Film

Virus (John Bruno, 1998)

Virus was released when I was 18, it seemed to be the last film I can remember watching where I’d found that the gory special effects disturbing, specifically where the crew members are turned into robot zombies whilst actually remaining alive; the notion of being hideously mutilated and then used as puppet by an indifferent alien organism seemed chilling, on a par with the host impregnation in Alien, or the visceral body horror in The Thing, if not especially original.

Virus very much seems like a cross between Aliens and the evil borg creatures from Star Trek the Next Generation, in that it seems to have a large studio budget, a decent mix of miniature and CGI effects (for it’s day), and a good supporting cast of b-list actors, which includes Jamie Lee Curtis (Halloween, True Lies), William Baldwin (Backdraft), Donald Sutherland (Klute, Don’t Look Now, Invasion of the Bodysnatchers) and Cliff Curtis (Sunshine, Deep Rising).

Incidentally, Cliff Curtis, who plays one of the crew member, and who inexplicably is saved from a gruesome dismemberment death after helping Jamie Lee Curtis but is swept of the boat during the storm (?!), also happened to appear in the similar seafaring-trapped-on-a-boat-in-the-middle-of-nowhere-chased-by-monsters flick Deep Rising released the year before (directed by Stephen Sommers who had better success with The Mummy, the same year Virus was released).

Disappointingly, it’s one of those instantly forgetful flops which was just produced by a studio to sell tickets, but I would argue that the director John Bruno, whom seems no stranger to b-movies since he’d worked as a special effects supervisor on Poltergeist, Terminator 2, The Abyss and Xmen, to name just afew, and probably had a great vision for the design of the monster and its visual effects, but may have fell foul of the studio pushing to keep the budget down.

The idea of an alien entity taking control of computers and building monsters out of human body parts and various mechanical equipment seems like a silly and not very original, and even a great cast of actors can’t seem to make it believable. The whole crux of what makes the monster scary is that it doesn’t have a body and can inhabit anything it wants under the right conditions, unfortunately, as Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson taught us in Scream, horror movies are successful only when they follow THE RULES.

Towards the end of the film, as Jamie Lee Curtis and William Baldwin try to blow up the ship before escaping, and after being repeatedly interrupted by resurrected crew members who seemed to have been perfectly fine just a short time ago, the film breaks its own rule by showing the entity inhabit and then getting destroyed in an alien queen-type robot body; which doesn’t make sense because the entity is able to inhabit anything electrical, and presumably more than one body at a time?

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