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"Creature Feature or Horror flick?" These are the choices I'm given this week. I'm getting ramped up for Halloween. Even after a Mothman and a Vampire Hunter, I'm still in the mood for some supernatural monsters. I'll get to a real ghoulie ghost story one of these days, but it is not this day.
So, creature feature it is.
I am surprised when Rico pulls up Deep Rising, because first, I've never even heard of this thing, and second, it's definitively an action-oriented movie. I mean, the title cover is a man and a woman riding a jet ski with a badly photoshopped explosion behind them.
Explosion aside, I also have the sneaking feeling that this is going to be a monster-in-the-house type movie. At first glance, it fits the profile perfectly. If you're not familiar with this term, let me impart some knowledge because you'll need it to appreciate parts of how bad this movie is.
Give or take, all movies can be put into ten major categories (not genres, that's a bit different). One of these is dubbed "monster in the house," which requires two things: a monster and a "house." The monster is pretty self-explanatory. The "house" is a metaphor for the setting: it is any place where the protagonists are trapped with the monster and are trying to escape. Sometimes this is an actual house. For our purposes, it's the cruise liner in the middle of the ocean.
The last thing, which makes this a horror movie, is a sin. Someone has to be bad and/or do something terrible. Often this either causes the monster to arise or the monster is a metaphor for this sin. For our purposes, this sin is greed. And my god, there is so much greed in this movie...
Keep these three elements in mind as we talk about our characters and the setting.
So, to set the scene, we're first on a rust-bucket of a boat with one John Finnegan, captain of said rust-bucket. He and his two other crew mates are transporting a squad of swat-team-looking mercenaries to somewhere in the middle of the ocean. It seems that we need to get told over and over the ship's motto, which is "If the cash is there, we don't care."
Crew's cumulative points for greed: 5.9 out of 10 since the mechanic Joey and the first mate Leila both don't like the idea of what they're doing. Still, John really just wants the cash. In fact, he's so greedy and self-absorbed that he lets Joey get the crap beat out of him until Leila forces him to go do something about it.
Let me tell you why this is a bad idea.
The boat is breaking down. The navigation system is on the fritz, the engine is being finicky, and literally, the only person on board who knows how anything works is Joey. This makes him the SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT CHARACTER THUS FAR to survive. Frankly, I don't like Joey. He's a badly written comic relief character, and there's nothing original about him. At best he makes terrible jokes, at worst he's annoying as hell. In fact, the only reason why I remember his name is because the way others shut him up is by saying "Joey" over and over until he does.
Joey is also a bit nosey, so when he finds out that the squad is having them transport almost 10 torpedo warheads, the squad takes offense and starts beating him up. They even threaten to kill him for just poking around their business. The band of mercenaries has way too much testosterone and not enough brain cells between them. One of them even tells Joey that he's expendable. O'RLY?
The amount of false machismo is enough to stink for miles and miles. One of them can only think about banging chicks, another laughs in the face of death, they love a bit of violence, they all like to give each other a hard time; about the only thing they didn't do was compare penis sizes.
Mercenaries points for greed: 5 average. These characters have a different type of greed, and each one has their own desires. Still, these mercenaries are willing to blow up a ship in order to get in the cruise's vault, steal, and go about their lives and enjoy a life of luxury. There isn't anything particularly horrible about their greed, but they are willing to kill for it.
Don't worry, there's plenty of greed to go around. Let's move on to the actual cruise liner and give out some more greed points.
The owner, dreamer, and creator of this massive luxury cruise experience is named Simon Canton. His brilliant dream was to create the world's most expensive, lavish cruise ever to exist. The world's richest people have been invited to attend the cruise's maiden voyage and experience the amazing vacation first hand. I believe during his toast, he even says, "look at how elegant and rich we all are," or something along those lines. The writing definitely could have used more work here...
Despite the obvious lavish chaos that is happening in the main ballroom/bar area, I have to congratulate Hollywood for making some amazing choices considering this scene only lasts a total of 5 minutes maximum. The entertainers were not actors pretending to be Tahitian dancers, or acrobats, or taiko drummers. They were real professionals hired to be entertainment for a scene. Whatdya know! Artists actually being asked to portray their art instead of having someone half-ass it! It's not much, but that's a win in my book.
Collective points for greed: 10 out of 10. You aren't a wealthy person on the world's most luxurious cruise liner if you aren't driven by greed at least to some degree, and frankly, Simon Canton's greed is enough to make up for the majority of whatever the crowd is lacking. Here's why:
Canton, in his quest to make his dream come true, miscalculated.
That's right! This whole fiasco could have been avoided if he had just figured out that the cost of keeping up a huge ship like that was not worth it because the income generated by the ship wouldn't even come close to covering it. If he had just figured it out sooner, he wouldn't have had to hire the mercenaries to blow up the ship so he could cash in on the insurance money.
"So what you're telling me," I say to Rico in the middle of the movie. "Is that this is an insurance scam."
"Pretty much," he answers.
Yep, our sin of choice in this movie is definitely greed.
We have one more character to meet before we have all the elements to put together into a cohesive horror trope. That would be the love interest. I know, here we go...
The woman who is our heroine/love interest is a thief named Trillion St. James. I think her name is mentioned once in the entire movie (I actually had to look it up on IMDb) and that's only because she gets caught stealing the captain's access card. Apparently, the ship got a fax with her wanted poster. In the middle of the ocean. Just a few moments before her arrest. Dude, the technology in 1998 is a shit ton better than the tech we have now...
