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Deep Rising – Steve Newton’s Retro Reviews

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Twenty years ago today—on January 30, 1998—the seabeast saga Deep Rising was released in North American theatres, and man did it suck. I sure thought so, anyway. Here’s my original review from two decades ago…


What’s up with Vancouver and the scary movies that are made here? This town may be tops in TV terror (“Millennium,” “The X-Files,” “The Outer Limits”), but it sure has trouble producing decent horror flicks for the big screen, as anyone who’s suffered through Watchers, Needful Things, Hideaway, or Bordello of Blood can attest. And then there’s Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan. Sure, nobody expected that one to win an Oscar, but it was so wretched that it made its seven predecessors look okay.

The legacy of “Horrorwood North” doesn’t get any richer in the wake of Deep Rising, a so-called high-seas action thriller that sees the man-eating worms from Tremors transplanted to the South China Sea in the guise of snaky squid things that infest a luxury cruise ship and suck the flesh off nearly everyone aboard.

Into the corpse-strewn fray swaggers wisecracking sea captain John Finnegan (Treat Williams), who boards the ocean liner with a group of heavily armed mercenaries bent on evacuating and sinking the vessel so its owner (Anthony Heald) can collect the insurance. The rest of the movie is a predictable guns ’n’ beasts gorefest that wants to be equal parts Aliens, Titanic, and Anaconda but winds up being all parts crap.

Writer-director Stephen Sommers honed his chops on kid flicks such as The Adventures of Huck Finn, which may account for the incessantly juvenile dialogue that pervades this $45-million bomb. His script strives desperately to be hip and clever but only comes off as square and dumb. A typical example occurs while Finnegan and an inept jewel thief played by GoldenEye bombshell Famke Janssen are frantically warding off the rampaging creatures in a corridor. She yells something like “What are those things?!” and his deadpan reply is “Really unfriendly.

You’ve gotta feel sorry for the former Prince of the City here, as his top billing in Deep Rising can’t help but hinder the big-screen comeback he’s enjoyed lately thanks to acclaimed performances in The Devil’s Own and Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead. If you thought he was embarrassed by his role opposite Joe Piscopo in the much-maligned 1988 zombie-cop flick Dead Heat, just wait till the pans of this soaking-wet sucker start surfacing.


For more from Steve Newton, visit his website about rock ‘n’ roll and horror movies, Ear of Newt!

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