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Film / Virus

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Nothing depicted on this poster actually happens.

"Who are you?"
"We mean you no harm."
"What species?"

Virus is a 1999 science fiction-horror film directed by visual effects artist John Bruno and starring Jamie Lee Curtis, William Baldwin, Daniel Kash, Cliff Curtis, Donald Sutherland, and Joanna Pacuła. The film is based on a Dark Horse comic book of the same name by Chuck Pfarrer.

The film revolves around the crew of a tugboat, the Sea Star. After barely entering the eye of a hurricane, they see another ship on the radar — the Akademik Vladislav Volkov, a Russian missile and satellite tracking ship. With their boat taking on water faster than they can pump it out, the crew boards the Volkov, where they find that the electronics have been powered down and the crew has abandoned ship. Once they power up the ship, bad things happen.

Another, unrelated movie with the same title came out nineteen years before this film.

This film provides examples of:

  • Action Girl: Nadya definitely has her moments. There's also the fact that she had survived for a whole week in the ship fighting against the machines.
  • Actor Allusion: A year earlier from the release of this film, Cliff Curtis was also in a film about a boat that stumbles upon a seemingly empty ship filled with unpredictable science fiction horror. This isn't Donald Sutherland's first time encountering an assimilating alien or being assimilated by one.
  • Adaptational Nationality: In the original Dark Horse comic miniseries, the ship that the whole plot took place in was also a satellite tracking station... but it was Chinese.
  • All Just a Dream/Catapult Nightmare: Foster dreamed that she wakes up floating in the sea to find a robotized Hiko beside her.
  • Artificial Zombie: The virus creates several of these, from Alexi, Squeaky, Woods, and Everton. And Hiko, but only in Foster's dream..
  • The Assimilator: Even though the alien claims mankind is the virus, there's a reason we call them that.
  • Asshole Victim: Everton, the borderline-insane captain that is The Neidermeyer and a very greedy one at that. When he's turned into a killer cyborg and blown away with a thermite grenade, nobody else in the cast cares.
  • Attack of the Killer Whatever: Sapient Alien Computer Virus.
  • Ax-Crazy:
    • Richie.
    • The virus would also qualify. Hell, it breaks through a door in a fairly similar manner as Jack Nicholson in The Shining.
  • Better Than New:
    "Squeaky? What's wrong with you?"
    "Nothing, now."
  • Black Dude Dies First: Averted. Richie dies next to last.
  • Body Horror: Of the Artificial Zombie and/or Unnecessarily Creepy Robot varieties.
  • Cannibal Larder: The alien awareness keeps spare parts in the fuel system.
  • Chairman of the Brawl: When confronted by the newly robotized Everton, Foster attacks him with a chair. It doesn't help since he is now impervious to pain.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The thermite grenades Nadya has on her when she's found are later used to destroy robo-Everton.
  • Chest Burster: The first cyborg (apparently the remains of Captain Alexi) found by the crew. The "dead" robots chest opens up and extrudes a smaller, scorpion-like one.
  • Computer Virus: Actually an electricity-based Energy Being inhabiting the research vessel. It behaves a lot like a self-aware computer virus, though, attempting to upload itself to the internet and Take Over the World.
  • Convection, Schmonvection: At one point, Foster is swimming in the ship's fuel. She couldn't possibly get enough oxygen to not suffocate.
  • The Cynic: Everton seems to come off as this. He has a photo of himself as a younger man (who was full of hope and ambition) in his office, and he tells his younger self he's sorry for letting him down when his cargo sank. This may partially be the reason for his Sanity Slippage.
  • Dirty Coward: Woods abandons Hiko during the scene of the tug sinking.
  • Driven to Suicide: Captain Everton contemplates suicide just before finding the Russian ship.
  • Dwindling Party
  • Dying as Yourself: Richie regains his sanity as he's dying, telling his friends about the escape plan he concocted.
  • Epic Hail: A nearby ship responding to the previous mayday asks for a flare so that they can find them in the storm. Moments later the Volkov explodes after Steve and Foster escape in the rocketsled and set off Ritchie's boobytrap. The fireball is seen by the other ship from miles away through the storm.
  • Evil Is Petty: After being converted, Everton's first target is Foster, for punching him and telling him he's no longer in command.
  • Evil Smells Bad: The cyborgs are said to smell "like dog shit". Considering that they use body parts or tissue from corpses in their structure...
  • Evil Sounds Deep: The virus has a very deep Machine Monotone.
  • Expy: The film depicts an alien intelligence that views organic life as little more than spare parts, and immediately upon getting the opportunity, it augments bodies with cybernetics to create an army of rotting cyborgs operating under its collective Hive Mind. Not only that, it decides to create a colossal, quadrupedal machine to serve as the Load-Bearing Boss of it all. Sound familiar?
  • Face-Revealing Turn: Cyborg Squeaky.
  • Giant Spider: The climactic machine.
  • Golem: The alien's largest enforcers are known as Golems. This is an appropriate term as they are large brutes which are made from a mismatch of machinery and flesh.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: Richie freaks out after hearing from the virus exactly what it wants.
  • Hell Is That Noise: The piggish, electronic screech the cyborgs make.
  • Heroic Sacrifice:
    • Nadya sacrifices her life by trying to blow up the remaining robot. Though it's mostly a Senseless Sacrifice.
    • Averted when Foster forbids Steve from doing it, and ensures that they both leave with the rocket chair.
