Leviathan (1989) — The Abyss meets The Thing

“I think they sank that ship on purpose to cover up their mistakes.”

ZombieDog’s rating: Midnight movie monster mash

ZombieDog’s review: Being creative is hard. Being original is even harder. It’s best to do what most people would do in this situation which is copy something that already exists.

In 1987, it became known that James Cameron, the guy who directed Terminator and Aliens was now about to make an underwater action movie. When rival movie studio Tristar Entertainment caught wind of his idea, they decided that imitation was the sincerest form of flattery. Thus Leviathan began production followed by Lords of The Deep, The Abyss, and The Rift. Similar films produced around the same time is not unusual nor uncommon — and in fact has existed since the beginning of cinema. The Universal Monsters series went from roughly the 1930s to the 1950s used the same monsters over and over. Even today we see recurring themes with superheroes.

Yet if we are only willing to acknowledge that Leviathan merely used the setting from The Abyss, it would be very difficult to disprove that its storyline was roughly taken beat-for-beat from The Thing (which itself is a remake of the movie The Thing from Another World).

So, by now you’re probably wondering what my point is. Am I saying that movies that copy or mimic other story-lines are bad? No, I’m not saying that by a long shot! There’s nothing wrong with emulating or derivative works. Just think how many movies have been made about Dracula or how many Star Wars-inspired films there have been. Archetypes fuel creativity and very much have the potential to create something new even if it’s imitation.

Take 2015’s Mad Max Fury Road. Now I’m not certain if you would call this a remake or a re-imagining or whatever, but director George Miller looked around him, saw all the remakes being done, and said, “Stand back and watch how a pro does it!” With the elegance of a Mozart symphony, Miller created an epic work of insanity and chaos that rattled the universe. This is the potential of imagination be it original or not.

Leviathan does stand out in the underwater pack and is a true competitor to The Abyss. Peter Weller (RoboCop) is serving as a corporate geologist on a mining rig 16,000 feet under the Atlantic Ocean. He’s part of a standard crew who play practical jokes, get frustrated, and are ready to have their long shift be over. The movie really picks up when one of the divers accidentally discovers a sunken ship which contains an underwater horror movie starter kit in a safe. The crew quickly finds out that the sailors aboard the sunken ship died of a mysterious disease — and it’s not long after this they start to get sick themselves.

As I spoke about earlier, this goes on to copy pretty much the entire plot from The Thing. This is slightly disappointing, but it doesn’t really ruin the movie. However, Leviathan does take on a survival aspect, and we do get to see a variety of Cronenberg-esk type monsters which are done very well (if a little on the cheap side).

This movie is a great example of a cinematic time capsule. We have a young Peter Weller, Daniel Stern (Home Alone), and even Ernie Hudson (Ghostbusters). There is no doubt in my mind that these actors were giving 100%, even though they most likely knew that they were in a less-than-mainstream movie.

It would be difficult to argue that Leviathan wasn’t in some way, shape, or form inspired by The Abyss. Yet Abyss, while a technically superior film, is straight-up boring. What’s worse is at the end of the movie, all they encounter are stupid butterfly aliens who don’t eat your face or implant eggs in your stomach.

So I would like to offer a suggestion. I would like you to take those three hours that you would spend on The Abyss special edition and watch a double feature with Leviathan and Deepstar Six. Be it a late night gathering or a drive-in night in the backyard, these two movies together are just a wonderful B-movie buffet.

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