I do enjoy championing sub-genres. Whether it be the rash of crappy monster movies that came out in the late 90s (which is definitely something I want to write about at some point) to the amazing variety of Night Of The Living Dead knockoffs, I am always happy to go digging in the crud to find the gold. Recently, having once more savored the sumptuous feast that is Jaws, I felt an overwhelming desire to find other sea-based horror movies. Having watched Deep Rising so many times a fear the disk is wearing out (and fearing that my fiancee might suspect I loved it more than her) I struck out to find horror in aquatic form. Here are the results of my search.
Set-up: An abandoned Russian research vessel is found adrift in a hurricane, with no sign of the crew. The intrepid crew of a tug boards in the hope of claiming salvage. Instead, what they find is apparently the Borg from Star Trek. Hijinks ensue.
Star Power: Kiefer Sutherland and Jamie Lee Curtis, who should both know better.
Opinion: Yeah, no. Even as a fun romp this isn't very good. The monsters are creepy and kind of icky, being cyborgs, but also seem really slow and ponderous. The fact that a couple of the crew die in non-cyborg related ways and none of them seem very bright makes them seem even less threatening. Also, in case you haven't worked it out yet, The Virus Is Man. Yawn.
Best Moment: Undoubtedly the part where they get into contact with the 'intelligence' behind the cyborgs. They ask it what it wants and it starts listing body parts.
Worst Moment: "Wow, that is a really, really large pile of explosives in the middle of the room. And look! They are attached to some sort of rope that is running out. Maybe I should do something abou-" *BOOOOM*.
Sink or Swim?: Probably not worth bothering with. There are much better films that do the same thing.
Set-up: A sunken Russian vessel (sounds familiar) is found near a deep-sea mining facility, with a sealed safe containing the Captain's Log. Said Captain's Log describes a virus that was genetically mutating the crew before the ship sank, and you better believe he's included a free sample in the safe. Basically, it's what would happen if you blended Alien, The Thing and The Quatermass Experiment in a blender, and then doused it in seawater.
Star Power: Peter Weller, aka Robocop, and the criminal from the Home Alone movies who wasn't Joe Pesci.
Opinion: This one doesn't have an original thought in it's head. Which is a shame, because while the setup is interesting, it constantly reminds you that there are better films you could be watching. You can also pretty much point out the survivors from the first ten minutes onwards. Having said that though, it does get points for knowing not to show its creepy monsters too soon and in too much detail and has lovely set design.
Best Moment: The one moment of true original creepiness comes when one crew member tells another to get well soon, having seen him move under his blankets. Of course, we know he's already dead...
Worst Moment: Any time the company rep appears onscreen it stops the movie dead and kills off any potential atmosphere. She needs to be cut out.
Sink or Swim?: Sink, unless you like deja vu.
Set-up: A deserted cruise ship turns up in the Bering Sea after 40 years adrift and a crew sets out to salvage her. After arriving, they decide to not actually, yknow, salvage the ship, and instead wander the corridors having spooky things happen to them.
Star Power: Gabriel Byrne and Karl Urban (the other Robocop). Also, a very young Emily Browning.
Opinion: Hoo boy, this is a dumb one. This ship has been floating the high seas for 40 years in a shipping channel and nobody noticed. Also, nobody noticed a bunch of other salvage crews going missing in the same area. Not to mention the fact that the crew never does anything with any urgency. They all have a serious meeting about the ship sinking at one point, plan a course of action, and go back to wandering about. BUT, it does have a sense of fun, which is a first for this list.
Best Moment: The opening scene, set 40 years in the past, is so over the top it actually makes the rest of the film feel like a let down.
Worst Moment: The ending makes precisely zero sense.
Sink or Swim?: Swim, if you're in the mood for a trash. It's not scary, but it is kind of dumb and fun in the same way something like Python is.
Set-up: A US submarine picks up three survivors of a sunken hospital ship during World War II. Meanwhile, the new commanding officer is struggling because the "old captain just fell off the side" story is beginning to sound a tad unconvincing. And then creepy things start happening...
Star Power: Probably the greates concentration of "Hey it's that guy!" guys in cinema history. Bruce Greenwood, Dexter Fletcher, Jason Flemyng, Zach Galifianakis...
Opinion: At last! A proper creepy, well plotted, thriller, with enough spooks and tension to keep you on your toes. Also, being in such a cramped environment means there's a lot less scope for people wandering off and a lot more claustrophobia. Also has one of the best uses of sound in a horror movie - I can only imaginw how much creepier this would be in a cinema or with half-decent surround sound.
Best Moment: Two scenes are unbearably tense. The first is when a depth charge fails to detonate and it bounces veeery slowly down the hull. The second involves a reflection in a mirror, and is audaciously simple and brilliantly sinister.
Worst Moment: The ending seems a little anti-climactic, but then again, some big effects-fest wouldn't be appropriate either.
Sink or Swim?: Swim. The only one on this list that really creeped me out and the only one I recommend unequivocally.
So there you have it. If aquatic horror is your thing, the smorgasbord is mostly smeared with dung, but there is the occassional vol-au-vent. What a foul image, I do apologise. Anyway, until next time.