Friday, September 20, 2013

Movie Review: Leviathan (1989)

There's really no need for you to read my review of Leviathan. Nor is there any need for you to see the movie yourself, because, believe it or not, you've already seen this movie. Or at least, you've already seen every character and scenario that happens in Leviathan in some other movie. Leviathan isn't bad or anything, it's just really, really redundant and inferior to the movies it's trying to be.

In a facility at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, a group of underwater miners are on their last days of a mission to retrieve silver and other precious metals from the depths. They discover a sunken Russian ship, the "Leviathan," and unknowingly bring on board the reason the ship was sunk in the first place - the crew was experimenting with genetic mutation drugs that turn people into hideous sea creatures.

Yeah, so I'm going to say what probably everybody else says about this movie: I liked Leviathan... when it was called The Thing. Or Alien. It rips from both and doesn't seem like it's trying to hide it at all. With all the metal hallways and bulkhead doors and crawlspaces with pipes and shit, the feeling of claustrophobia and being trapped is straight up Alien. Just underwater this time. The way the creature is able to sneakily hide in air ducts (even when it keeps growing and growing) and pop out at the just the right time also made me think of Alien, so there are no feelings of suspense or surprise at any time while watching Leviathan. The Thing was suspenseful. Alien was scary. Leviathan was boring and predictable.

I was actually kind of excited to see what this creature was going to look like because we all know that science-gone-wrong genetic experiments can sometimes have awesome results for horror movies. Instead what I got was just a fishy rip-off of the alien from The Thing. After the two infected people die, the mutation keeps working in their bodies until it absorbs them both together and they look like a fleshy, bulbous mass. It's pretty gross. After it kills more people, it absorbs them too so that you can see their faces in the mass. Does that sound familiar??!! Argh, so not inventive.

The kicker is that even after watching the whole damn movie, I still don't think I've fully seen the creature. We are shown different bits and pieces of the creature as it attacks at different times but I'm not for sure how all pieces come together or what the whole thing looks like. It's got a fishy head, human-like arms, tentacles, but no legs, so how the hell does it move? The practical creature effects by Stan Winston are nice, and therefore I would have appreciated being able to see the whole thing in a wide shot or something. Actually as I was surfing around pictures to include here, I came across one that is supposedly a prop replica of the creature:

Huh. I would have never guessed. There's actually two creatures at one point in the movie I think but there's no differentiation between them so I don't know if they both looked like this or what. At the end, the creature pops up on the surface with the survivors after the facility implodes itself (because that's always fun to think about happening), and even then they only show it in quick cuts. 

They try to make all the characters real cute and endearing. They have nicknames like Sixpack and Willie, and call each other by their last names. I didn't care. They are all the standard characters that you'll find in a movie like this and nobody stands out as being more than two dimensional. Daniel Stern tries his hardest, but he's the annoying sex pervert who hits on the girls all the time so you can't really like him too much. There are some other really good names here - Hector Elizondo, Peter Weller, Ernie Hudson, Meg Foster's eyes - and they do what they can. By the third act, when the movie turns into the run-around-and-try-to-escape-the-facility-before-it-implodes movie, I think all of us, including the actors, were just looking for a way to end this thing with some dignity. And they almost do - until the last shot of the movie was Peter Weller punching Meg Foster's eyes in the face. It was funny, and you wanted him to do it because her character is an evil bitch that was going to leave them all to die down there, but seriously. That's how you end the movie?

Eh, you're not missing anything with Leviathan. The creature effects are great and I liked the practical nastiness of them, but everything else just didn't do it for me.


  1. Nice!!!

    The phone's ringing. Answer the call in Rubel Rafael Ahmed's spooky "M is for Mental Image"!

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  2. Hi Michele,
    I am an owner from this Leviathan Movie Prop and many other figures
    and I am a "total grazy" collector from Germany!

    I contact a few month ago the Artist, Timothy Martin from ADI
    and he make me this wonderfull piece of Art and the Blairmonster
    from Carpenters "the Thing". Please look at "Outpost 31":

    All the best!

  3. Thanks for the review! It's pretty one point. This was on TV the other day and I remember seeing the VHS tape in the store in the store and always wanted to see it, but was never able to. I was casually watching it while working on other things and was glad to know that I didn't really need to pay attention to it! lol!


  4. Predictable, yeah, but it's actually a pretty solid deathtrap film. What sold me on it was the setting. They went to town with deep sea hardware, some of which was real (the suits are variations on deep-diving hard suits from Sweden). The creature design was interesting, and it's very hard to go wrong with vintage Stan Winston.

    I'd almost welcome someone remaking this one. I say 'almost' because it'd probably end up in the hands of SyFy or The Asylum, and we'd get dodgy CG and absolutely terrible acting.

    1. Looking back, I think I was way too harsh on this film!! It IS really good, with a tight plot and solid cast and directing... I think I just focused too much on comparing it to other films that I was seeing in it rather than what the actual film was giving me.
      I don't know that it really needs a remake though - it is dated, but Stan Winston is amazing the effects still hold up really well.