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Sunday, 21 April 2019

Retro Review: Leviathan (1989)

Cast: Peter Weller, Richard Crenna, Ernie Hudson, Daniel Stern, Hector Elizondo, Meg Foster, Amanda Pays, Lisa Elibacher
Genre: Science Fiction Horror
U.S Box Office Gross: over $15 million

Plot: An American deep-sea mining colony stumbles upon a sunken Soviet vessel hiding a horrific secret

'Favourable Bona- Fide Monster Sea-Based '80s Horror'

This film is 1986's Aliens set underwater and plays out more like The Abyss and DeepStar Six, only it echoes more of the horror undertones of the James Cameron sequel. Having seen the trio of The Abyss, DeepStar Six, Leviathan and all in full, subjectively, Leviathan is my favourite film of this type and I'll go into my reasons as to why. 

The story involves a set of blue-collar workers who work for a corporate head played by Meg Foster. The workers are headed by Captain Steven Beck (Peter Weller), who decides to give his employees a day off. But then comes the discovery of the Leviathan, the name of a so-called sea vessel and therein lies a mysterious creature, which appears to have disembarked on the vessel. 

Leviathan was released in 1989 and it was dismissed as a junky and less commercially viable knock-off of big-budget, The Abyss - yet in watching it today, I can say that Leviathan has that action-horror flair that it manages to nail down rather well in fact. To the extent that it makes the movie and the story as it advances, more engrossing and, therefore, becomes an improvement, as the body count surges. The second thing Leviathan has got right is the casting: making Peter Weller, most famously known for playing Robocop as the lead, was a great move. He is an actor who features in the types of movies that aren't always commercial Hollywood hits, but still, he has a likeable, cool, calm and collective quality and presence that one can detect in the majority of characters he plays, which are mostly in the B-movie action vein. Still hot off the heels of 1987's Robocop, it would appear that Leviathan was tipped to be Weller's next big blockbuster movie success. His performance was engaging- yet understated. 

The film also boosts Daniel Stern, who before he went down the comedy route, tried to make a name in serious fare in thriller remake, D.O.A and this effort, a year after but in playing a lecherous pervert, as well as Ghostbusters's Ernie Hudson and Richard Crenna (Rambo). Along with the female crew members played by Lisa Elibacher (Beverly Hills Cop 1) and British actress, Amanda Pays, the main ensemble of characters doesn't come across as goofy types, but also this established set of actors give the film some quality and watchability to boost it. Meg Foster rounds up the casting as the ice queen, who cares more about making a profit, rather than the livelihoods of others. 

Helmed by David Peoples (Blade Runner, Twelve Monkeys, Unforgiven) and Jeb Stuart (Die Hard, The Fugitive), it takes the concept of the deep sea by adding in horror aspects, whilst still managing to evoke and forge a good sense of camaraderie by the cast. 

Leviathan is a B-movie version of Alien: its tropes, similarities, structure and how it all unfolds is oh so remarkably similar, but that isn't to say that is a bad thing. Come to think of it, as a film, this was a surprisingly good watch. Whilst the horror and gore facets could have been scarier and more shocking, these were still good; the creature effects by Stan Winstons's team are impressive to see. The film manages to build up the tension, bit by bit with the gruesome kills coming into play & things go awry for the crew and it just has that tad bit more quality in many areas (casting, the last half of the film, believable characters), that, in reference to 1989's lesser equivalent, DeepStar Six kind of lacked.

The final third act finale is explosive and had me glued that didn't disappoint, whatsoever. 

Final Verdict: 

Alas, in Leviathan's horror roots, good last half, as well as effective casting and modest intentions and ambitions it copiously fulfils, these all manage to keep this 'Aliens' underwater screamer head above water. 


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