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Film: Deep Rising

"Now what?"
John Finnegan

Deep Rising is an underrated 1998 Stephen Sommers film, and arguably his best work. The basic plot is that our hero, boat pilot for hire John Finnegan (Treat Williams), is contracted by a group of mercenaries to transport them to a luxury cruise liner that they intend to rob. When they arrive on board, they realize that no one is there. It appears that someone, or something, has killed all the guests.

Sounds stupid? It is. But one of the things that makes this movie such an excellent and endearing Guilty Pleasure is that it knows exactly what it is, and doesn't take itself seriously for one moment. It also succeeds thanks to a surprisingly good cast, fast pacing and good humor throughout.


This movie contains examples of:

  • Accidental Murder: Canton accidentally axes Vivo in the head when he believes that it was the creature on the other side of the door.
  • Attack of the Monster Appendage: The monsters are actually the tentacles of a bigger beast.
  • Badass Longcoat: Hanover. He loses it halfway through.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: Entirely justified by anyone who attempts it, given that dying to the seamonster is a slow and awful affair.
    • When Mason is grabbed by a sea monster that will slowly and painfully digest him alive, he detonates one of his explosives before it can eat him.
    • Also subverted when Hanover is grabbed by one of the monsters. Joey hands him a weapon as an act of mercy, only for Hanover to start shooting at him. While Joey escapes, Hanover tries to take his own life and discovers he doesn't have any bullets left.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Vivo is the first of the mercenaries to get killed off... and not by the creature, either. Mason dies about halfway through the film, though he pulls the pin on a grenade first.
  • Body Horror: Bloody bones and skeletons all over the place, and, as a bonus, Billy, half digested but still alive. Half his face is already eaten.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Lampshaded. The writers, aware that the plot will require Bottomless Magazines, introduce the primary weapon of Hanover's pirates as an exotic "Chinese" minigun assault rifle that is auto-cooling, water-tight and has a thousand round magazine. The small size is still preposterous, given that they drop full-sized assault rifle casings when they fire. Though in a strange adherence to established canon, they do occasionally run out of bullets at roughly the time that a five-barreled Gatling gun would burn through a thousand rounds while firing in bursts.
  • Butt Monkey: Joey. He lampshades it when Trillian treats him like crap for no reason after she's just met him.
  • Cannibal Larder: The heroes at one point come across the creature's feeding grounds in the bowels of the ship. There are hundreds of gory, skeletal remains strewn across the giant storage room. The haunting final screams of the people can be heard as the camera pans over them.
  • Catch Phrase: "Now what?"
  • Chekhov's Gun: Or in this case, Chekhov's torpedoes. Early on, the speedboat that drops off the Argonautica; near the end, the surfboard sent flying by the exploding charter boat.
  • Colliding Criminal Conspiracies: There's a Gambit Pileup involving a thief, mercenaries, insurance fraud, a captured cruise ship and a pack of sea monsters that's really just one gigantic beast.
  • Combat Tentacles: Near the end it turns out that the protagonists have been facing nothing but these until they encountered the head.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: The creatures don't simply digest their victims. Instead they are swallowed up, have their liquids effectively drained away, and whatever's left of the body being spit back out (mostly bones and gore). Oh, and did we mention that the victims are still alive during this process?
  • Derelict Graveyard: In the opening scene of the film, before we switch to the main plot the creatures are seen travelling through a deep sea ship graveyard, some of them hundreds of years old, all of which they presumably attacked, ate all the people on it, and sank the ships afterwards. There are even remains of whale skeletons besides the derelict ships.
  • Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?: Finnegan destroys one of the monster's eyes with his shotgun, allowing him and Trillian time to escape.
  • Disney Death: Finnegan comes back to the boat to see that Joey's gone, and he assumes that he was eaten by the creature. Later, when he's on the island with Trillian, Joey comes paddling onto shore on Finnegan's surfboard.
