They both start on ships and get on bigger ships, but only one ends up on a lonely island.
Released a year apart Deep Rising and Virus seem on the surface to be very similar in plot; motley crews of morally questionable characters discover larger seemingly abandoned ships and bad things happen. Yet once the layers are pulled back it’s easy to see which has more entertainment value and why one is a cult favorite and the other is a joke.
Deep Rising was released in January of 1998. I was originally going to star Harrison Ford who would have fit as the rogue captain. I think he could have pulled it off. Once he backed out, the production budget was decreased and that may have caused the movie taking a hit in the special effects department. I think this was a plus since it made for a more streamlined and tighter film that focused on the characters. No one was “good” in this film. The captain, played by Treat Williams, is a Han Solo, Malcolm Reynolds type. He has a sense of duty but money runs his life. He takes a job taking a group of mercenaries somewhere in the South Pacific because “if the cash is there we do not care”.
Their destination is a luxury cruise ship on it’s maiden voyage. The mercs plan to take over ship and are bringing along a huge armament with rockets and gatling assault rifles. Jean Grey is aboard the cruise ship and is a thief after the vault independent of the mercs. Just after she’s caught, the mercs inside person shuts down the ship and then an unseen creature attacks. We don’t seen much of it for a while, just cutaways and lots of blood splatter.
Once everyone meets up it becomes more of a survival get off the ship and the heist plans are abandoned. The cast is full of unknown knowns. The captain of the cruise ship is the South African who Killed Rigg’s wife in Lethal Weapon, Kano from the Mortal Kombat movie, Kevin J. O’Connor etc. There’re some good deaths and B-movie banter and puns. Any movie that has a chase with a jet ski inside a cruse ship get’s a thumbs up from me. The final location left thing open for a sequel but I felt it was more of a fun nod to the main protagonist’s catchphrase
Virus was supposed to be released in the summer of 1998 but was pushed back to January 1999. I don’t know if this was due to Deep Rising having just been released, but that’s my theory. This film has a more well known cast. The captain is Donald Sutherland who is wasted in every sense of the word. The second in command and navigation is Jamie Lee Curtis. She’s there to be the tough female lead, until it’s time to be scared, scream and be rescued. There’s also one of the better looking Baldwin brothers. This film is about a completely amoral captain and his salvage crew that loses it’s cargo in a storm. While taking refuge in the eye to make repairs they come across what seems to be an abandoned Russian research ship.
Before we continue I have to make special mention of Cliff Curtis. He has the special recognition of appearing in both films. Interestingly he plays characters in both films closer to his nationality. (New Zealander), than many of his other roles. This guy has played almost every race
Anyway, the crew boards the ghost ship and realize if they can tow it to shore they get the salvage rights. It’s a multi million dollar research vessel so they each have a big pay day coming, if they can get it moving again. They notice bullet holes all over the ship and electrical cords cut everywhere. They don’t care they have dollar signs in their eyes. As soon as they restore power their own ship is sunk and a lone survivor tells them that “it” needs power and they must stop it. As required in all films, we take a while to get to what “it” really is and a number of people need to get attacked before everyone is in agreement. There’s some running around and trying to communicate with the life form to discover what it wants. Obviously the extinction of mankind because the only sentient life beyond out planet would hate humans. Who wouldn’t. The lone black guy loses it and runs off saying he’s not going to be spare parts for some cyborg army. He runs off reminiscent of the bald dude in Predator
I have to give Virus credit that between the two movies it passes the Bechdel test. In Deep Rising the two women never know of each other’s existence. More crew are killed and turned into cyborgs. The remaining crew realize the life form is sending the ship to a nearby British satellite installation so it can send itself to any and every linked system in the world. (OK Lawnmower Man) They have to sink the ship as it’s the only way to stop it. They flood the engine room with fuel and run back into the magical negro who says he has a plan to escape. President Snow meanwhile, made a deal with the life form and got turned into cyborg willingly. After maybe five lines and some 80s Clash of the Titans fighting he gets taken out like a Terminator
Jamie Lee is taken alive after a fight with a larger machine and it actually asks her does she speak English. Now I get that it was a Russian ship but it’s been stalking them for a few hours and when they talked to it earlier it spoke to them in English. Also if you’re going to have character asked if they speak English there’s only one proper way to ask. She gets rescued there’s a chase and one more fight with a larger machine. They come across what kind of fun Bagger Vance was having. He built a bomb and and rocket propelled ejection seat. Only those with famous last names get a ride and survive.
Between these two movies, Deep Rising knows it’s a B-movie and has it’s tongue firmly in it’s cheek. There’s winks and nods to film fans from the introduction of the anti-hero “I thought you would be older” to the final scene on a beach which for years was speculated to be the island from Lost. Virus, however, doesn’t even know what it wants to be. Science fiction, horror, no one knows. Jamie Lee herself uses it as an example of a bad movie she was in. There’s no reason to watch Virus but if you get a chance check out Deep Rising.
Speaking of ships and boats…..