Man…remember Deep Rising? If you’ve seen it, of course you do. And if you haven’t, I pity that you’ve lived the last 20 years of your life without it.
Not that director Stephen Sommers went on to a career of critical darlings, but he did godfather Universal’s pre-Dark Universe reboot of The Mummy, which saw him direct the initial film along with The Mummy Returns. Though The Mummy series went on to make billions of dollars and even inspire a theme park ride, none of them managed to contain the same level of charm and unpretentious big-screen thrills of Deep Rising. They contained the same sense of adventure as was present in Deep Rising, along with the same wise-cracking hero. But with Deep Rising being an R-rated affair, we also got a healthy dose of beautiful violence.
Deep Rising is an amalgamation of a great many inspirations: the films of Ray Harryhausen, disaster flicks like The Poseidon Adventure, a twist of Die Hard, and fun monster titles from the atomic age such as the original Godzilla and It Came from Beneath the Sea. Treat Williams’ Finnegan is clearly modeled on The Evil Dead’s Ashley J. Williams, from the drab, makeshift, army/navy surplus wardrobe, to the shotgun strapped to his back, to his sardonic and cynical take on life. Williams (Treat, not Ash) rarely enjoys the lead role, as he’s done mostly character work throughout his career, but he sinks every tooth he has into John Finnegan, imbuing him with life and creating an absolutely lovable hero in the mold of not just a chainsaw-wielding Ash but also Indiana Jones.
Deep Rising boasts a solid supporting cast of character actors, including Last of the Mohicans’ Wes Studi as the leader of the mercenaries along with Silence of the Lambs’ Anthony Heald, who, to my knowledge, has never not played a dick. I like to think he and William Atherton grab drinks every so often and have a literal dick-measuring contest as they debate all the dick characters they’ve played over the years. Beyond them, there’s also the early on-screen appearance of a gorgeous Famke Janssen (The X-Men), playing the con-artist/grifter/femme fatale (because every sea monster flick needs one).
Horror films are rarely fun anymore; now it’s all slight teen thrillers about how scary the internet is. And that’s boring. Deep Rising is fun.