  • Drool Hello: As the remaining group of survivors discuss what to do next, one of the monsters drips slime/drool onto Joey's shoulder. He proceeds to spaz out and opens fire on the monster, causing it to split and spill out the partially digested (but still alive) remains of Billy.
  • Ear Worm: In an in-universe example, Joey gets the elevator music stuck in his head.
  • Empty Elevator: The mercenaries are searching through the abandoned cruise ship looking for any passengers or crew members, but none can be found. Then the elevator activates, and they can see it moving to their floor. They keep their weapons aimed at the door, but it's empty. Except for the blood-covered walls inside the elevator, that is.
  • Eye Scream: Finnegan pokes out one of the creature's eyes on the boat.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Canton wanted to sink the cruise liner so he could reap the insurance money, but when Finnegan accuses him of trying to kill all the passengers Canton takes offense. He claims that he's just a crook, not a savage; he planned for all of them to live, as they would be safely transported off the ship before anyone could drown.
  • Foreshadowing: There are several allusions to the revelation that the creatures are actually the tentacles of a humongous octopoid monster, most notably Finnegan's anecdote about the octopus and the bottle.
  • Ghost Ship: Subverted in that the main characters are seeking out the cruise liner intentionally.
  • Hate Sink: Simon Canton. The monsters are just predators that live to consume, and most of the mercenaries have some redeeming qualities such as determination and being badasses. Canton however is only selfish, cowardly, and greedy. He's not so bad at first (having clearly established with Finnegan that he had planned for everyone aboard the boat to be safely evacuated), but he eventually tries to leave the other survivors for dead, then tries to kill Trillian, shrugs off the all the passengers' deaths because he can still scam the insurance agency if the ship sinks, and tries to steal Finnegan's boat. He meets a deliciously Karmic Death.
  • I Call It Vera: Played with in that, while none of the mercenaries name their many, many weapons, the twin engines of Finnegan's charter boat are called "Jezebel" and "Hercules".
  • Improbable Taxonomy Skills: And how, Canton! More glaringly, the taxonomic group he claims they belong to is actually extinct in Real Life, being known only from fragmentary fossils. Yet he somehow describes its behavior, which would be pretty darn improbable even from a paleontologist ... let alone, a cruise ship designer like Canton. So it is probably no great surprise that he turns out to be completely wrong in his assumptions. The "creatures" are actually the tentacles belonging to a gigantic cephalopod-type creature.
  • It Can Think: At one point late in the film the monsters start herding the remaining humans towards their feeding area. Makes some sense, as the "monsters" are tentacles of the same creature, and are moving the humans toward the open space where there's the most room to maneuver.
  • It's Personal: Joey and Finnegan (especially Joey) after Leila's death. And later, Finnegan when he thinks that Joey has been killed.
  • Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: See Took a Level in Jerkass.
  • Karmic Death:
    • At the end of the movie, Simon Canton attempts to get away on Finnegan's boat without the others after trying to kill them. When he jumps onto the boat from the cruise ship, he breaks a leg. Unbeknownst to him, the torpedo filled boat has been rigged to run into the cruise ship in order to explode and kill the creature. When Canton realizes this, it's too late and the last thing he sees before dying is Finnegan's computer screen which reads "Game Over".
    • Hanover's death mentioned in Better to Die than Be Killed. He could've spared himself the horrific fate of being a sea monster's meal, but rather than accept Joey's gun as an offer of mercy, he tries to shoot him out of spite. Of course, it was the last bullet, so cue the scream.
  • Kraken and Leviathan: The monster.
  • Lady in Red: This is Trillian's outfit for the first half of the film.
  • Made of Explodium: The cruise ship doesn't just burn and sink, it goes up like a Roman Candle, taking the sea monster - head and all - with it.
  • Mr. Exposition: Canton with his Ottoia speech (see Improbable Taxonomy Skills):
    Canton: "I'm beginning to fear that our friends here may be some kind of strange offshoot of the Archaea Ottoia family..."
