BOTTOM LINE: A modernized retro B-movie flick that monster fans and kids at heart should love. It's a twisted POSEIDON ADVENTURE homage that sails through dark Harryhausen & Spielberg-tainted seas and liberally borrows bucketfuls of gorgeously gloppy gore from those wicked Eerie and Creepy comics that horrified 50's-era moms tried to keep us from reading as we were growing up. The CGI effects are regrettably dated and show their age, but no matter. It's the genuine sense of fun & full throttle action that make DEEP RISING a first rate "park your thinker in neutral and just enjoy" motion picture spook house ride. If you're a fan of the film (or just appreciate seeing a movie looking & sounding as good as it can), then plunk down a few extra bucks and get the Blu-ray remaster release from the fine folks at Kino Lorber. The old DVD and more recent Mill Creek blu are a distant 3rd and 2nd, respectively. The film: 5 STARS. The DVD: 3 STARS. The Mill Creek double feature Blu-ray: 3 STARS. The Kino Lorber Blu-ray: 5 STARS
THE STORY: High tech mercenaries hire a laconic sea captain, who skippers a re-purposed WWII-era PT boat, to deliver them & their deadly secret cargo to an isolated destination in the Pacific, some 800+ miles off the coast of southern China. There, the savage soldiers-for-hire intend to hijack The Argonautica, a massive ultra-luxury cruise ship on her maiden voyage. When they eventually intercept the gigantic pleasure ship, everyone is surprised to find the vessel empty, with no clues as to what happened to the passengers & crew - except for traces of blood everywhere they search ...and then it all hits the fan.
THOUGHTS: One of my very favorite guilty pleasure monster movies from the 1990's. Cheesy? Lame-brained? Wonky CGI monsters? Guilty, guilty & guilty. Even so, I love this salty, snarky, sea monster/disaster movie. It has just enough of a tongue-in-cheek attitude to nicely balance the guts & grit, without slipping into self-parody. Treat Williams sets the tone, keeping things as tense or light as the situation demands. Sturdy Wes Studi makes for a very believable hardcore soldier of fortune, and he's got a stereotypical squad of macho lunkheads to order around & back him up, (including Jason Flemyng, Cliff Curtis, Clifton Powell, Djimon Hounsou and the late Trevor Goddard). Speaking of back-ups, Treat Williams, as PT skipper John Finnegan, has a scrappy 1st mate, Leila, (Una Damon), and a terrific Gilligan of his very own in Kevin O'Conner, as ship's mechanic & chief nitwit, Joey Pantucci. Rounding out the cast is a pre-XMEN Famke Jenssen as sultry, spunky Trillian St. James; a headstrong thief who throws in with Finnegan and the ragtag commandos in the hopes of making it off the creature-infested cruise ship in one piece.
The icky, deep-sea dwelling thingamajigs, courtesy of primo gross-out creature designer Rob (The Thing, 1982) Bottin, are equal parts disgusting and cool. But exactly WHAT are they? Definitely NOT octopus mutations, as many reviewers have assumed. The film's irritatingly pompous luxury ship owner Simon Canton, (a delightfully disintegrating performance by smarmy Anthony Heald), speculates that the creatures are an offshoot of the Archea Ottoia family. Frankly the things more properly resemble jumbo mutant versions of Bobbit Worms (Eunice Aphroditois). Regardless of whether they are factual or fictional, they are undoubtedly huge, slimy, sneaky and savage. Action is kept at a pretty steady pace, except for the draggy middle third, although that's redeemed by the over-the-top, hair-raising finale. And let's not forget that inspired final shot, which literally left us - and the surviving characters - wanting to know "Now what?!?" A terrific teaser that just begged for a sequel which, regrettably, never happened. *SIGH*
THE Kino-Lorber BLU-RAY: This terrific high-def remaster from Kino Lorber is a real winner. First up, I am pleased to tell you that transfer for this KL release is excellent. Kudos to whomever oversaw the remastering process. The fairly recent Mill Creek hi-def double feature release is a distant second compared to this one. THIS is the Blu-Ray you'll want to get if you're a fan of the film. TONS of detail jumps out at you, no matter where you look within the widescreen frame. There is no artifacting, pixelation or edge enhancement that I could detect. The original 2.0 soundtrack has been cleaned up, (now Lossless), and a new 5.1 surround track is available, too. The 2.0 version seems properly balanced between dialogue & sound effects/music, though there are few exchanges where the dialogue is somewhat on the soft side. The overall audio/video presentation here is as solid or perhaps even better than its original theatrical release, IMHO.
But wait, there's more! For hardcore fans (that'd be me!) of this aquatic action cheese-fest, there's a ton of terrific bonus content to enjoy. The main gimme is a full-length audio commentary track with director Stephen Sommers and the film's editor, Bob Ducsay. It's an engaging listen with lots of fun and funny recollections of the blood, sweat and tears that went into the making this movie. Next up are individual, newly-shot on-camera interviews with stars Wes Studi, Kevin O'Conner and Anthony Heald and cinematographer Howard Atherton. Additional on-camera interviews feature several of the department heads who oversaw the creation of the computer-generated & practical make-up F/X. Some great stories to be found here, as well. There are also ILM animatics & SPFX test footage for F/X junkies. The slipcover features newly-commissioned cover artwork that's reversible with the original US theatrical release poster art. Promo & behind-the-scenes photo galleries round out the roster of extra goodies. There are no interviews with Famke Jenssen or star Treat Williams, which was a bummer. Honestly though, that's my only gripe. All-in-all this Kino Lorber Blu-ray release of DEEP RISING is a top shelf effort and a definite treat for frantic fans of this slick, slithery monster-mash.