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‘Leviathan’ 4K UHD (Blu-ray review)

Kino Lorber

Robocop, a Ghostbuster and a Wet Bandit fight a monster under the sea…

After James Cameron had made a name for himself in Hollywood with the box office success of Aliens, all eyes were on his next project, and when it became known that his next film would feature fantastical elements and a substantial amount of underwater sequences, the race was on to make an approximation of what The Abyss may be, just so the box office could be milked before Cameron’s third feature film premiered.

The most well-known of these imitators are DeepStar Six and Leviathan, and while the former undoubtedly has a certain schlocky charm, the latter is undoubtedly the better film of the two, as it is much more impressive in terms of production value, performances and ambience.

Set in an underwater mining operation, Leviathan utilizes the, at this point, classic Alien crew dynamic of blue collar workers fighting an outlandish enemy with elements of the body horror synonymous with that franchise, albeit there are also hints of John Carpenter’s The Thing to be found here, all set in what the filmmakers presumed would approximate whatever The Abyss would turn out to be.

While the finesse of Alien or The Thing is hardly present, Leviathan is nonetheless a fun sci-fi horror romp set under the sea, making it easy to understand why the film has a loyal cult following.

With an impressive ensemble cast for essentially being a knock-off, the cast of seasoned character actors such as Peter Weller, Ernie Hudson, Richard Crenna, Hector Elizondo and Daniel Stern all play their parts well, even if the characters are little more than archetypes with only the most basic of character development.

As for the creature, Stan Winston and his team delivered the creature effects, and while the creature of Leviathan is nowhere near as sophisticated or menacing as the xenomorph Winston & Co. had previously helped Cameron expand upon in Aliens, it is still a slightly better design that what most B-rate sci-fi horror flicks of its era had to offer.

The atmosphere also works in the film’s favor here, as Leviathan manages to create a claustrophobic and eerie setting with the maze-like corridors of the worn underwater mining operation, making the environment feel treacherous and unreliable in addition to providing plenty of hiding spaces for the creature, all of which is underlined by Jerry Goldsmith’s score.

The pacing flows well, taking just enough time to establish the setting and making the characters feel sufficiently relatable for the audience to invest in their plight and suspend disbelief, giving the film a decent baseline before the narrative and horror escalates.

Extras include commentary, archival featurettes, and trailer.

Leviathan stands as a testament to not only 80s sci-fi B-movie horror in general, but also to the onslaught of Alien knock-offs the decade was saturated with, and while Leviathan is formulaic to a fault and could never contend with the films it tries to emulate, it nonetheless makes for a fun facsimile of the real thing, making it a top tier guilty pleasure for genre fans.

Verdict: 7 out of 10.

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