NOTE: I forgot to take screencaps of Leviathan before returning it to Netflix. You’ll just have to do without. My bad.
One of my greatest pleasures growing up was catching a stupid monster movie on a lazy weekend afternoon. As a wee tyke, Boston’s WLVI 56 filled that need with the famous Creature Double Feature block. But that was long gone by the time I was in high school; and besides, contrary to popular belief, I did have a social life in high school and had better things to do on a Saturday afternoon than watch old Godzilla flicks. Sundays, however, were a different story; and I spent many a Sunday in my room, watching a monster flick on TV while drawing (or, on more than one occasion, working on homework).
When I say monster movie, I don’t mean slasher flicks like the Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th series. I was never into those; psycho-murderers are kind of boring and I don’t like gratuitous gore (though I did enjoy Jason vs. Freddy, by which point both characters had more or less become hammy supernatural monsters). In general, though, give me something with tentacles or gross bug eyes or claws. Give me a bug monster or a sea monster or an alien hellbeast. I always considered C.H.U.D. to be the archetypal Lazy Sunday Monster Flick (partly because it’s the only one I specifically remember watching).
As high school got busier and I had fewer and fewer lazy Sundays, I didn’t have much time to catch a monster movie. By the time college came around I’d abandoned the practice entirely. So it was with some pleasure that I found myself with nothing to do on a lazy Sunday afternoon a few months back; and, flipping through my cable company’s On Demand options, I found a movie I’d always meant to see but never got around to: Leviathan. I knew the premise: a sea monster attacks an undersea station. Basically Alien underwater, but not as good. Perfect!
Leviathan stars Peter “Robocop” Weller as Steven Beck, the harried commander of an underwater science station in the Near Future™. Part of his problem is that his multibillion dollar station is crewed by people like “Six-Pack” (Daniel Stern), whose primary skills appear to be drinking and sexual harassment, and Doc (Richard Crenna), who seems like actually taking care of the crew is the last thing on his mind. The cast is rounded out by Ernie “Winston Zeddmore” Hudson, who appears to play the exact same role as Yaphet Kotto in Alien (right down to the union-rep rants against The Powers That Be), Hector Elizondo as the chief engineer, and Amanda Pays, who plays some sort of scientist, I think. I had a huge crush on Pays while she was on The Flash and Leviathan rewards with a brief, gratuitous bra-and-panties scene.
Weller & co. are busy mining or whatever it is they’re doing down there when they accidentally stumble upon a gigantic derelict Russion sub just over the next rise. I was unclear on how they could have missed such a huge metallic object while surveying the area for mining purposes but hey!—I’m not the filmmakers. Mentally ungifted Six-Pack discovers an ancient, rusted safe containing an old flask of vodka and drinks it, never for a moment considering the obvious possibility that the vodka might contain a special genetically-engineered virus designed to turn him into an undersea creature that reforms human tissue to construct its body. See, this is why I never drink vodka salvaged from Russian submarine wrecks. It’s caused some awkwardness in social situations, but I’m sticking to my guns on this one.
But enough about the plot—what’s the monster like? It’s best described as a cross between the thing from John Carpenter’s The Thing and the alien from Alien. Really—that about covers it.
The movie nails pretty much every cliché in the Alien Rip-Off Handbook, but it’s still an enjoyable time for a lazy Sunday. It was directed by the late George P. Cosmatos, whose credits include the (much better) Tombstone and the (possibly worse) Stallone flick Cobra. The monster effects by Stan Winston are top-notch, and Weller, Pays, Crenna and Hudson, when taken as a whole, are about the same as having one A-lister in the movie, so what you have here is a slightly above-average monster B-movie.