There is nothing better than a good monster movie…except, on very rare occasions, for a bad monster movie. That’s what Deep Rising is. Only, it seems to know it, and that changes the whole game.In fact, I wondered whether or not I should even call this a guilty pleasure. The debate about whether director Stephen Sommers knows this is a bad movie and embraces it could go on forever, but I believe he knows exactly what he is doing.
We start out on a boat cruising along the stormy open ocean waters and are introduced to our hero, Captain Finnegan (portrayed by Treat Williams).
Then we are introduced to Kevin J. O’Connor’s Pantucci, the resident mechanic on this vessel. He is the plucky comic relief–a smart guy who is a little wimpy and always reacts to the horrible atrocities around him in a hilariously realistic way.
It turns out this crew is toting a group of soldiers across the ocean to some undisclosed location. By the time they realize the soldiers plan to shoot torpedos at a luxury ocean liner, however, it’s too late to stop the armed mercenaries.
But it doesn’t really matter, because the ocean liner has already been decimated by monstrous creatures of the deep. Once the mercenaries arrive and board the other vessel, nearly everyone is dead…all except for your resident “I-built-this-ship” villain, Famke Janssen, and a group of throwaway characters you know are going to die pretty quickly.
It sounds terribly standard, and it is, but there is a fun little twist with which the film is directed that lets you know Sommers “gets it.”
Whenever our mercenaries deliver the bad dialogue, they do it in an over-the-top action movie way. They scream and point their guns and act like Alpha Males.
Famke and our hero crew, however, are cheeky and fun and level-headed. They feel like they belong in an adventure romp instead of a monster movie. It’s as if Jack Burton met up with the Marines from The Rock. And even though the dialogue and events are almost 100% standard, the scenes are played for dark and wicked comedy. Finnegan, Pantucci, and Famke all seem to roll their eyes at the action movie cliches and characters, and some of the exchanges between Pantucci and the mercenaries are priceless.
And when the monster does show up, it is a surprisingly badass and scary design–seemingly never-ending and pulsating tentacles with multiple sets of jaws and razor-sharp teeth attached. The CG looks very 1998, but we can forgive that, or even embrace it as part of the film’s self-aware b-movie charm.
I’m going to spoil a scene for you. Because it illustrates why this movie works when it shouldn’t…
Our loveable Pantucci, after almost being murdered by the very serious and selfish mercenary leader, Hanover, comes across Hanover in one of the rooms of the cruise ship. At first he backs away in fear. But then he looks again and realizes that Hanover is being slowly digested by a huge toothy tentacle which has engulfed him up to the waiste.
Pantucci begins to flee, but thinks better of it. He turns, walks back to a silent and pained-looking Hanover, and hands him a handgun.
“Don’t say I never gave you nothing.”
This is every cliche in the horror/action movie book…
Then Pantucci turns, and as he is moving out of the room, Hanover fires a shot at Pantucci. Pantucci stops, pissed off and shocked, and belts out an indecent insult before running away.
Ooh, but wait! The best part is coming up!
Hanover slowly turns the gun on himself, pointing it at his head. He pulls the trigger.
Click. No bullets.
The camera flies above him as he wails in pain and the tentacle pulls him deeper.
This kind of sums up the tone of the movie. And it’s also the only time in the movie that a gun runs out of ammo. All the mercenaries are toting illogically huge and powerful BFGs. They seem proud of themselves, even going so far as to, in one scene, shoot violently at nothing, screaming their heads off, while Finnegan and Pantucci roll their eyes.
This is fun from top to bottom. From Famke beating a man with her shoe to the greatest sea-monster versus ski-doo chase scene in the history of cinema, this movie knows it is walking that fine line between comedy and horror, between bad and good and so-bad-it’s-good. And I don’t know that it ever makes a glaring mistake.
If you are still wondering whether you should take this movie seriously at the end, the movie’s last shot answers that question fairly definitively. Sheer brilliance.
When you want a very fun movie with some cool monsters, a beautiful woman, and a Jack Burton-esque hero, this is it. I say Jack Burton-esque because I could see Kurt Russell in Williams’s role very easily. I like to think that Finnegan is just a fake name that Burton took after he had to hide out from the monsters from Big Trouble in Little China. That’s how the movie feels, and that’s how it should be watched.
I am not a huge fan of The Mummy or Van Helsing. I feel like both of those Sommers movies got just a little too jokey. They were a little over-the-top goofy, and it lost its fun-factor. This, though, is right on the money. So come on, Stephen, return to your former glory. Give us a Deep Rising 2: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor.