In 1989, for reasons known only to the gods of Hollywood, we were treated to no fewer than three suspense movies that took place at facilities on the ocean floor. The first two were billed as straight-up horror movies, which, of course, caught my attention. Plus, I had to admit, there had not been a whole lot of movies in that setting. So, my curiosity piqued, I had to check them out.
The first was Deep Star Six.
I actually like the one-sheet. That's a pretty cool image and tells you a lot about the setting and genre of the movie, so kudos for that. I also like the title. It's mysterious and cool. The story was about some Navy people in a rig at the bottom of the ocean who encounter a heretofore-unknown sea creature that goes about terrorizing and eating them. If that sounds cheesy, well, I'm not doing it justice because it was god-awful.
Who greenlit this piece of shit? The writing sucks, the directing sucks, the acting sucks (well, most of it. See below.), the sets suck, and the creature itself makes the rubber Godzilla outfits from the 60s look like Industrial Light and Magic-caliber CGI. I'm not kidding. This is what the thing looks like:
Did I lie? There are a few recognizable actors running about in this piece of shit and they should all be ashamed of themselves. Matt McCoy and Greg Evigan (yes, from BJ and the Bear!) are probably the two at least some of you will recognize. They suck in this movie. Big surprise there. If not for IMDB.com I wouldn't even know the other people in this movie, and I'm sure they'd be happier that way. Awful. Just awful.
But there was one bright spot in this underwater piece of shit. I don't know how they convinced him to do it, but they somehow got Miguel Ferrer to show up. Granted, he's not a Nicholson-level star, but he's damned talented and he should have had a much more successful career than he's had. I hate to say it, but maybe if he made better choices than this he would have had more success. I like him as an actor, truly, and I've yet to see him give a bad performance. He's even decent in this. God knows how.
Screw this bullshit. I'm calling my agent!
Aside from Mr. Ferrer, the rest of this movie sucks. And I don't mean in a Plan Nine From Outer Space good kind of suck, either. That movie can be very entertaining. I've watched it myself many times and laughed at every viewing. This movie makes me want to cry. Avoid this at all costs.
The second movie taking us to the ocean floor wasn't as bad as Deep Star Six. That's not saying much. In fact, it's saying nothing at all. It's not a great movie, it's not even a good movie, but it has a few moments that are not-shitty and we'll have to settle for that. The title is Leviathan.
This one, at least, has some decent actors on the screen. The lead character is played by Peter Weller. Like Miguel Ferrer, I wish someone could explain to me why he hasn't had a Brad Pitt-type career in Hollywood. This man can act. Talent-wise, he's better than a lot of the actors collecting $20 million salaries. In a better world, he'd be up there with Clooney and Affleck and Samuel L. Jackson. He's not, though, and we'll have to be okay with that.
We also see Ernie Hudson, Hector Elizondo (!), that hot chick from The Flash TV show, Richard Crenna and, somehow, Daniel Stern.
Weller and Hudson ain't lookin for no ghosts.
Some undersea miners encounter a sunken Russian ship nearby and recover a chest that happens to have some tainted vodka in it. Drinking it infects the individual with mutant DNA that turns them into fishmen. Okay, I know that sounds bad. The movie is even worse. It's a cross between Alien (see the pic above) and John Carpenter's The Thing. Both those movies rock to perfection. This one just plain sucks.
I almost forgot, it does have one other thing going for it: Meg Foster. She's an actress who could only have been successful in the 80s. She's known the world over for her creepy/sexy/they-come-in-that-color-? eyes. See for yourself:
She's also widely known for her role in John Carpenter's They Live! And while she didn't participate in that movie's infamous fistfight over putting on a pair of sunglasses, she pretty much dominated the movie, anyway. She doesn't get a lot to do here but she's still cool and, wow, those eyes! 'nuff said.
Leviathan sucks but it's not a total loss. It could have been better, should have been better, but it isn't and this is what we're stuck with.
It was with heavy heart that I went to the theatre to see the third underwater movie of the year. It was written and directed by the same guy who did The Terminator and Aliens, so I was desperately hopeful. Those are two of the greatest movies I've ever seen. Still, when the houselights went down and the movie was about to start, I kinda cringed and thought, Please don't suck. Please don't suck. Over and over again, like a mantra.
I didn't have to worry. The Abyss rocked from start to finish. Here's what you can do with a talented writer/director and a budget and a cast full of decent actors. Ed Harris, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and Michael Biehn all kick ass in this movie. Frankly, they had me at Ed Harris; I consider him one of the ten best actors alive right now.
More undersea hijinks, only this time everything makes sense. Imagine that! The people at an underwater drilling platform are sent to aid the crew of a downed American submarine. They're too late to save the poor bastards but they encounter something else while they're down there: a (possibly) alien race and city that, in the extended version, at least, are getting annoyed with how the human race is always one heartbeat away from nuclear war. A perfect theme for the time when the Cold War was coming to an end.
The pseudopod was created by ILM's Pixar system.
I think this is the movie that cemented my opinion of James Cameron. It was here that I really started to like him. I'm a fan to this day, even if Avatar was a bit overblown. I go to his movies now based entirely on the strength of what he's done before and I haven't been disappointed yet.
Is The Abyss great? I don't know, probably not. Is it good? Hell, yes! Of all the bottom-of-the-ocean movies from 1989, it's the only one that wasn't straight-up horror, and thus it should have been my least-favorite of the three. In fact, I like it the best. It's not even close.
We're going on twenty-five years since Hollywood mugged us with two shitty movies (and one good one) that took us to the ocean floor. Isn't it time for some remakes? Or at least better efforts to make us forget about these assaults on decency? Both Peter Weller and Miguel Ferrer are still acting and still doing it well. Give them a shot at redemption. Give Ed Harris anything he wants. Let's get some decent underwater movies on the screen.
If you want, I can be talked into the movie rights for The Last Battleship. Anything
for a seven-figure payday to help the cause.