the claustrophobic ship? Thoughts like this just snap me out of the film zone and ruin the mood. I love Peter Weller and loath Meh Fosters Eyes, Loved the script, hated the ending.
If I’m honest, Leviathan really has me on the fence. I think it’s worth a first time look, and maybe a late-night revisit, with a good bottle of Jack, because after seeing this film…I’ll never touch vodka again.
- Story 65%
- Scares 47%
- Gore 62%
- Music 44%