Cheesy 90’s sci-fi horror adventure
Dir. John Bruno
Runtime: 99 minutes
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Sutherland, William Baldwin
This 1999 film is based on a Dark Horse comic book of the same name by Chuck Pfarrer. In it, an alien entity is on Earth and wants to turn humans into it’s slave cyborgs. Made with a budget of around $75 million, this film was considered a commercial flop made less than half of it’s budget back at the global box office. Using the power of hindsight, when asked about the film Jamie Lee Curtis commented with “That would be the all time piece of shit…It’s just dreadful… That’s the only good reason to be in bad movies. Then when your friends have [bad] movies you can say ‘Ahhhh, I’ve got the best one.’ I’m bringing Virus.“
The ‘Volkov‘, a Russian research ship is on a secret maneuver in the South Pacific. While communicating with the Mir space station an unknown presence/force intercepts the communication and causes devastating effects to both space station and ship. Then, later, during a storm, the tugboat called ‘Sea Star‘ suffers damage and needs repairing. The captain of the tugboat, Captain Robert Everton (Donald Sutherland), decides to take refuge in the eye of the storm, and that’s where he finds the Russian research ship. As the ‘Sea Star‘ gets closer it seems that the ‘Volkov‘ is unmanned and heavily damaged. Captain Everton and his crew decide to explore the ghost ship to see what they can find. They realize that recovering it or salvaging it could reward them handsomely, but before they do that they need to establish what happened to make sure they are safe. Kelly Foster (Jamie Lee Curtis) and Steven Baker (William Baldwin) are part of Captain Everton’s crew and they soon discover that there is something sinister aboard the ship which poses a threat to them, and potentially to humanity too.
… or… here’s a summary in 180 characters of less
The crew of a tugboat find an abandoned ship and explore it only to find a bio-mechanical extra-terrestrial threat to humanity.
The 1990’s is responsible for some really good horror/action films, but likewise it’s also responsible for coming up with some really bad films too. Virus falls somewhere in the middle. It starts with a fairly clever and decent idea, it executes it quite well for the most part – but then somewhere in the middle the pace seems to slow down dramatically and it loses momentum, to the point that I actually stopped caring too much. It generally follows some traditional 90’s clichés for films of this type, which I am sure you will see if you watch it for yourself.
Donald Sutherland is the salty sea-dog that becomes power hungry as the film develops. Jamie Lee Curtis the incorruptible heroine that’s rough and tough but with enough feminine edge to be a draw for the male characters. William Baldwin is the rough around the edge’s good guy that’s destined to be the diamond in the rough. The acting is generally OK, as you would expect from a cast which boasts three of Hollywood’s more recognizable stars. There are occasional moments though where the leading actors seem to look a little bored, or maybe aren’t entirely convinced of what they are acting out. Donald Sutherland seems to be the most guilty of that in this film – or maybe his performance as a drunken sea-dog is just too good for me to appreciate. Maybe though, he was actually drunk, which might explain why his dodgy accent kept changing from scene to scene. The supporting cast do a decent job of helping the film progress without any issues from their performances, it is a little cheesy from time to time, but not annoyingly so.
This film mashes together (or steals) many other film concepts in an attempt to use them like a Frankenstein monster – ironically, just like the bio-mechanical monsters in the film. To name just a few; there are similarities to “Short Circuit” (1986), “RoboCop” (1987), “Jaws” (1975), “the X-Files” TV series, “Lost in Space” (1998), “The Terminator” (1984), “Predator” (1987), “Batteries not included” (1987)… in fact, the more I think about it, the most obvious comparison (rip-off) is of “Aliens” (1986). Like that, this has a strong female lead in Curtis, along with the crew she helps to investigate a strange scientific outpost that looks beaten up (albeit a ship opposed to a research facility in space), there is an alien in this too, there is a fight for survival… it’s just in this, it all feels a lot lot cheaper! I’ve mentioned that the pace was lacking something, likewise the script was a little weak and only made authentic due to some decent acting. While a lot of the film was predictable, I didn’t see the end coming – that’s not because it was clever, it’s because it was absolutely ludicrous. I did enjoy some of the monstrous creations on show, but even when I watched this in 1999 they weren’t particularly ground breaking or scary. In 1999 this film felt a little late to the party, and re-watching it in 2021 it all feels very cheesy. Despite that, the film held my attention, I didn’t need to think too much, and it provided a laugh.
The best way to describe this is easy entertaining trash. You will have seen better, you will have seen worse. It didn’t stand out when it was released, and it probably won’t be on anyone’s ‘top 10 movies’ list – but it’s not terrible, not by a long way.