Deadly Movies Reviews | ‘Leviathan’ (1989)
There’s a fine line between the high-art homage and the low-brow rip-off, and boy do people like to argue the case either way. One pill that all horror and monster fans should swallow however is that genre films are in essence all copies to some degree. From the quick cash-in like-for-like rip-offs to the clever convention inverters, most genre films get their inspiration, theme, story, narrative, or concept from somewhere. Films are not made in a vacuum and game changers are few and far between. However! Hold onto that thought, and hug it tightly. Yes cheapo rip-offs are frustrating but they are the byproduct of our beloved genre gems. Some of our most treasured genre flicks are copies of single great moments in film history. You’d have no Friday the 13th (1980) without Halloween (1978), hell you may never have Halloween without Black Christmas (1974), and no Slashers at all without Psycho (1960). You get the picture. Copies and rip-offs need not (always) be dirty words.
One family that understand the public desire for genre films are Italian moguls the De Laurentiis’s. Family king-pin Dino tried to make a Hollywood career from genre films and rip-offs. Dino once proudly declared that his 1976 King Kong remake would topple the box-office success of Jaws. It didn’t so he ditched remake and chanced his hand at a rip-off with Orca (1977), which also failed. Then it was time for a remake to a sequel with King Kong Lives (1986), which scraped the barrel so badly that the barrel no longer has a bottom to speak of. Which leads us neatly to 1989, Leviathan, and Dino’s brother Luigi (he’s the one with the green hat) and nephew Aurelio.
‘Time for an American genre film’ said the Italian producers. ‘I like Alien and I like The Thing, I think we need some kind of alien thing’. ‘Get me Stan Winston the monster guy and Tom Woodruff Jr, the one that wears the Alien costume’. ‘Now get me actors’. ‘I want the guy that plays Robocop, I want Winston from Ghostbusters, that tall bearded funny one from CHUD, and Col. Trautman from the Rambo films’. ‘Speaking of Rambo, get me that Greek guy that directed First Blood Part II and that crazy rat movie with the Robocop guy in it.., hell he knows half the cast already’. Mama-Mia that’sa one helluva spicy genre movie ensemble.
This is where Leviathan really starts to whet your appetite; a great genre cast and director as well as Stan Winston. It’s all going well, and as for location, you can put a huge genre check next to that one. These films demand isolation: Space, The Antarctic, a rural stately home, a deserted derelict castle etc. Leviathan opts for the ocean floor, pretty isolated I’d say. The seabed research facility takes care of the twisting corridors and steam pipes from Alien and the life imitating creature will provide the body horror from The Thing. Cue ensemble cast running and screaming, steam pipes bursting, animatronic bodies bursting and twisting, and a heart thumping creature reveal during the finale. Well almost. Leviathan has it all, everything a solid genre piece needs, everything that is except the monster.., which is poor in its execution to say the least. The big reveal during the finale is laughably bad and you just get the feeling that money and enthusiasm ran out. Which is a real shame, especially given Stan Winston’s involvement. Ridley Scott once suggested (of such films) that if you don’t have a monster, you don’t have a movie. With Leviathan we do have a monster and we do have a fun movie, but we don’t quite have a great monster movie.