Let’s take a deep dive today, fiends! Today’s double feature is all about monsters from deep down in the ocean. In my opinion, today’s double feature entries broke the ground for a film like last year’s Underwater to be made. That’s right, deep-sea diabolists, today’s double feature is Deep Star Six and Leviathan.
Deep Star Six is a giant monster movie with the added confinement of a deep-sea rig. The crew of the Deep Star Six is on a combination of a military project/science expedition tasked with establishing an underwater missile platform. The mission also acts as an opportunity for some of the crew to explore the ocean floor. This more scientific aspect of this exploration is a luxury the military allows as long as the unit keeps to a pre-established timetable.
It is their final week below and despite some members of the teams’ hesitation, the captain moves forward with plans to detonate the seafloor to make way for the platform. When they do, they discover an underwater cavern and unleash a giant crustacean creature. The creature perceives them all as a threat and begins picking the cast. The remainder of the film revolves around the dwindling survivors off as they try to figure out a way off the ocean’s floor while the monster ferociously destroys their options.
Deep Star Six makes its mark primarily as a giant creature feature and little else. The movie is similar to the monster movies of the 50s and 60s, only transposed to the era it was released, specifically 1989. This ‘throwback approach’ basically means the film spends way too much time on characters that will eventually become monster food. The first 45 minutes has nothing to do with the giant monster, and it’s only a 90-minute movie. The characters are not unlikeable, however, you are left to question why you should care for people who are little more than hapless fodder. You can tell within the first fifteen minutes who will make it to the end, so the tension the film builds is superficial at best.
Once the creature makes its appearance, Deep Star Six becomes considerably more entertaining. The creature effects are pretty good, although I definitely could have done with seeing more of them. The limited number of onscreen effects may be rooted in the fact that the specifics of the creature’s design seem to have been handled a little sloppy. For instance, the size of the creature seems to change from scene to scene. In one, it looks enormous; in another, it’s considerably smaller. And in yet another scene, our would-be behemoth is somehow able to hide in what looks like about four feet of murky water. That said, the monster is cool-looking, and the concept of a giant crustacean is pretty original. The kills are also pretty interesting, especially the ones not done by the creature. There is a person crushed by a door and the result of resurfacing without decompression.
Leviathan is another feature from the murky depths of the ocean but with a neat twist.
Oceanographer Steven Beck leads a deep-sea mining operation whose crew is mere just days away from finishing their work rotation and heading back up to the surface. While out in pressure suits, one of the team discovers a sunken Russian submarine, the titular Leviathan. Inside, the crew are all dead. They find a safe that contains, of all things, bottles of vodka. The team take the bottles back to their HQ and drink them. Beck pours them out and fills them with water. He does not realize one of his mates has a separate flask he found, which he proceeds to share with another crew member.
People begin to grow ill and die after drinking from the flask. After the ship’s doctor finds their bodies changing and melding into something with fishlike attributes, Doc theorizes the Russians were experimenting with gene therapy and realizing their experiment went very wrong sunk and killed everyone on the sub to stop the mutation. Doc and Beck try to dispose of the bodies, telling the crew they died from a contagious disease, try to move the bodies off a ship into the sea. But the new creature inside starts to stir and tries to attack. They manage to get most of it off the ship, but a portion stays on. It has one purpose, to attack the crew and assimilate them into the new creature it is involving into. Beck alerts the company but is informed there is a storm on the surface. He is left with the rest of the crew to fight and plot to survive the creature.
Leviathan is not necessarily original, but the effects are outstanding, the monster is cool and the acting is decent. The concept is somewhat of a steal from Carpenter’s The Thing but it’s a very good steal. The creature effects by Stan Winston are awesome and honestly gross but that’s what you want in a monster movie. One effect, a giant slug creature with its slimy body and large teeth-filled mouth is both gross and terrifying. I also like the fact the focus is about a government experiment gone wrong versus an alien. As much as Carpenter’s movie spoke to a world of growing paranoia, this film speaks to the growing sense of fear of what our governments have in store for us. There is also a very polished look and production on this film. You can see this was a big-budget horror movie from a major film company at the time.
This movie does suffer from some of the trappings of the era as the other does. It does take a bit before there is a monster or even peril. Just as Deep Star Six does, Leviathan spends a little too much time showing us who these characters are. There is also a subplot involving the company contact for the drilling operation that Beck has to deal with. It’s honestly difficult to say whether the film is trying to establish a sinister intent from her or just ineptitude. The only hint maybe that Beck lays her out with a punch at the end just before the credits roll.
On a final note, I believe both films are at least worthy of a fun double feature watch. I don’t think Deep Star Six is worth rewatching, but Leviathan could be worth an occasional revisiting. For fun, I would also suggest adding Underwater, just to see how much this type of film evolved and the lessons the filmmakers of that film probably benefitted from watching these films. Both of these films are readily available on Prime Video, which makes viewing super easy. So get yourself some seafood and enjoy!