The Best Movie You Never Saw: Deep Rising

Last Updated on August 2, 2021

Welcome to The Best Movie You NEVER Saw, a column dedicated to examining films that have flown under the radar or gained traction throughout the years, earning them a place as a cult classic or underrated gem that was either before it’s time and/or has aged like a fine wine.

This week we’ll be looking at DEEP RISING!

THE STORY: A salvage crew carrying a group of mercenaries encounters an abandoned cruise ship in the middle of the South China Sea. Once on-board, they discover the passengers have been killed by a hideous creature that now hunts them.

THE PLAYERS: Starring: Treat Williams, Famke Janssen, Wes Studi & Kevin J. O’Connor. Directed by Stephen Sommers.

THE HISTORY: Disney, back in the late nineties, was a lot different from the all-media conglomerate we know now. Long before Marvel and their acquisition of Lucasfilm, they operated no less than four separate studios. There was Disney for the family films, Miramax/Dimension for indie/genre fare, Touchstone Pictures for more adult fare, while Hollywood Pictures was similar if slightly lower rent than Touchstone.

DEEP RISING is a fairly typical outing for Hollywood Pictures. Originally planned a big budget Harrison Ford vehicle, it was downsized to what, in the nineties, was considered a B-picture, meaning that it cost a rumored $45 million, actually pretty hefty but not by the standards of the day. Lacking star-power and getting mostly poor reviews, DEEP RISING wasn’t helped by the fact that it hit theaters at the same time TITANIC was dominating the box office (something than went on for months and doomed big-budget movies like FALLEN, SPHERE, U.S MARSHALS and LOST IN SPACE). It wound up only grossing a meagre $11.2 million at the box office, although director Stephen Sommers was only a year from hitting the big-time with THE MUMMY, which became the sleeper hit of the summer of 1999.

Fun. Just fun. I loved that movie. Just six months of freezing cold water up in Vancouver, Canada. [Laughs.] But a great cast, some of whom have become very big movie stars since then, and a wonderful director with a great mind, Stephen Sommers. Just a really terrific, great guy. Probably the most energetic director I’ve ever come across. I’m proud of that film! I think that film’s fun. Unfortunately, it came out right on the heels of Titanic. Once you’ve seen one boat sink… – Treat Williams – AV Club Interview

WHY IT'S GREAT: OK, so “great” might be too strong a word for DEEP RISING. That said, as far as ALIEN clones go, and there seemed to be at least one a year back in the nineties, DEEP RISING is kind of a blast. I was a big fan for director Stephen Sommers at this point. I really enjoyed his live-action JUNGLE BOOK, which tried to turn Jason Scott Lee’s Mowgli into an Indiana Jones/Tarzan style hero. In fact, I was a big Sommers fan all the way up to around VAN HELSING, where something seemed to get lost, although to be honest I’m still eager to see anything he puts out as I like his high-adventure vibe.

It’s that vibe that makes DEEP RISING a winner. Boasting an excellent Jerry Goldsmith score, this is a thrill-a-minute, goofy actioner that doesn’t take itself too serious. Yes, it’s ALIENS on the water (which had been done at least twice before), but the wink-wink aspect and cast makes it a cut above. Many criticized Treat Williams as a lower-rent Harrison Ford, but I think he could have definitely had a decent career as an action hero had this paid off. He has a way with the vibe Stephens is going for, serving as almost a MacGuyver esque figure with his constant bemused reactions to the chaos around him. I also like Famke Janssen as the jewel thief love interest, while Kevin J. O’Connor (who has a great part in the upcoming WIDOWS) is likable as the comic relief. He eventually became something of a Stephen Sommers regular.

If the movie has one obvious failing, it’s the dated CGI effects. Rob Bottin (THE THING) and ILM worked on the monster, but it’s pretty primitive compared to what we get now, although this actually lends itself nicely to the fun-house B-movie aesthetic.

BEST SCENE: There’s a really nifty jet-ski stunt towards the end that I remember seeing on a Movie Magic doc on the Discovery Channel several months before the film opened. It’s a memorable scene, but the only version of it online is a low-quality rip, so best to see it for yourself…

SEE IT: DEEP RISING was recently re-released on a special edition Blu-ray from Kino Lorber!

PARTING SHOT: Your enjoyment of DEEP RISING really depends on a few things. If you can take it as a goofy B-movie, it’s a total blast. If you look at it critical, well, you may think I’m nuts for including it in this column. That said, it’s one I’ve always had a great time with and I hope those of you who check it out do too.


About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.