The pull quote for this movie on the blu ray case reads “Alien underwater!” That quote did not instill me with a whole lot of confidence in this movie. Is that seriously the best thing they could find to put on the cover? That’s not even praise for the movie technically; it’s just a very concise summary of it. It would be like if Edge of Tomorrow (or I’m sorry, Live Die Repeat, fucking idiots…) had “Sci-Fi Groundhog Day!” as its choice cover quote. That isn’t anything! This could be grim.
Leviathan is a fairly typical monster movie, this one taking place in an undersea mining operation. The crew end up stumbling upon a ship wreck and inside find a safe that they bring back on board their own station. Inside they find all manner of things, including a note from the ship’s captain about how everyone is dying and shit is all fucked up, and a bottle of alcohol, which a few of them promptly drink because hey, free booze. From there they start to feel sick, monsters start bursting out of them, they start turning into monsters themselves, and generally all hell breaks loose so Robocop and Winston need to get a flamethrower and take care of matters.
What really stands out about Leviathan is the cast. I recognized damn near everybody here. You got Peter Weller (aka OG Robocop) in the lead role, Richard Crenna (aka Rambo’s boss) is here as the Doc, Daniel Stern (aka one of the victims of Kevin McCallister) is here as the comic relief who not surprisingly isn’t all that funny, and Ernie Hudson (aka Winston) is on board as the badass who uses a flamethrower in the final act of the movie. I also recognized the girl with the icy eyes from They Live as well. It’s a great cast and they help elevate what are fairly stock characters simply by being so awesome.
Leviathan has a pretty slow build before anything sinister starts to happen. I think this time is meant to get you attached to all of the characters but as I said, there isn’t much dimension to them and the only reason I cared about them in any way was because I liked the actors. There is very little to distinguish one character from another outside of their profession on the ship and perhaps one identifiable character trait (this girl likes to run, this guy is a goof, etc). The dialogue is ok, lots of banter that mostly works but at a certain point I was certainly ready for things to move forward.
Once they do though things get pretty good. Since this is a 1980’s joint we of course get practical monster effects and we also get a toooon of them. The creature in Leviathan seems to be completely different from one scene to the next. You see it fused with people, coming out of people, in small form, in huge form, in huger form, and all sorts of stages in between. The effects are mostly hit but there is definitely the occasional miss as well. The creature looks pretty goofy at times, especially during some of the final sequences, and you can tell at times they make an effort not to give you a terrific look at it. Also some of the close-up makeup effects don’t hold up but considering the sheer amount of effects and creature iterations on display here, what we get is damn impressive and also keeps things interesting as you never know what sort of monstrosity is going to show up next. I wouldn’t say the movie is at any point scary, perhaps outside of one or two effective jump scares, but I’m never not going to enjoy practical monster effects from the 80’s.
Oh you know what, actually there is one moment I need to mention that is actually a cool character beat. One character is starting to make the transformation into a creature and when they look down at their body and see what they are becoming, tears start to stream from their eyes. That was a cool touch, I don’t think I’ve ever seen that happen before. A few more character moments like that and this could be an under looked classic.
Leviathan is by no means great but it’s a fun watch for sure. Cool creature effects and a slew of great actors make up for the occasional slow pace and the whole thing is an enjoyable enough effort that I could see revisiting it somewhere down the line.