Blatantly not to be confused with the 2014 movie about a Russian fisherman, Leviathan is an aquatic monster movie that had the amusing misfortune to have been released in the year 1989 – a time that not only saw James Cameron’s undersea epic The Abyss hit theaters but also Sean S. Cunningham’s much more low rent Deep Star 6 which was concerned with a giant mawed prehistoric crustacean and it’s habit of chowing down on deep sea divers.
Shack-Seven is an underwater mining facility that concerns itself with the extracting of precious materials from the ocean floor and is packed with as many stock genre characters as the film can muster. There’s Beck: the man in charge worried that his authority isn’t being respected, Sixpack: the rowdy horny one (read: borderline sex offender – there’s always one), Doc: the smug… Doc, Cobb: the grouchy, old, union man and Jones, Willie, Bowman and DeJesus, e.g the usual assortment of token black, women and latino characters.
During a routine day, the crew stumble across the sunken wreck of a Russian ship called “Leviathan”, retrieve a safe from the rusted hulk and unwisely brings it on board finding only files, videotapes and alcohol inside. Sixpack, being the sweaty scuzzball that he is, steals a hip flask of vodka and fucks off to swig it in his bunk only to find out the hard way that it contains a form of experimental virus which gets to work rebuilding his DNA with the gusto of a Lego enthusiast on an energy high. As the very molecules he’s comprised of barn dance their way into first killing him, then turning him into a malformed Lovecraftian mockery of the human form, it dawns on the crew that they be in something a lot deeper than water but their husky voiced CEO refuses to send a rescue party as she claims a passing hurricane makes it impossible.
As the rapidly dwindling crew weigh up the pros and cons of drowning versus all morphing together to make a blobby, half-human fish monster and Shack-Seven prepares to explosive-decompress itself all the way to Davey Jones’ Locker, the survivors band together in order to escape their claustrophobic tomb andthe audience will wonder which will corner them first: the goopy, razor toothed killing machine or Ridley Scott’s lawyers…
Essentially stealing so much from Alien it’s amazing that everyone involved in the making Leviathan wasn’t hauled in for wholesale theft, the movie is as original as a soaking wet photocopy.
The deep sea rig is essentially a drippier version of the Nostromo, even going as far to include some of the exact same sound effects of computer beeps and the scene where the Alien-like crewmembers wearing Alien-like pressure suits find a ruined Alien-like ship in an Alien-like inhospitable landscape is laughable in how utterly brazen it all is. Even Jerry Goldsmith pops up to handle scoring duties and drape a dependable layer of gloss over the whole project (his theme over the end credits is endearingly – and oddly – cheerful considering the carnage that’s been transpiring for the runtime).
In fact the only real suprise the film has is when it temporarily drops the Alien template and desides to completely rip off John Carpenter’s The Thing instead, although we DO get a typically awesome monster design from the late, great Stan Winston.
Utterly throwaway, the film is dopey fun if you don’t take it too seriously (why the blue fuck would you have a flamethrower in an underwater mining facility?) and it ends an utterly bizarre climatic scene that crams a shark attack, a “shock” monster return, a cartoonishly unnecessary death of a major character, one of the most eye ball rollingly awful kiss-off lines in cinema (“Say HAH, Motherfucker!”) and Peter Weller “heroically” punching a woman in the face all in the space of ten minutes before the credits roll.
It’s stunning that something SO derivative would have such talented names behind it and Rambo 2 director George P. Cosmatos marshals a crack team of character actors that are lead by Robocop himself Peter Weller who barks orders with his lead-lined larynx and is flanked by such familiar faces as Daniel Stern, Richard Crenna, Hector Elizondo the freakish eyes of Meg Foster and Ernie Hudson obviously having tremendous fun with his dialogue. Choice line: “I realize you must have gone through hell.” soothes Foster’s two-faced suit, breaking yet more bad news of a delayed rescue, “Gone? Bitch, we’re still here!” is Hudson’s majestic reply.
Time proves to be a great healer in all things and oddly enough it’s doubly true in highly polished, ripoff B-movies. In 1989 the highly unoriginal nature of the film rightly got a colder reception than the depths of the ocean floor the film is set on but watching it decades later it proves to be one of the more enjoyable of the Alien clones that pop up every so often. Oh don’t get me wrong, it’s only really worth digging up if it surfaces on a streaming service or turns up on a late night TV channel but it’s an uncomplicated monster mash that’s entertaining enough – if overwhelmingly shallow…