The 90s, culturally, were not all that great. At best, the high-water mark for a lot of 90s productions is that, down the road, they’re less cringe-inducing than most 70s and 80s media. Horror films were at a particularly low ebb as major productions, and when they did get made, they were often some kind of strange hybrid with another genre. Such as Stephen Sommers’ Deep Rising, which is a very broad, gorey horror film/action film hybrid that really does neither genre much credit. On the plus side, it does have a frequently wet Treat Williams* out-handsoming a bunch of other actors.

Williams is Finnegan, a salvage boat captain who has been hired to escort an ethnically diverse group of mercenaries out to an undisclosed location in the South China Sea. While he very pointedly overlooks that he has hired himself and his crew out to what is clearly an extremely illegal operation, the luxury cruise liner Argonautica is having a culturally non-specific Asian-themed celebration as part of its maiden voyage (seriously, there is a Samoan fire-dancer, Japanese drummers, and a Foo Dog puppet all in the same pan shot at one point). While grifter Trillian (played by Famke Janssen) gets locked in the ship pantry after failing to rob the vault, a mysterious saboteur disables the ship just in time for a mysterious something to collide with the ship from the ocean’s depths. When Finnegan and the mercenaries arrive a few hours later, after being disastrously struck by a speedboat that fell of the cruise ship during the collison, they find the ship deserted but evidence of a massacre. Rounding up a handful of survivors, including ship owner Simon Canton and Trillian, it becomes obvious that Canton’s plan to use the mercenaries to rob the ship and sink it for the insurance money was interrupted by, of all things, giant fanged tentacle monsters. The cast is whittled down one-by-one, until of course we are left with only our handsomely white and flirtatious male and female leads, and then we get to our big denouement, where Treat Williams fights Cthulhu with a gun.

Deep Rising is, to be sure, not a good film. But one of the things one must learn to deal with as a film consumer, especially with certain genres, is that “good” and “entertaining” are not the same thing. Deep Rising is an entertaining film. There’s an effort made to have a certain degree of artistry to the film. Interesting contrasts are made between the use of red and blue as colors, with the warm red marking the world of wealth and decadence and the cool blues marking the deadly forces of the ocean and nature. Some stylistic jabs are made at framing and camera positions, with long narrow shots marking how limited the movement of the characters is, which ties into the notion of the creature “herding” them towards the larder, itself an echo of Trillian’s pantry imprisonment. There are some nice off-center, titled shots intercut with each other which echoes the “bobbing” motion of the boats and the insecurity of the characters. And there’s a big, mostly unexplored central theme of parasites feeding off hosts, with Trillian robbing 1%ers, Canton willing to kill to collect insurance money, and the creature itself doing basically the same, but on a grandly amoral and indifferent scale. But all these nifty little ideas are never developed because the film mostly cares about dumb, inappropriate jokes, comic relief, and big guns being fired at CGI monsters.

Still, Treat Williams fighting what is basically Cthlhu and then escaping while firing a rifle from a speed-boat. That’s kinda cool.

* A late in development replacement for Harrison Ford. And yes, they put iconic Han Solo lines in his mouth.

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