16000 feet down in the Atlantic ocean, a deep-sea mining colony discovers a wrecked ship named Leviathan. After investigation this wreckage, the crew unknowingly brings a malignant creature on board. This creature begins to grow at a tremendous rate, feeding on the workers. The crew try to survive in this underwater prison.
Leviathan is an underwater sci-fi/horror film released in March of 1989. Directed by the late George P. Cosmatos, father of 2018’s Mandy director Panos Cosmato. Leviathan was green lit with a twenty million dollar budget and starred a pretty strong cast. RoboCops Peter Weller, Home Alones Daniel Stern, Ghostbusters Ernie Hudson, First Bloods Richard Crenna, Amanda Pays, Pretty Womans Hector Elizondo and that crazy blue eyed lady from They Live! Meg Foster. May Evil-Lyn reign forever!
The monster and effects were handled by the legendary Stan Winston who has done major films like Aliens, Jurassic Park, Pumpkinhead, The Monster Squad, The Thing, Friday The 13th 3… For crying out loud… Do I really need to list all the Stan Winston movies? If you don’t know him then get out! Literally, you can tell a complete stranger to list their top ten sci-fi/horror movies and chances are they’ll name ten Stan Winston films.
Let’s Just Admit It
Alright, I might get a great deal of crap for this one by horror fans. Everyone knows Leviathan is pretty much a rip-off of 1979’s Alien, crossbred with John Carpenters The Thing. But dammit I like this movie! If we can all love The Monster Squad knowing it’s a rip-off of The Goonies then I think Leviathan should pass. So please bare with me. If anything it highlights an interesting place in horror history. Either way, this is my marathon.
Leviathan follows an underwater mining colony lead by a geologist and our main protagonist Steven Beck (Peter Weller). Accompanied by Dr. Glen ‘Doc’ Thompson, Elizabeth ‘Willie’ Williams, Buzz ‘Sixpack’ Parrish, Justin Jones, Tony DeJesus Rodero, Bridget Bowman and G.P. Cobb. Their company is the Tri-Oceanic Corp. and their CEO is Miss Martin (Meg Foster). She’s a typical CEO. Emotionless and always careless for her employees. You get the drift, the social justice warriors idea for the 1% or whatever that is. They use these bulky deep-sea suits that resemble a more modern Big Daddy from BioShock. Personally you can tell the crew have a great deal of experience with each other. This is shown by their social interactions during their meals to them playing pranks on each other while working.
Later they discover a sunken Russian ship named Leviathan. They explore the vessel and salvage items on board. Sixpack retrieves a flask of Vodka which he shares with Bowman. Doing so infects their bodies with this unknown organism and starting things off. The movie goes on from there. The infection grows, and turns into a monster. The CEO of the company won’t help them. You get the drift.
By the mid 80’s outer space movies were taking their toll on audiences. The love for outer space sci-fi just wasn’t as strong anymore. Star Wars: Return Of The Jedi was released in 1983 which officially ended the Star Wars series. My theory is when you have a film series as epic as Star Wars and it ends, so does the fan bases desire to see movies like it. The stories over, the characters have gone home. There’s nothing more to see and it’s a mutually undeclared sentiment of the audience. The human brain is tired of this story and wants to discover new ground.
I would be as surprised as Bill Cosby holding a bottle of placebos if the Marvel fandom doesn’t drop tremendously after Avengers: Infinity War II. Doing what Star Wars probably did to space films. Yea, you will have some films that may do fine. But the overall love by the masses won’t persist. Especially with Iron Man and Captain America finally saying goodbye.
Back To the 80’s
Around the late 80’s Hollywood took notice of the genres downward trend. Hollywood immediately searched for new environments to film new movies. The Titanic wreckage was discovered in 85 and underwater nuclear submarines might have made people curious of deep sea navigation. Also, what’s more unknown than outer space? Why not the ocean depths of our own planet. The atmosphere is almost the same and the technology resembles space gear. Hollywood quickly approved a bulk load of films for the 1989 year.
If there was ever a good example of trends being rushed in film then this would be it. We had James Cameron’s The Abyss, DeepStar Six, Endless Descent (aka The Rift), The Evil Below, Lords of The Deep and Leviathan. Every single one of these movies was a blockbuster flop, which is probably why underwater films stopped within a year.
Unlike The Abyss, Leviathan wasn’t as grandiose of a project. Of course The Abyss had a bigger budget. James Cameron had just finished Aliens and Terminator so The Abyss would be his biggest film at this point.
