July 17, 2013

The Worst Movies I've Ever Seen: Leviathan

The year is 1989. It's a Friday night in March. Which, in north-central Connecticut, means its likely to be straight-out cold. So the options for a group of 17-year-olds is limited. And the one my friends and I almost always chose was the movies.

(Note: I have to admit, that isn't true. But since some of the other choices weren't, oh, I guess the word would be "legal", I am not mentioning them here. Not so much for preserving my image [which is beyond salvation at this point] as much as to keep my son from finding this five years from now and going "You hypocrite!")

There were a couple of theaters in the area, and the one we frequented most often was the Bristol 8, which had opened two years prior. Since then it has closed down and re-opened twice, only to close down again, mostly due to the 12-16 screen mega-theaters that opened around it. But in its day, it was a great place to see a film. There it is to your right. Looked a lot more impressive back in the day...well, slightly more impressive.

So that blustery March evening we went into the Bristol 8. The choices were slim. We'd already seen Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure (that sentence makes me feel a hundred years old...), and the other choices were films like Lean on Me, the Corey&Corey flick Dream a Little Dream and Police Academy 6. In other words, nothing too great.

But then we saw Leviathan. It had Peter Weller, whom we all loved from Buckaroo Banzai and Robocop. It had Ernie Hudson from Ghostbusters! It was about a mutant monster killing people underwater. It had everything! And I knew it was directed by George P. Cosmatos, who had helmed one of my favorite movies at the time: Rambo: First Blood Part II.

Aside: You know how flims tend to "cluster?" Like how Armageddon and Deep Impact came out at the same time in 1998? Or how these two Capote films came out one after the other? Well, 1989 was the year of the underwater horror/suspense film. Not only did Leviathan come out, so did The Abyss and Deepstar Six. In fact, Six had come out only two months before Leviathan. So, when you're complaining about too many torture-horror films coming out these days, it could be worse. Trust me.

So we went to see Leviathan, ready to be knocked off of our feet. And we were...just by the total crap the film turned out to be.

See, they're underwater miners down to their last few days on the job. They see a Russian ship wrecked on the ocean floor. They investigate and unwittingly bring back a bad bottle of vodka, which then gets someone infected. He and another crew member die. When their bodies are dumped into the water, they mutate into some creature which then hunts the crew. They try to survive until they can get to the surface. Which will be hard to do since their employer (the ice-blue eyed Meg Foster) has hung them out to dry and told the press that they're dead after a long search, rather than mount an actual rescue attempt. Think "Alien" underwater with a monster only 1/100 as cool as the Alien, and you get the idea.

So, it kind of meanders along. The build-up takes a loooonnnggg time. There are some deaths. The oxygen goes on the fritz, they're facing implosion and a scary monster, what will they do? At this point, it is an inoffensive but forgettable film.

So, at the end, three characters make it to the surface: Peter Weller, Ernie Hudson and Amanda Pays. The rescue helicopter from the faux rescue attempt sees them. The credit music begins to play. Oh, our heroes have made it! That's when the mutated monster (by now it has grown quite large) bursts out of the water....


When it happened, I and my friends were stunned. It was the classic movie cliche (black man dies at end of film) come to life. I still can't believed it happened. There's Ernie Hudson, escaping one second, and a mutant snack the next. And, at that moment, the film was utterly ruined. It ripped you right out of any state of enjoyment you were in and mocked it. I was offended. Not because the black guy got eaten, but because Cosmatos had opted to insult my intellgence.

We all walked out of the theater, bitching about the ending. That one moment instantly ruined the film beyond all hope and made it one of my personal worst films. To the point that I avoided Cosmatos' Tombstone like the plague, despite the fact I love Westerns like a fat kid loves cake. As Comic Book Guy would say "Worst. Ending. Ever."

1989 would get worse that year, with another horrible film, van Damme's Cyborg coming out in early April (which is a story all to itself). And then, all of a sudden, 1989 became the year for great movies.

  • April 14: Say Anything
  • April 21: Field of Dreams
  • May 24: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
  • June 2: Dead Poets' Society
  • June 23: Batman
  • July 7: Lethal Weapon 2
  • July 14: When Harry Met Sally
  • August 2: Parenthood
  • August 16: Uncle Buck (I will hear no ill spoken of Uncle Buck. You have been warned.)
  • November 22: Back to the Future Part II (Noticed that two-month gap, did you? Yes, September and October were pretty bad. Black Rain came out around then, which I like. But no else seems to for some reason.)
  • December 1: National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
  • December 14: Glory

That's a powerhouse lineup. But those were all in the future. At that time in March, I was dreading the film season to come. And all thanks to Leviathan.


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