FEATURE: Shocktober '15 - Leviathan (1989)

Over the course of October, I shall be watching one horror movie a day and reviewing it right here for your reading pleasure. I haven't seen any of the films I'll be watching before and you can find the full list here.

Peter Weller plays Steven Beck, a geologist who is given command of a mining shack deep in the Atlantic Ocean. The team, including Amanda Pays' Elizabeth 'Willie' Williams, Ernie Hudson's Justin Jones and Hector Elizondo as Cobb, are coming to the end of a 90 day shift. On a routine patrol, Willie and crew member/red shirt Six Pack (Daniel Stern) happen across a wrecked Russian sub. Beck and the Doc (Richard Crenna) investigate, discovering that the crew had seemingly been killed off by a mysterious disease. Meanwhile, Six Pack takes a swig from some stolen vodka and soon begins to show signs of infection, before transforming into something truly monstrous.

We've done a couple of creature features so far for this month and each one has brought something different to the table. Deep Rising was pretty much everything you expect from a Stephen Sommers' film, pithy and entertaining. Rogue was a more suspenseful, realistic portrayal of man lost in nature and nature out to bite back. Leviathan sits itself squarely in the middle of this, not really offering up anything too original, but doing it in such a way that you don't really mind. What really helps it is that it's got quite the cast, all of whom do their bit to keep you interested as the plot ticks inevitably along.

Leviathan is, like the eponymous creature that threatens the mining team, a mish-mash of just about everything you'd expect from a team stranded in a remote location and forced to deal with a threat to their existence. Alien is clearly the most obvious influence from its slightly dodgy medical officer, the weapons used, the claustrophobic corridors and, for good measure, there's even a couple of chest-burster moments threatened. It doesn't quite manage the same oppressive atmosphere as its superlative predecessor.

The creature is created through some impressive special effects, both tangible and icky, which makes the crew's reactions to it feel suitably real. Everything's all a bit slimy. It also happens to be a combination of pretty much everything from real life marine horrors via Creature from the Black Lagoon and The Thing. The body horror transformation element, seen as Six Pack makes that transition between man and fish, feels like it could also have come from The Fly. The creature is rarely seen in full, which works to its benefit and allows its appearances to be rendered a little more creatively, dangling from vents and the like. 

The ending over-eggs the pudding somewhat, packing in several near-death experiences even when it seems the end is near. There's also the small matter that the film seems to develop a more blackly comic sense of humour in its last couple of minutes than there is in the rest of the film. Whilst it makes Beck's triumphant cry upon exploding the creature an air-punch of a moment, the decision to punch the female executive as his final act of the film is hilarious, but also completely out of the blue, given Beck's peacekeeping role previously. Also, you just don't expect the hero of your film to punch a woman. 

It's an odd fish this (pun very much intended), but Leviathan is still pretty entertaining. It feels like one of those films you watch with takeaway and beer on a Friday night; harmless, throwaway entertainment that pits man versus nature with a couple of explosions and some slightly dodgy one liners. Sometimes, that's just exactly what you need.

- Becky

You can find my other Shocktober '15 reviews here.

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