  • Humans Are Bastards: The alien's motivation for destroying humanity. It describes humanity as "destructive, invasive, noxious, harmful to the body of the whole". To the alien entity, we are a virus. And sadly, it isn't completely wrong.
  • Hypocrite:
    • In a conversation early in the movie, Squeaky tells Steve that he "would have decked that son of a bitch", referring to Everton after he pulled a gun on Steve earlier. No more than a minute later, the two criticize Foster for being tossed out of the navy for striking a superior officer. Neither of them acknowledge this, though the novel adaptation has Steve realizing the hypocrisy of the criticism.
    • The machine saying that man is a virus is also slightly hypocritical, considering what the antagonist is.
  • Humans Are Cthulhu: The alien Hive Mind considers the unnetworked primitive creatures who run entirely on wetware and enslave non-sentient machines to be both disgusting and incomprehensibly strange. After subduing the abominations it found itself surrounded by upon arrival, its "body" (the ship) has once again been invaded by more of the creatures, which are all trying to kill it. Hence, it sees its actions as an attempt to save the universe from an omnicidal plague of intelligent Puppeteer Parasites.
  • Human Resources: The virus rejiggers the machine shops into cyborg factories.
  • Incredibly Obvious Bomb: One has a beeping timer with red numbers, the other is a huge pile of explosive materials strapped together with RPGs and primed with grenades that have their pins tied to a long ripcord. It sits out in the middle of the room like a sore thumb, but Goliath didn't seem to notice it until it was too late. Granted, it was a bit distracted at the time by the humans and their rocket-driven homebrew ejector seat.
  • Kill All Humans: What the alien plans to do on Earth.
  • Large Ham: Hiko, you are a civilized person. Stop carrying around a Maori war club, and even if you must have it, stop screaming and trying to chop up cyborgs with it.
  • Last Request: "Steve... kill that fucking thing."
  • Literal-Minded: When the crew are briefly able to converse with the Virus, they ask it what it wants, probably in the hope they can reason with it to get away. It replies by listing off various organic body parts: it took their meaning as an offer.
  • Nail 'Em: Woods gets shot in the clavicle by a nailgun-wielding gatherer. He spends the next 10 or so minutes whining about it.
  • Named After Somebody Famous: Vladislav Nikolayevich Volkov, after whom the Russian ship is named after, was a Soviet cosmonaut who flew on the Soyuz 7 and Soyuz 11 missions.
  • No Name Given: The virus is never given a name. The only time it ever referenced itself, it used the term "the whole", and given the context, it may have been referring to the planet, not itself. The only other time anyone actually spoke directly about it was when Nadya recounted what happened aboard the ship. During her story, she used only the terms "something" and "it". Interestingly, in the novelization, the virus is referred to as "the Intelligence."
  • Nightmare Face: "Alexi" (the first cyborg the crew encounters) has four metal limbs pop out of its mouth, which leaves a bloody skull with a cluster of Spider Limbs flailing around it.
  • Not Quite Dead: The crew manages to kill one of the cyborgs, and drags it to the bridge to look at. Cue crew learning that cyborgs are hard to kill.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Pretty much everyone's initial reaction to seeing the climactic machine.
    • Steve's reaction when his plunging an ax into the chest of a machine does nothing.
    • Even the climactic machine had such a moment just before the boat exploded.
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: Everton tries to sell out the others — and the whole human race by extension — to the virus in order to save his own hide. The virus responds by converting him. In the novelization, at least, this was not voluntary. Averted in the film since it's implied that he retained his full faculties. Averted again when "Everton" speaks with the Voice of the Legion, revealing that it was the Intelligence the whole time just speaking through him.
  • Rule of Scary: Why the virus feels compelled to incorporate biological components into its craft projects work is never fully explained, aside from that it makes them quite a bit more disturbing than "normal" robots. Then again, it is an energy being. To it, all matter, living and nonliving is alien to it. It sees little distinction when it found that it could fuse the two different things together to make tools for itself.
  • Run or Die: Definitely how the bigger machines are treated.
  • Scenery Gorn: 42 labs and 5 machine shops worth.
  • Self-Constructed Being: The monster builds itself a body out of machine and human parts.
  • Sentient Cosmic Force: The alien exists as electrical energy that gets sent down to the ship and then can't escape after the dishes are disabled.
  • Taking You with Me: Partially averted by Richie's plan. The nice man planned on taking the others with the virus, not himself. But to be fair, he'd lost it by then.
  • Techno Babble: Richie asks the virus what it wants with them. The virus responds with a lengthy and highly specific list of organic parts humans possess. When the meaning is lost on the crew, Richie simplifies it.
  • Technology Porn: ...42 labs and 5 machine shops worth. Again.
  • Tinman Typist: The Avatar Cyborg in Machine Shop 14 is seen typing on a computer.
  • Title Drop: "YOU ARE VIRUS".
  • Unwilling Roboticisation: All the people killed and/or captured by the machines has this happening to them. Except for Everton. Interestingly, in the novel adaptation, he was not willing. He entered the machine shop just as he did in the movie and the whole scene plays out the same, but it's extended a few moments. After the scene in the movie plays out, Everton slowly realizes what the virus wants to do with him. He realizes that 'he had made a mistake', the door of the machine shop closes gently, and he starts to scream.
  • The Virus: It's made from electricity, and it's from space. It's unclear if it is an AI or something more incomprehensible.