Two Horror Films from Hollywood Pictures
Deep Rising (January 6/07)
Though overlong and occasionally bogged down in special effects, Deep Rising is - more often than not - an old-fashioned and flat-out fun monster movie that benefits from Treat Williams' tremendously engaging lead performance. The film - which revolves around a ragtag group of characters (including Williams' John Finnegan and Famke Janssen's Trillian St. James) that find themselves under attack from a blood-thirsty sea monster - has been infused with a distinctly tongue-in-cheek sensibility by writer/director Stephen Sommers, and it's clear almost immediately that viewer isn't meant to take any of this seriously (with a premise like that, how could they?) Williams is perfectly cast as the Han Solo-esque hero, while the supporting cast has been peppered with a variety of familiar faces (including Djimon Hounsou, Cliff Curtis, and Anthony Heald). That being said, there's little doubt that the movie fares a whole lot better in its first half than in its second - primarily because the computer-generated monster just isn't very convincing (Sommers initially goes the Spielberg route and leaves the creature to the shadows). The flabby midsection doesn't do the film any favors, although - admittedly - Sommers does effectively pull everything together for an exciting and thoroughly rousing finale.
The Puppet Masters
Based on a 1951 novel by Robert A. Heinlein, The Puppet Masters follows several characters - including Donald Sutherland's Andrew Nivens, Julie Warner's Mary Sefton, and Keith David's Alex Holland - as they attempt to prevent parasitic aliens from successfully inhabiting the bodies of everyone on Earth. The film's screenplay (by Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio, and David S. Goyer) eschews character development and actual instances of plotting in favor of an unreasonably quick pace, with the invasion kicking off almost immediately (there is, consequently, not even a hint of surprise or shock among any of the protagonists). The strangely disjointed vibe is compounded by Stuart Orme's styleless direction, and there's simply no getting around the feeling that large chunks of Heinlein's story have been omitted. And aside from the inclusion of a few decent action sequences and several genuinely creepy moments, The Puppet Masters is generally as far-fetched and overwrought as its 1950s sci-fi brethren.