Directed by John Bruno
Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, William Baldwin, Donald Sutherland, Joanna Pacula, Marshall Bell.
1999 100 minutes
Rated: (for violence, gore, and profanity).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, January 20, 1999.
"Virus" is the type of cliched, vacuous film that has been recylcled so many times before that you wonder why anyone would even bother putting work into making it. Strangely enough, on the same mid-January weekend last year, another film was released like this, "Deep Rising," about an ugly monster on a cruise liner. Prior movies with the almost exact same storyline include 1989's "Leviathan," 1989's "Deep Star Six," and all four "Alien" pictures. "Virus," in comparison, is a servicable thriller, well-made and produced, but since it doesn't include one moment of even remote originality or intelligence, it sinks under the weight of the water that the film was shot on.
Based on a series of comic books, "Virus" concerns the crew of an ocean salvage tugboat, which becomes extremely damaged during a violent typhoon. After discovering that the boat is slowly sinking, (un)lucky for them, a huge ocean vessel that appears to be dead in the water turns up within the confines of their radar screen. Once the team reaches the Russian ship, they go on board to find that the place is seemingly deserted. After turning the power back on, however, there gradually are signs that something else is on the ship, and the electrical equipment is oddly working by itself. One survivor finally does turn up, Nadia (Joanna Pacula), who informs the suicidal and stern captain (Donald Sutherland) and one of the crew, Kit Foster (Jamie Lee Curtis), that a mysterious alien life form hit the Santi Mir space station which then was transported down to the ship, taking over the minds of all of the electrical machines and thinking that humans are viruses that should be completely wiped out.
If "Virus" sounds like all of the previously mentioned movies, you're correct. Although the technical artistry is fairly impressive to bring the mechanical creature to life, the film itself doesn't appear to have a brain in its head. The film sticks so close to the worn-out conventions of the "creature" genre that it is amazing anyone would spend the money and time filming it when they could be making an original film.
The actors are all very good and have all proven their acting abilities in the past, but they are sorely wasted here and do not really even have characters to play. In her second return to horror in the last year, Jamie Lee Curtis once again proves to be a strong and resourceful heroine, but that is about it. Although 1998's "Halloween: H20" was also a disappointment, at least she was given a few scenes to develop a character, unlike here. Donald Sutherland has fallen on hard times recently by starring in thoroughly disposable films, such as 1994's "The Puppet Masters," although I just watched him in the superb 1978 sci-fi classic "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," where he was fabulous. The last of the three top-billers is William Baldwin, but it is fairly hard to say if he is good or not in the picture, since he has nothing to do.
Basically, "Virus" is another one of those films where a group of people walk around and investigate a space ship/ocean liner/haunted house until the deadly and equally grotesque and slimy creature pops up and kills them one-by-one. It is not the worst of its type, but it is far from one of the best, and when exactly are studios going to give up recycling such shameless and overdone plot gimmicks such as this? As long as some of them keep making money, I suspect the answer is never.
©1999 by Dustin Putman