DeepStar Six (1989)

*. Yes, this is the same Sean S. Cunningham who produced and directed Friday the 13th. In my notes on that film I mentioned his remark that the slasher killer Jason was meant to be a creature like the shark in Jaws. So with DeepStar Six we might think of him as returning to those same roots.
*. There’s something endearing about the way DeepStar Six goes back to this idea of the old-school monster movie. 1989 was the year of the underwater horror-action flick. In the other movies, however, just a simple monster wasn’t enough. The supernatural had to be dragged in (The Evil Below), or aliens (Lords of the Deep), or some Thing-style shape-shifter resulting from experiments in genetic engineering (Leviathan, The Rift). In DeepStar Six the creature is just a hungry lobster set free by the irresponsible use of explosives. It’s far closer to The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms than it is to Alien.
*. Which is all to the good. I’ll go on the record here as saying that despite having a coveted zero critical rating on the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes (last time I checked), I think DeepStar Six is the best of these underwater flicks precisely because it’s such an unabashed B-movie.
*. It’s corny as hell, but it’s a good time and rarely drags. There are a handful of suspenseful scenes, like the one with the sub teetering on the edge of the cliff. There are some good kills, at least in the script (the gore effects aren’t great). The monster looks like something borrowed from Toho Studios. The cast are the usual bunch of types, with Greg Evigan as the bearded hunk, Nancy Everard as the girl in the wet shirt and no bra, and Miguel Ferrer stealing every scene as the hapless douche Snyder.
*. Isn’t it weird how the monster seems to change size so radically, being able to get through little doors and hide in small enclosed spaces, but then turning into Godzilla every time he surfaces?
*. I wonder why they bothered introducing the taping business with the remote (“Start the VCR!”) when they weren’t going to re-introduce the tape later. I thought we’d at least see a blurry image of the creature. Maybe something got cut from the script or fell on the editing room floor.
*. Apparently Cunningham was trying to scoop the other underwater movies slated for release in ’89. This upset James Cameron, who was working on The Abyss, but he had nothing to worry about.
*. It definitely could have been better done. It’s cheap, crudely shot, and very stupid (Snyder is just following orders when he nearly blows the installation up!). But it’s also a silly bit of fun that manages a few memorable scenes, the best of which is the man in the diving suit who is cut in two. Of all these underwater movies it’s the only one I think is worth re-watching. But it helps if you’re a kid, with a hankering for classic Creature Features. Even thirty years ago they really weren’t making them like this any more.

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