Oceans are believed to be one of the most stunning places in the world – and they are. But like most beautiful things, these bodies of water have a dark side. They cover over 70% of the Earth’s surface and go thousands of feet in depth, to places that no human could even dream of going. What lurks on the ocean floors? Are there an underwater species we know nothing about? These are the frightening questions that plenty of horror movies have asked.
You may have heard about Underwater, the recently released science fiction/horror film starring Kristen Stewart. It follows a group of scientists who delve into the depths of the ocean, only to encounter a mysterious group of creatures who are out to destroy them. If this plot sounds a bit familiar, it’s because it is. The movie has drawn comparisons to everything from sci-fi horror classic Alien to Black Sea, as the sea monster genre has been prevalent in cinema for decades. Underwater is especially similar to a group of underwater films released right before the 90’s, featuring a few names you may remember and a giant crab that still haunts your dreams. Do you remember these sea monster films?
If you thought the Mosasaurus sea serpent in Jurassic World was terrifying, just wait until you meet the Leviathan. This biblical creature is referenced in a variety of ancient Hebrew literature one of the most frightening sea monsters known to man, lurking at the depths of the ocean and coming up to the surface to cause mass destruction to passing ships. While there are many interpretations on the appearance of the Leviathan, it is commonly believed to be gigantic in size and take on the appearance of a serpent – compared certain reptiles such as snakes, dragons, and crocodiles.
Of course, Hollywood always has its own adaptations. The 1989 film Leviathan follows a group of scientists terrorized by a mutant underwater creature that’s not exactly what the Old Testament describes. The beast in the film resembles a gigantic, hideous and scaly fish rather than a serpent – with multiple tentacles and a randomly-placed human head on its lower back. It enjoys stalking and killing due to chemical mutations by the Russians, giving this film a more modern, science-fiction take on the Leviathan found in the bible. While the creature effects were designed by critically acclaimed special effects artist Stan Winston, the action in the 1989 film is a bit outdated today. Would you be interested in seeing a Leviathan remake?
Released in 1989 mere months before Leviathan, one of the greatest lessons to take from DeepStar Six is that no good comes from humans living underwater. A group of military and civilians join together in DeepStar Six – an experimental deep sea US Naval facility where they plan to test underwater colonization methods. With the crew already starting to grow tired of each other – and you know, the whole “living underwater with no fresh air or sunlight” scenario – they come across a man-eating sea monster out to destroy both their project and their lives.
One Google search will bring you countless “Leviathan vs. DeepStar Six” articles, breaking down the similar plot, characters and ending scene. While neither films were box office hits, it was DeepStar Six that took a much bigger hit from the critics. It has a 0% (yes, you read that correctly) rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with critics looking down on everything from the film’s vision to the design of the monster. They’re not exaggerating, by the way… the thing looks like a gigantic blend of a crab and a frog.
After the mediocre releases above, horror enthusiasts of the 80’s were thrilled when The Abyss made its way into theaters in August 1989. Since everything James Cameron touches turns to Oscar gold, it’s no surprise that the film was a box office hit and commercial success. The Abyss received an 89% score on Rotten Tomatoes and was nominated for a number of Academy Awards, even winning in the Best Visual Effects category.
While this film gravitates away from horror and more towards science fiction, it’s still a gorgeous film that deserves a watch. It strays away from sea monsters and towards sea aliens who are friendly in nature. It emphasizes both the frightening and stunning aspects of the ocean, while reminding you that James Cameron is a seriously incredible filmmaker.
Let’s be honest… Underwater, Leviathan, even The Abyss – none of these films have a completely foreign concept. The sea monster genre is one of the most famous in the history of film, with a creature arriving uninvited into society and seeking to destroy our lives. The sea monster and underwater horror genres combine this concept with another that’s even more terrifying – the unknown. From classics like Jaws to the modern monsters from Underwater… these films aren’t bound to become a sinking ship anytime soon. With so much still unknown the deep abyss of the ocean you better prepare your escape pod as you prepare to outrun the next sea monster from the depths.
I am a lifelong pop culture junkie with immense passion for all forms of art and entertainment. On a typical weekend, I can be found at a concert or musical, chasing ghosts on the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland, or watching way too many makeup tutorials on YouTube.