Review: Deep Rising

Deep Rising may be cliched and derivative but it sure is a lot of fun. Alien meets The Poseidon Adventure as Treat Williams hams it up in The Mummy director Stephen Sommers’ 1998 film.

Directed by: Stephen Sommers
Written by: Stephen Sommers
Starring: Treat Williams, Famke Janssen, Kevin J. O’Connor, Anthony Heald, Derrick O’Connor, Cliff Curtis, Djimon Hounsou, Wes Studi
Released: 1998 / Genre: Horror/Action-Adventure / Country: USA / IMDB
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You can’t watch Deep Rising without accepting it as a director’s wet-dream as he wallows in overt homage to the action and horror films he loves. Indeed, it is a pointless task trying to watch Stephen Sommers’ film without acknowledging every cliché in the proverbial horror director’s manual, in so far you simply accept you’re watching a film constructed from other movie’s more prominent parts. Yet despite the lack of any sense of originality (in fact, originality would be nothing more than a hindrance here), Deep Rising is the cinematic equivalent of all your favourite sweets thrown into one bag. It’s a self-referential movie that knows what it is and tries to do no more, and with its glowing-satiric humour, b-movie styling, and Treat Williams hamming it up, you’ve got a recipe for something very sweet.

deep rising, stephen sommers, treat williams,

John Finnegan (Williams) runs a “if the money’s there, we don’t care” boat company and is hired by a mysterious man named Hanover (Wes Studi) and his short-tempered team of renegades. They head out to the middle of nowhere in the Pacific Ocean, Finnegan not knowing where they are going or what Hanover’s convictions are. But as they near a luxurious cruise liner, Hanover and his team take control of the boat, holding Finnegan and his crew, Pantucci (Kevin O’Connor) and Leila (Una Damon), hostage. Hanover and his team, armed to the teeth, take Finnegan and Pantucci on-board the ship, with the intention of robbing it of its riches. But they find it deserted. Eventually they come across some survivors – the ship’s captain (Derek O’Connor), the owner (Anthony Heald), and femme-fatale beauty Trillion (Famke Janssen). The owner, Simon Canton, is babbling about sea-monsters, saying they have infested the ship. Of course, no one believes him until something goes bump in the night.

Part of the joy of watching Deep Rising is the recognition of what eighties or nineties films have been “borrowed from” (read: “ripped off”) like the subtle action sequence elements such as Treat Williams clearly taking cues from Arnie in Terminator II when it comes to opening gates whilst riding a bike. Then you’ve got the not so subtle references to James Cameron’s Aliens like the use of the elevator on the ship (the fact it has a female voice mothering its operation, and the descent the characters take into the lion’s den), and of course the commando’s themselves – the notion of military superiority. There’s even a very similar underwater scene to the one found in Jeunet’s Alien: Resurrection. That said, like the Where’s Wally cartoon’s you find yourself trying to spot the obvious movie homage only these are much easier to find. But the lack of originality rarely grates as this film knows itself and its genre – it recognises what the audience wants and delivers it. Character’s going down corridors alone in the dark are asking to be killed, it’s an old cliché, but one that hardly loses its appeal in Deep Rising because the film so knowingly celebrates that lack of wisdom within the conventional horror movie. Its tongue is firmly in its cheek with its proverbial eye continually winking at the audience.

action horror adventure boat monster,

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Of course the film has its fair share of flaws, partly an inexperienced Stephen Sommers whose creative talent would be rather more cohesive and defined in The Mummy and The Mummy Returns, and the CGI effects would have been better served had they not seen so much screen time. Additionally, the stereotypical characters may be an extension of the film’s gleeful retread of genre conventions but their cardboard exteriors and at times dreadful dialogue can stifle the film’s appeal somewhat. Nevertheless, Sommers maintains a good level of humour, hiding his lack of quality scares, and it’s this that glues all the component parts together.

Deep Rising is easy entertainment for the easily entertained. Treat Williams in the lead role and Kevin O’Connor as the annoying sidekick are well-suited to their roles, and while the film strips itself of any intellectual musings and inventive posturing, it keeps the thrills and laughs coming at quite a pace. Its lack of originality is less a hindrance, more just a reminder of the notion: if it isn’t broke don’t fix it, and it’s in this that Sommers obliges with aplomb.

Review by Daniel StephensSee all reviews

This review is part of 31 Days of Horror:

About the Author
Editor of Top 10 Films, Dan Stephens is usually found pondering his next list. An unhealthy love of 1980s Hollywood sees most of his top 10s involving a time-travelling DeLorean and an adventurous archaeologist going by the name Indiana.

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  1. Rodney Reply

    Oh man, this was an AWESOME film!! That thunderous Jerry Goldsmith score, that awesome explosive finale, Famke in a hot red dress (blimey, what’s not to love) and Treat Williams doing his best B-movie Leading Man impression!

    Yeah it’s corny, sure it rips off ideas from a dozen other films, but Sommers makes it so much fun you hardly care.

    Quite possibly the best B-movie I’ve ever seen (or at least, the most entertaining). 5 stars for me.

  2. Tyler Reply

    I saw this back when it came out – did not like it at all. Mind you, I was eleven or twelve. Still, I don’t imagine I’d like it any more if I watched it again.

  3. Sir Phobos Reply

    Wow, this came before Alien: Resurrection. Huh. I never thought about that.

    I haven’t watched this in years, but I do remember loving it. Oh, I pine for the days when Stephen Sommers had potential and hadn’t yet become a giant hack. I agree that The Mummy shows off Sommers’ creative talent, but then The Mummy 2 happened, and his soul has been barren and cold ever since. And lifeless. Look at his black eyes. They’re like dolls’ eyes.

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