A lot of people do scary movie marathons on and around Halloween, and Mark has been blogging Six Weeks of Halloween movies on Kaedrin for quite a while. This practice is apparently catching on, as I started watching horror and suspense movies last week without really intending to. I've watched quite a few now, but for the moment I'll just focus on three: DeepStar Six, Sphere and Below.
This series of movies was kicked off by a desire to watch The Abyss; which movie, I must shamefully admit, I've never seen all of. Well, I've watching all of these via Netflix streaming, and Netflix doesn't have The Abyss available for streaming. So, I started up DeepStar Six, a movie released at about the same time as The Abyss and generally built from the same ideas.
Unfortunately, DeepStar Six really isn't in the same league as the Cameron movie. With a cast featuring Greg Evigan, Nancy Everhard, Nia Peeples and Miguel Ferrar; it seems likely that the creative team was pushing for a TV series. Excepting Miguel Ferrar, the acting never rises above "mostly competent" and the story plods along in a predictable and pedestrian manner. The bottom line is, there's no reason to denigrate this movie to any great degree, but there's no reason to WATCH it, either.
I followed DeepStar Six up with a later example of this sub-genre, The Sphere. After all, who could do something like this better than Michael Crichton? Well, I would love to know what Crichton, who was supposedly involved in this production, thought of the final product. (Warning: If you haven't read the book, don't watch the trailer.)
It would be hard to get further away from the source material, Crichton's "Sphere", without switching over to a different movie. OK, honestly, that's a little exaggerated. But the screenplay DOES come off like the writer listened to a synopsis of the story over his cell phone, while driving hairpin curves at 80 mph, then wrote out the script when he got home. Names are changed for no reason, dialogue is re-assigned, scenes are shortened in such a way as to render their content into nonsense, and the action is re-ordered so that the meat of the story becomes meaningless. Of course, I'm a little hard on The Sphere, as the novel is one of my favorite Crichton works. And I understand that changes HAVE to be made when adapting the written word to a visual medium. But there MUST be a story behind how this particular project got mangled so badly. Even the presence of all-stars Dustin Hoffman, Samuel L. Jackson, Sharon Stone and Liev Shreiber does nothing to spice Sphere up.
Let's finish up this little grouping with 2002's Below.
I really like this movie. I love horror films that have a sense of history; some kind of grounding in fact. Below is about a WWII submarine that rescues three survivors from a torpedoed British hospital ship. Soon after, the submarine is found by a sub-hunter which manages to stay right on top of the sub for days. As the situation becomes more desperate, the crew and survivors are pushed to the edge.
Of the three movies listed here, Below is the only one that's actually *scary*. While the film contains a standard allotment of jump scares, there are several instances of genuine dread throughout. The cast, headed by Bruce Greenwood, Matthew Davis and Olivia Williams does an excellent job and is ably supported by a variety of young talent and some established character actors. The story isn't phenomenal, but holds up well enough to keep the audience involved until the end. On the negative side, Below could have used some judicious trimming for time; the 105 minute running time certainly won't scare you away but the material really only supports about 90. Also, the finale and closing don't do the rest of the film justice.
That's it for now. Next up, I'll do a handful of haunted house movies.
You're missing out. The Abyss is one of the greatest, most awesome movies. OK, perhaps not quite THAT good, but it's really quite good. It was a favorite of mine back in middle school and it remains a movie that I enjoy very much on occasion.
Below was also quite good. I wasn't expecting it to be when I watched it but was pleasantly surprised.
Sphere was not good. Sadly, it was one of my first exposures to Crichton, along with Jurassic Park and Congo. I avoided his books for the longest time thanks to two of those movies and only picked one up after becoming desperate for something to read (I get book DTs, I admit it). Luckily I spotted fairly quickly that his books and his movies tend to have very little in common. I've since become an avid reader of his novels. Such a pity that they never seem to translate to the big screen properly.