Anyway, since there's really no brig on the ship, they throw her in a storage unit with a bunch of food boxes including bottles of Dom Perignon and trays of pre-made appetizers just waiting to be consumed. This, by the way, is the only reason she survives the beginning part of the movie.
Points for greed: a solid 7 out of 10. She's a criminal wanted in four countries accused of robbery, forgery, and attempted murder (which she's not sorry about), and she's on the world's most expensive cruise to get into the vaults and pickpocket her way through the crowd. She's been arrested and escaped (somehow), and yet she goes right back in for more. I don't know what she's doing with the rest of what she's got, but it's definitely not enough for this woman.
So, we have our players and our stage. Now, we need the monster.
I would never suggest that the villain of this movie is the monster. It's just a mindless eating machine intent on munching its way through the entire ship. And when I say entire, I mean that this thing is more thorough than I am on a tub of Ben & Jerry's. I mean, sure I could lick the lid clean and scoop up the last melted bits on the bottom, but is it really worth it after I've consumed three days worth of calories already? Our monster would laugh at me, take my empty tub, and eat it whole. With the spoon.
This creature has obviously eaten 99% of the crew and guests on board but still sticks around for some reason. When John, Joey, and the mercenaries first get on board the ship they find no one. It's a ghost town filled with broken bits and blood. The only people to have survived the initial culling is Trillion (because she's locked up in a storage unit) and a handful of others (including Simon and the captain) who are locked up in the ship's vault. Perhaps it's because three or four hundred people is a lot to digest, and our monster just needed a little nappy-poo...
Seriously, why is this monster still around?
Well, you know how these kinds of movies go. People get picked off one by one, things don't go according to plan, people turn on each other, the big bad macho man shits himself, and there's a final showdown with the monster before the hero gets away with the girl. The end.
While I wish it was that straightforward, there are some really dumb things in between. Some are logical leaps or missteps. One of the greatest examples of this is the leader of the mercenary group. First, he asks John why he's not even slightly curious what they're doing out in the middle of the ocean. What, is he dying to tell someone the plan? This is where the crew's motto gets thrown around over and over. Obviously, his line was just there in order to get the point across.
Second, when the rust-bucket breaks down the leader makes a comment that the cruise liner doesn't have any way to call for help. Then, when one of his squad members asks why the ship isn't moving he doesn't know why. Sorry, aren't you in on this fiasco? Like, you knew that someone was going to break down the ship's communications. The entire ship went black, okay? What did you expect?
Third, at the time of his death, the leader is halfway into the jaws of the creature (which, by the way, we've seen this thing eat struggling prey before so what's the holdup?). This guy is barely keeping himself from being devoured. Joey kindly gives him a pistol. It's not said outright, but this is obviously so he can shoot himself rather than being slowly stomach-acid-juiced alive. Instead of ending it quickly, the leader uses the gun to shoot at Joey one last time. It's really too bad because, well, this is the only time in the entire movie when a gun runs out of ammo.
Oh yeah, this is one of those "infinite ammunition" kind of movies. Even the flare gun never gets reloaded and is arguably one of the more terrifying weapons used.
Speaking of ammunition, the very first time the mercenaries get to use their brand new guns is during a scene I would hardly call tense. They're on the ship, having found nothing, and something falls over or makes some sound (I can't remember to be fair). The squad lets out hundreds of bullets into the room blindly at nothing. When they realize that there's nothing there, they have a great laugh and then proceed to shoot a couple hundred more bullets just for shits and giggles. My keen survival horror instincts just... (ノಠ益ಠ)ノ彡┻━┻
Other ridiculous moments include this shoe-horned bit of information: the monster is actually based on a real-life sea creature found in the depths of the ocean. If you really want to know, go watch the movie. The specifics aren't important, though, in all honesty, it's a cool concept taken to its logical extreme.
However, why is Simon Canton an expert in deep-sea marine biology?
Yes, the one who imparts the useless knowledge of what over-grown sea creature this is, how it hunts, and how it digests its victims alive is the idiot who couldn't figure out that maintenance costs are higher than his income. I am astounded.
Remember when I said that this movie falls into the category of "monster in the house"? Well, other famous monster-in-the-house movies include classics like Alien and Jaws. If you're a fan of these movies, you'll see shots ripped directly (and poorly) from these films. Seriously, I had flashbacks to both movies during every single chase scene. Even the deep sea monster has a strong resemblance to the Alien facehugger babies. As far as I'm concerned, there's not a single original shot throughout the entirety of Deep Rising and, to make matters worse, the pacing on these ripped-off shots is bad. Reactions are slow and miscalculated. Maybe we should blame the editing staff, or maybe it was the director. I don't know, but there's plenty of blame to go around.
Who I won't blame, however, are the actors. I was surprised to see many familiar faces in this movie. These actors, especially Famke Janssen and Jason Flemyng, are actors I've liked in other movies. So to see them meshed together in this one was really shocking. I wish that this had been a better movie if only to keep my image of these actors in a good light.
In the end, I'm no longer paying attention to the film because our lovers are kissing. I do, however, turn to Rico.
"I swear to god," I curse. "If John says 'what now?' one more time, I'm going to lose my shit."
As Rico's face is slowly turning bright red and he's containing his laughter, I already know that we're going to hear the goddamn catchphrase again.
Turns out, it's the last line of the movie.
I look at Rico, murderous intent glinting in my eyes, slowly grab the sides of his face, and let out a long, lung-emptying yell. He's laughing hysterically so I know he's enjoying my torment. So far this may actually be the worst movie he's shown me, if only for the dumb writing and the total lack of originality. There could have been so much more made of this. The concept of the monster is terrifying! I wish this had been a movie good enough for the creature.