After losing their payload the ramshackle, sinking, ocean-going salvage tug "Sea Star" takes refuge in the eye of a typhoon in an attempt to make repairs. Whilst trying to find help the tug, captained by Robert Everton, discovers a Russian science vessel adrift in the eye. The crew believes their troubles are over and they are set for life when the captain informs them of the value of salvaging this apparent ghost-ship. However, the navigator Kit Foster and the chief engineer Steve Baker are not convinced that it will be that easy. Once power is restored to the ship strange things start to happen and the crew mysteriously disappear one by one. It isn't until the discovery of the last remaining Russian crew member, the chief science officer Nadia Vinogradiya, that the crew realise the enemy ranged against them isn't the Russians but something far more malevolent...
Directed by: John Bruno
. Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis
, William Baldwin
, Donald Sutherland
, Joanna Pacula
, Marshall Bell
, Sherman Augustus
, Cliff Curtis
, Julio Oscar Mechoso
, Yuri Chervotkin
, Keith Flippen
, Olga Rzhepetskaya-Retchin
, David Eggby
. Music by: Joel McNeely
I was still recovering from the fallout of 'Bruce Almighty' (why God, WHY??) when I sat down to watch 'Virus'. That might have had some bearing on my opinion of this film; after all, after watching a Jim Carrey film leaves me with certain demands. Namely, entertainment. I don't really consider that an unreasonable demand from a film, but unfortunately 'Virus' did not succeed that well in delivering.
Anyway, I sat down to watch 'Virus'. I went in with a few pre-conceived notions. Firstly, I thought it was set in space. Of course it wasn't, but I can understand how I got to that conclusion. When I hear "a story about an extraterrestrial virus" I don't immediately shout "sea ship!" but that didn't detract from the film. Okay, we're in the ocean. I can deal with that. Secondly, I thought this would be good. However, it wasn't. And it's main problem suffers from a phenomenon that I have dubbed "The 90s" However, I'm sure somebody reading this review will steal that from me like the filthy bds they are.
I won't go into the plot in detail because, to be honest, you've heard it all before. (and it's based on a comic. Wow, betcha didn't see THAT one coming!) In short, MIR space station contracts alien intelligence that zips it's way down to Earth and stays on a Russian vessel. Enter Donald Sutherland and his merry men who want to claim the now abandoned vessel and claim a profit on it. Or something.
Now, I must bring up Donald Sutherland here because his delivery of Captain Whatever is laughable. Not that the character he plays is given any depth, but still. The man looks totally out of his tree. I guess he was just breezing through 'Virus' to pick up a healthy check at the end. And who can blame him? He evidently forgot who he was supposed to be playing by the end seeing as his accent completely metamorphs. So does the Russian woman, but I won't go into her.
I said earlier this film's main problem was "the 90s" How this essentially translates for 'Virus' is a complete lack of scares or horror or action or whatever genre it was trying to fit in to. How does it manage to do this? One anacronym: CGI. For a film that follows in the long proud tradition of 'Alien' rip-offs, it's sort of troubling to realise it has absolutely no idea how to be as horrifying as the film it tries to emulate. 'Alien' uses quick glimpses of it's creature to utilise the collective imaginations of it's audience to create something far more horrific than ANY film could deliver. Much like the 'Blair Witch Project', that came out the same year as 'Virus'. (at least, I think it did. I'm not going to check though. I'm in far too big of a rant now to start fiddling around with details) In that way, 'Virus' is almost the antithesis to 'Blair Witch Project'. The unknown is infinitely scarier than a CGI robot tramping around in full view.
Actually, that's another preconceived notion I had about 'Virus'. It was actually going to be about A VIRUS. Now, an intelligent bolt of lightning is certainly an interesting concept with many avenues of story that could be pursued and tellingly, 'Virus' is far too lazy to go down any of them. Instead we are treated to Cybermen clones, Borg wannabes and Terminator inspired robotic nasties. None of which are particularly scary or impressive. Also, there are, presumably for comic effect, little spider scuttler things that fire nails at people. I actually owned one of those as a kid. They were called ZOIDS. You'd assemble them and wind the motor and they'd go walking off for a couple of feet. And 'Virus' actually shows these as if they're the worthwhile portrayal of an electrical alien intelligence. You'll even see them ambling along in all their non-fluent glory as they lure some character (I don't care, should you?) Into a vent. Now, bear with me because I think this scene is worthy of note. The guy is in a spooky old derelict and sees something dragging wires into the darkness of an shaft. Now, he is holding a weapon (something revolutionary for this genre, methinks) but, what's this? He is EXCHANGING HIS GUN FOR A TORCH. And of course, he goes in the shaft and promptly gets captured by lots of sentient wire cables. Serves him right.
Another interesting scene is where Donald Sutherland's character decides that the good and proper thing to do, after witnessing the above character come back as a Borg drone, is to offer himself up to the Virus. Now, uh, why? We get the feeling he doesn't like his crew, but what the f is he thinking? Absolutely nothing is made of this and it's a shame because had the film given the captain even two dimensions it would have been an interesting character twist. As 'Virus' presents it, however, Donald Sutherland is assimilated (surprised they didn't use that term in the film) comes back to spout some rhetoric and is dead within two minutes.
Yet, despite everything I've said about 'Virus', I can't give it anything less than four stars. You see, even though it has boring effects, wooden acting, cliché characters and a story based off a comic based off an entire genre, it's still entertaining. I mean, this film isn't God-awful or anything. It's not 'Showgirls'. There is some entertainment to be had at how hopelessly flawed it is. There are some (deliberately, I assume, although it could be the writer's attempt at a severe character-turning moment) hilarious moments, especially when the token black guy exclaims "Spare parts my ass, man!" Ho-ho, how I laughed. That one is sure to become a catch phrase, I reckon. In fact, I can't remember how many times I've been trapped in the middle of boring, pretentious conversations at stuffy late evening engagements, only to exclaim "Spare parts my ass, man!" And have the entire room suddenly erupt in laughter. Then, strobe lights come down from the ceiling, Scatman bursts over the speakers and strippers fly in through the windows.
I gave this film four out of ten for sheer entertainment (I should probably revise my first paragraph) 'Virus' is a disappointing film with an interesting premise that it ultimately wastes when it realises it is in danger of becoming a halfway decent horror film. Basically 'Event Horizon' at sea. Hopefully you read this bloated review and now will feel no compulsion to see it.
Review by Mr_Triboro from the Internet Movie Database.