  • More Teeth than the Osmond Family: The creatures have to open wide for this to be really noticeable, but when they do it's quite scary. The primary mouth is also completely littered with teeth.
  • Not Distracted by the Sexy: Trillian gets out of her red dress and into some army clothes in front of the mercenaries, and Canton, albeit she remains off-camera the whole time. None of the guys at any point glance at her while she's changing because they're too busy arguing. Although Finnegan does make a blink and you'll miss it comment on her "assets" when she slips a pistol into her back pocket.
  • Oh Crap:
    • Joey gives a smooth "Oh, shit..." when finding out that the basement is full of torpedoes. "Enough to sink a damn aircraft carrier".
    • Canton, when he realizes the boat he's on is about to self-destruct.
    • A more understated one happens when Simon Canton explains to the others what the creatures are capable of.
    • The reveal that it's not a group of creatures, but one giant entity understandably leaves Finnegan and Trillian realizing just how much bigger their problems have gotten.
  • One-Liner: "What are you looking at?"
  • Outrun the Fireball: On a jet ski actually.
  • Picky People Eater: The creatures are interested only in human bodily fluids. They leave their victims as a pile of bone and digested guts.
  • Recoil Boost: Happens accidentally to Trillian when she's shooting one of the mercs' machine guns at worm monsters. The recoil pushes her over backwards into the flooded compartment that everyone needs to escape through, anyway, effectively giving her a head start.
  • Screams Like a Little Girl: Joey, especially when he discovers that one of the tentacle monsters is right above his head and he never knew it.
  • Smart Ball: Canton's theory of the creatures' origins is completely out of left field.
  • So What Do We Do Now?: The ending with the heroes now stranded on an island that seems to have more monstrous creatures they have to deal with. The page quote is the last line as they find this out.
  • Seven Deadly Sins: The villainous mercenary group seems to be made up of this: Vivo is always talking about food (Gluttony), T. Ray threatens with violence all the time (Wrath), Mamooli talks about his desire to have sex with women from every country (Lust), Jason Flemyng says that the group will "kick ass and take names" as well as taunts a monster and claims it is nothing (Pride), Hanover is paranoid, distrustful and later ends up shooting at someone who is going to live and not him (Envy), Mason is seen stuffing money into his pockets (Greed) and Billy complains about all the work he has to do (Sloth).
  • Super-Persistent Predator: The sea monsters, who continue to relentlessly pursue the heroes despite suffering extreme gunfire trauma from doing so every time. One might also wonder why the entire creature attacked the ship in the first place seemingly in pursuit of a bunch of microscopic humans, but this is justified if you apply a bit of logic. Something of its immense size would need to devour whales just to get by, and it probably mistook the ship for one. Plus, as it's a cold-blooded cephalopod, tiny meals ought to sustain it for a relatively long time.
  • Tempting Fate: At the end, Joey says "This looks like a nice place" just before something HUGE starts snarling and tossing trees around in the jungle.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: At first, Canton's plan was to destroy the ship as an insurance scam, but to make it so all of the passengers live. Later though, he uses the others as bait so he can escape himself, and tries to kill Trillian and steal Finnegan's boat. Fortunately, though, he meets his aforementioned Karmic Death in the end.
  • Traveling-Pipe Bulge: When the worm monsters pass through pipes.
  • Understatement: When Joey finds out all the torpedoes and Vivo catches him, echoing his "Oh, shit", Joey points out :
    Joey: "I am feeling a real lack of love here."
  • Vasquez Always Dies: Alas, poor Leila. What a horrific death you must have suffered.
  • The Worf Effect: T. Ray, the biggest and most violent member of Hanover's mercenary crew is the second of our main characters to be killed by the monster after Leila above.
  • Wormsign: Something makes the floor's iron grates rise up as it chases Finnegan and Joey down a corridor.
  • You Just Had to Say It:
    Joey: "I ask you, man, could it get any worse?"
    lights go out.
    Finnegan: "Thanks, Joey."


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alternative title(s): Deep Rising
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