October Horrorshow: DeepStar Six

What a putrid mess. But, I’ve been watching far too many good or passable movies of late (ha!). I needed to get back in the shit. Once a person gets into shitty movies they can’t stay away for long. The world stops making sense. Things seem to slow down and speed up at the same time. Knowledge begins to lack clarity, begins to fade, and taken to its extreme, all that’s left is a blank stare into the abyss. It’s not pretty. Thank goodness DeepStar Six was there to save the day!

From way back in 1989, the year of the underwater sci-fi film, DeepStar Six is an Alien clone that takes place underwater. It’s one of three films that year which could lay claim to such a summary. It’s also, by far, the worst. The Abyss had Ed Harris and James Cameron. Leviathan had the immortal talents of Peter Weller and George P. Cosmatos. DeepStar Six has the mom from Ferris Bueller. And it also had Miguel Ferrer. That guy can play any asshole a screenplay requires, with the added bonus of doing it well. But one actor with talent wasn’t enough to float this dead dog.

At an underwater base somewhere in some ocean, a small crew of navy personnel and civilians is placing nuclear missiles at sites on the sea floor. It’s a pointless waste of capital and resources that is rendered completely moot by America’s land-based ICBMs, nuclear missile subs, and bomber fleet, but never mind all that. The screenwriters needed a reason to plunk their characters at the bottom of the ocean, and mining and oil had been claimed by Leviathan and The Abyss, respectively. You know, now that I think about it, the crew of DeepStar Six is remarkably diverse for a bunch of folks working with nuclear weapons. For one, the guy in charge of the project is South African. Another member of the crew is played by Elya Baskin (Latvia’s gift to Hollywood), who was born and raised in the Soviet Union. I don’t care how much of a good and trustworthy guy his character is supposed to be, the United States did not let Soviet citizens near its nukes. End of story. But if that was the straw that broke the camel’s back as far as this film’s suspension of disbelief is concerned, then there wouldn’t be any room for the shitty, would there? And boy, is it shitty.

While digging around for spots to place the nukes, the crew blows open a cave that is home to a gigantic undersea beast with a mean disposition. Of course, this film had such a low budget that for much of the film the only indication the audience gets of the monster’s presence is a blip on a sonar screen. A good rule of thumb for shitty movies: if most of the action on screen consists of cast members shouting at computer monitors, then the movie sucks. In this way, DeepStar Six is sort of like watching Star Trek films with all the exterior shots, i.e., stuff blowing up, excised. There are lots of strained looks and cameras shaking about to simulate damage happening, but there is no appearance from the monster until the final act. DeepStar Six is one big bottle episode, with characters running back and forth between familiar sci-fi interiors, trying to extricate themselves from their troubles.

Of course, the filmmakers couldn’t have gotten away with setting a film underwater without some exterior footage, so the audience is treated to some blurry Godzilla-quality model work from time to time. The models themselves don’t seem too bad, but the way in which they were photographed screams shitty. It might be a good thing, then, that we don’t see too much of these shots. Overall, the film just doesn’t look very good.

To make up for the film’s distinct lack of monster, the crew is subject to possibly the dumbest decision I’ve ever seen a character make in a movie, courtesy of Mr. Ferrer’s Snyder (a perfect name for a person with such a sneer), that does far more damage to their base than any oversized crustacean ever could. So, in the end, this movie isn’t about a monster terrorizing these poor people. It’s about a dumbass setting in motion a tragic industrial accident. Good job, Miguel.

DeepStar Six is such a rotten mess that I feel like watching Alien: Resurrection just to get the taste out of my mouth.