a critiQal film review Virus (1998)

Plot: A tug boat crew is caught in a typhoon. They encounter a Russian research ship, dead in the water, in the eye of the storm. Upon investigation, they find only one survivor, who tells a fantastic tale about an alien electrical life form that has taken over the ship. After being stranded onboard the ship, they must fight for their lives to stay alive...and make sure the virus doesn't get to land.

563 words (Est. Reading Time 2m 48s)
  • ...Jamie Lee Curtis' return to horror is nothing special.

This film came out a few years ago with almost no fanfare. I happened to run across Virus a couple of weeks ago at the video store, while I was picking up another movie to watch.

Virus caught my eye at first because it starred Jamie Lee Curtis, who (as any horror fan knows) has been in a couple of classic horror films (Halloween (1978), Prom Night). The story sounded interesting, even though the whole alien life form plotline is getting a little old.

I bypassed it then, but kept it in mind for the next time I went to the store. So, was it worth it, or should I have bypassed it again?

The characters seemed to be basically just cookie cutter horror characters. There’s the strong girl (aka Alien (1979) trilogy), her love interest, a member who will do anything to keep the vessel (aka Aliens (1986), Ghost Ship (2002)), a couple of “extra” characters who are there just to die, and someone who acts as a guide for the rest (aka The Mummy (1999), Aliens (1986)). All the characters aren’t fleshed out very well, so the actors basically only react, they don’t have a chance to act.

Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Sutherland, unfortunately, both seemed to fall into the reacting rather than acting category as well, and both created easily forgettable characters, with the rest of the cast seeming to follow their lead.

The plot, although not entirely original, was decent. It combined elements from Aliens (1986), Ghost Ship (2002), The Terminator (1984) and Shocker, and it came out pretty well.

It created some interesting scenes, and the dialogue, although easily forgettable, kept the movie going, obviously trying it’s best to stay away from most of the cheesy lines you hear in horror films these days. The ability of the machines to build human/robot crossbreeds, similar to The Borg in Star Trek: First Contact (1996), was great, and definitely added an extra horror element to the film.

The special effects abound throughout Virus, as they do in most sci-fi horror films. The special effects crews definitely did their work pretty well, and left no glaring mistakes. With the variety of special effects that needed to be done, from the explosions to the man/machine constructs, to the typhoon, to the over-the-top amounts of small arms fire, that must not have been an easy thing to do. Unfortunately, they didn’t really do a great job in coming up with any really spectacular special effects for the audience either.

Think back to the big sci-fi summer films – isn’t there always something new that sticks in the mind long after the film? In Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), it was the liquid Terminator in Independence Day (1996), it was the destruction of the Empire State Building; In The Abyss, it was the water tube speaking to the crew…and so on and so forth. This film doesn’t have anything memorable like that. Just a bunch of robots and explosions – been there, seen that.

Virus isn’t anything special. The cookie cutter performances, the storyline pieced together from other films, and the same old, same old special effects all add up to make this film, in one word, forgettable.

If you’ve seen Deep Blue Sea (1999) or Phantoms, you’ve seen most of what this movie has to offer. It’s decent enough to watch at a party or something, but nothing you’ll want to own.

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