While The Abyss film was shot in a 7.5 million ton water tank and would make digital effects that are still impressive today; Leviathan took a meeker approach. Instead of filming completely underwater, Leviathan used an effect called “dry for wet.” A filming technique in which it’s made to appear like it’s underwater. By using things like smoke, lighting and filters to make the scene feel murky.
The underwater scenes in Leviathan were still lacking a more natural underwater feel so they used fake snow to create the murky debris floating around the suits. They slowed the cameras down to make the suits seem like they’re passing through water. This was a real creative effect and it does make the scenes feel underwater. The only thing lacking are air bubbles. Last time I checked, that’s a sure sign of being in water.
Give it A Chance
I bring up the production of the movie to make a point that it has a lot going for it. The movie has practical effects and an amazing set design. Sam Winston does a fine job with the creature. But really shines when the creatures is small or mutated form. Moments like when Sixpacks leg is severed or when Rodero is attacked are great scenes that are actually the films biggest highlights.
The creature might be a little cumbersome so they show it in fast glimpses. It never gives you a clear picture as to what you’re seeing. But that’s ok. Although when compared to 1986’s Aliens or the amazing 1988 Pumpinhead, it does look like a 1950’s kind of prop. The Leviathan creature reminds me of when you’re drawing a cool creature. You start with the head and get real detailed. But as time goes on and you move to the body; you can’t get the legs right. So the drawing kind of ceases.
Tone It Up
The tone works for me and that is mainly because of the deep-sea vessel. Everything is futuristic and eerily claustrophobic. The ship is constantly under pressure from the surrounding ocean so it has great background sounds with creaking and moaning. I never once feel like we’re not really underwater. Which might be the thing I like more than Alien. Alien has this ship that is silent and threatening in it’s muteness. You might forget about it being in space. While Leviathan is terrifying in it’s dread of collapse and surrounding. It might be why I am a huge fan of underwater films in general.
Yes the film is the cliche “monster on the loose” kind of film very similar to Alien. In fact the similarities are so close that it boggles my mind that they didn’t attempt to diversify the story. Alien features the Weyland Corporation. Leviathan has Tri-Oceanic Corp. These two companies abandon their workers and exist for corporate gain. Both take place in large walled in spaces that make it impossible for safe passage outside. The creatures are both discovered on old abandoned ships that are then transported back to the main base. The xenomorph grows from within a crew member and so does the Leviathan creature. These two creatures start out small and make their first kill rather gruesomely. The ships doctors both betray their own crews. Yea so there is no denying that they’re the same film. But of all the Alien rip-offs this one is the best and deserves a true horror fans time. Nearly 30 years later and I think it’s safe to admire it on it’s own.
People go off alone and pay dearly for it. WOMP WOOOOMM kind of moments. But the gore is impressive and the acting is great. Peter Weller as Steve acts so calm in the midst of calamity. Ernie Hudson has great lines and gives a solid performance. I find more parts of he film to be entertaining than not and believe it to be an effective thriller. But there is one giant shit stain that this film does have and anyone familiar with Leviathan knows what I am talking about.
What Did We Just See – Spoilers!
At the end of the movie Steven (Peter Weller), Elizabeth (Amanda Pays) and Justin (Ernie Hudson) escape the ship and are rejoicing at the surface. They have gotten away from the creature and are waiting for the helicopter to pick them up. All of sudden sharks, yes sharks; attack them. But they quickly leave and then the monster resurfaces and Ernie Hudson sacrifices himself to save Steven and Elizabeth! Steven throws dynamite into the monsters mouth and yells “Say hi mother f^%@^!” The monster blows up and the creepy music we’ve heard the entire film is replaced by this happy go lucky twiddle my wiener kind of music. Steven and Elizabeth get back to a floating rig and Peter slugs is boss in the face. They walk off to bang, not even pissed that the crew of their ship and probably real good friends are all dead.
What the hell is this! I don’t know what happened. Maybe Ernie Hudson ate George P. Cosmatos’ pizza or something. It’s rumored that George and Ernie had some arguments regarding his character so this could have been a big middle finger to Mr Hudson. What a load of crap! Knowbody does this to Winston Zeddmore! If I ever find George Cosmatos then he’s a dead man! HEAR ME! DEAD! Oh wait, he is dead. Well good, sometimes I even impress myself with what I’m capable of doing.
Leviathan is a fun undersea film and of the four lower budgeted films behind The Abyss; it stands out as the best. DeepStar six is a good film and is very much the same as Leviathan. But I find it to be cheaper and less exciting. Leviathan still looks good to this day and I admire the craftsmanship and techniques it took to make it a believable setting. Unless you’re one of those wacky Alien film franchise obsessed fans, then there’s no reason for any horror fan to miss this film. I’m proud to make this my pick for day seven of Horror Movie Marathon!