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Titanic with tentacles
on 29 October 2012
Stephen Sommers knows how to make a dumb b-movie. His career has been full of them. His early movies were mainly family entertainment, but for his first R-rated feature he delivers a monster movie on a cruise ship that could have been spectacular, but isn't.
The story has boat-for-hire Captain Treat Williams (imagine Colin Farrell's dad) drive a bunch of mercenary goons out to a rendezvous with the Argonautica luxury ship in the South China Sea. The goons plan to loot the ship and sink it, but when they hop aboard they find it abandoned with all lifeboats intact. The presence of blood and undigested skeletons doesn't alert them to the fact that a hungry sea monster has taken over.
What disappoints the most about Deep Rising is that ALL of the creature and gore effects are in late-90s quality CGI. Why even hire Rob Bottin, known for his stunning effects on The Thing, RoboCop, and Total Recall, to create the monster if you're not even going to feature a single practical effects shot? The fact that Dreamquest Images and Industrial Light and Magic handled the CGI really surprises me as they are not that good, even by 1998 standards.
It is made watchable by a few decent kills, a macabre attitude, an above average Jerry Goldsmith score, and the presence of the beautiful Famke Janssen (who is full of yum, yum, yum). Though the dialogue is repetitive, some of the goons are woefully miscast (especially Jason Flemyng), and almost every scene takes place in 'flooded grey room with pipes'.
Deep Rising is enjoyable trash for a night of non-cerebral movie-watching and nothing more.
The Puppet Masters 3/5
Unfortunate enough to share a name with a brand of dirt-cheap Charles Band movies (but completely disconnected from them) I always figured that The Puppet Masters would be just as schlocky. It ain't art, but it is decent, low-brow, brainless entertainment.
A bunch of alien manta-rays land in Iowa in a confusing opening sequence. The authorities arrive and discover that the locals are slowly being turned into mindless slaves to their alien hosts. Sound like the X-Files? It very much does play out like a 3-part episode with virtually the exact same character dynamic and interaction. The tagline for the movie is even 'Trust no one'.
It also feels like a John Carpenter movie in some respects (the presence of Keith David, who really ought to be in every movie, only adds to this). And while it's a fairly non-epic movie it does feature some nice anamorphic Panavision photography and a bunch of character actors to keep you entertained in-between the silly plot developments.
As well as feeling the X-Files it also comes across as an Invasion of the Body Snatchers rip-off, odd since co-star Donald Sutherland was in one of those movies. Four years later another very similar film called The Faculty also featured mind-controlling alien parasites, as well as the Brain Slugs from Futurama. But apparently it's taken from a novel of the same name by Robert A. Heinlein but with little in common, perhaps thanks to a zillion re-writes.
These kinds of movies often have some kind of political subtext, but Puppet Masters embraces its low-brow but clever silliness and ends up a guilty pleasure.
Thank heavens for Mill Creek. I never ever thought that Deep Rising would see the light of day on Blu-ray. Even the long out-of-print DVD was non-anamorphic and a direct, cheap laserdisc transfer. The film was never a high-key, glossy-looking blockbuster thanks to its dank atmosphere and perpetual night setting, but it looks very good in 2.35:1 1080p and sounds even better in DTS HD-MA. Disney would never have put this on Blu-ray but even if they did they probably would not have done as good a job as Mill Creek.
I consider The Puppet Masters to be an extra on this disc. It also looks and sounds good, but Deep Rising is the main attraction here.