Scream Factory recently gifted us genre fans a double dose of creature feature terrors with their Blu-ray releases of the killer rat flick Deadly Eyes and George P. Cosmatos’ hugely underrated deep sea horror film Leviathan. While both films aren’t necessarily well-known amongst more casual fans, it’s great to see Scream put such great effort into their presentations for each of these cult classics.
For those who haven’t seen it before, Deadly Eyes (or Rats)is a rather ridiculous (but wonderfully so) early ‘80s nature-run-amok story that plays up the concerns and dangers of modern urban society by way of roided-out killer rat infestations that have a penchant for human flesh. The film takes its premise very seriously, but it’s the use of Daschunds in rat costumes that has given Deadly Eyes something of an unintentional comedic spin, making for a rather uneven horror film.
But despite the fact that the movie offers up several eye-rolling moments, Deadly Eyes does get a few things right. Director Robert Clouse (Enter the Dragon) wastes no time playing coy with introducing audiences to his film’s killer vermin, giving us a grisly scene early on involving the giant rodents devouring an infant after they happen upon the tot who has been left alone in the kitchen during supper time. Deadly Eyes also has a couple of great moments of suspense to it too, especially in the film’s third act when the super-rats take over the subway during the opening celebration of a new railway and also infest a local movie theater containing dozens of moviegoers, causing tons of chaos that’s tons of fun to watch as it unfurls.
Deadly Eyes benefits from a really strong and likable cast, including Sam Groom who plays Paul Harris, the film’s protagonist who begins to piece together the puzzle of the dangers that threaten to take over the streets of Toronto. The attractive high school basketball coach has two lovely ladies vying for his affections- there’s Kelly (Sara Botsford), an inspector for the Health Department, as well as Trudy (Lisa Langlois), a smitten cheerleader who thinks Paul is much more mature and suitable for her than her teenaged peers. Deadly Eyes also features a supporting performance from the legendary Scatman Crothers, who makes any movie he pops up in always a worthwhile time.
I imagine that there are probably a limited amount of people out there who would call themselves huge Deadly Eyes enthusiasts, but, for those of you who consider yourselves one of the devoted, Scream Factory’s Blu-ray is everything you could want and more. The image quality of Deadly Eyes is stellar and the supplemental features (especially the featurette that takes a playful look at the Daschund rats which were supposed to elicit fear but ended up being more adorable than anything else) offer up some fun remembrances of this often overlooked cult classic.
Movie Score: 2.5/5, Disc Score: 4/5
If you’re a regular Daily Dead reader, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that I have some deep-seeded love for Leviathan, a film that doesn’t get nearly enough props if you ask me. Sure, there's no denying that Leviathan’s story has a hodge-podge quality to it, akin to the film’s own monster that becomes an amalgam of its victims and it’s pretty evident that Cosmatos’ film shares a bit of “DNA” with several of its sci-fi counterparts as well. But what makes screenwriters David Peoples and Jeb Stuart’s story stand out is that the duo cleverly injects a few surprises and innovative twists on the sea beast subgenre, resulting in a film that’s a lot of fun and a near-perfect homage to the B movies of yesteryear.
In Leviathan, Peter Weller stars as Steven Beck, a geologist who is serving as the crew chief on an underwater rig that’s tasked with mining precious resources from the sea floor on behalf of the Tri-Oceanic Corporation. Beck is also in charge of a rag-tag group of workers who are all just one day away from being done with their excavation work- but this is a horror movie, so you can probably guess things go horribly awry which derails those plans. Some of the crew gets sick after stumbling upon a sunken Russian ship during an expedition and as you probably may have guessed, that’s when all hell breaks loose inside the underwater base. Soon, it’s up to Beck and his crew to put a stop to the deadly invader before it’s too late and it takes over the entire deep sea operation and all its inhabitants.
It may not necessarily be the most original story, but Leviathan succeeds in so many other ways. Across the board, the cast of Leviathan are all stellar and kudos to Peoples and Stuart for putting some effort into giving fans fully-realized characters here, rather than just a bunch of victims waiting to become fodder for the beast. That combination of well thought out characters and an incredible cast to bring them all to life is a huge reason why Leviathan will always be one of my personal favorite underwater monster movies. Weller does a great job of playing reluctant hero in Leviathan and the rest of the supporting cast of players- Daniel Stern, Hector Elizondo, Ernie Hudson, Michael Carmine, Amanda Pays, Richard Crenna and Lisa Eilbacher- all seem to be having a lot of fun with their respective roles in the film and find immediate chemistry together, that energy translating well to what we see happening in front of the camera.
The production design on Leviathan, courtesy of the legendary Ron Cobb (Alien, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Total Recall) also elevates Cosmatos’ film, making it feel much bigger and far more expensive than it really was. It also succeeds at effectively transporting audiences right to the bottom of the ocean alongside the doomed Tri-Oceanic workers, an incredible feat considering most of the movie’s underwater scenes were shot under dry conditions, but still feel wholly authentic to Leviathan’s aquatic setting. Legendary composer Jerry Goldsmith (Poltergeist, Gremlins) also lent his incredible talents to create Leviathan’s score, which provided it with tons of great energy and really gave a few of the film’s more adventurous moments a shot in the arm. All of this made for a cinematic experience that’s absolutely tons of fun for genre fans who grew up on a steady diet of Roger Corman movies.
Leviathan features many stunning creations by Stan Winston and his crew, who all do a fantastic job of bringing an entirely different kind of movie monster to life than we had ever seen before. This time, the monster continues to consume victim after victim and then melds together, ultimately creating a larger-than-life and formidable beast for those trapped inside the rig to battle against. And while Cosmatos’ film doesn’t necessarily do justice to Winston’s breathtaking creation (many of those scenes were shot way too dark for viewers to ever get a real look at the effects), Scream Factory gives fans a wonderful, in-depth look at the special effects for Leviathan on their Blu-ray presentation that I would highly recommend any horror fan who is fascinated by movie monsters and everything that goes into bringing them to life.
It’s really great to see Leviathan finally get its due, courtesy of Scream Factory, as the film has been unfairly maligned over the years as a “rip-off” of some of its similarly-themed counterparts (The Thing, Alien or The Abyss, just to name a few). Cosmatos’ subaquatic monster movie does manage to offer up a lot of its own innovations, despite its initially derivative story, making it an effort that actually stands out from the pack instead of trying to mimic those other films too closely. Leviathan also features a top-tier cast all giving 110% to their respective roles and some really incredible practical effects out of the Stan Winston Shop, ultimately making it yet another Scream Factory Blu-ray that would be a great addition to any horror fan’s collection.
Movie Score: 4/5, Disc Score: 4/5