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John’s Horror Corner: Virus (1999), The Thing (1982) meets The Terminator (1984) in this gory, evil cyborg flick loaded with insectoid robot minions.

April 23, 2018

MY CALL:  A possessed computer makes robot minions, evil gory zombified cyborgs and a hulking destructive juggernaut to stalk a star-studded cast on a high-tech Russian vessel. Is this movie for you? Come on, you know who you are.  MORE MOVIES LIKE VirusFor more terror at sea trapped in ocean vessels, try Deep Rising (1998), Leviathan (1989), Deepstar Sixx (1989), Screamers (1995), Harbinger Down (2015) and Ghost Ship (2002). And for more late 90s sci-horror threatening mankind, go for Event Horizon (1997), Species (1995), The Arrival (1996) and The Faculty (1998)—all very entertaining—or the more recent Life (2017) and Zygote (2017; short). Need more evil robots in your life? Then get your hands on Chopping Mall (1986), Deadly Friend (1986), The Terminator (1984) and Hardware (1990).

This gory 90s thrill ride opens when a spaceship (and/or lifeform) of pure energy ravages the MIR space station and beams itself down to a Russian research vessel only to be discovered by a desperate tugboat crew-turned-ship salvers hoping to return the seemingly abandoned, dead in the water ship for riches.

OUR CREW includes Captain Everton (Donald Sutherland; The Puppet Masters, Invasion of the Body Snatchers), his engineer (William Baldwin; Sliver, Flatliners), Kit (Jamie Lee Curtis; Halloween I-II, Scream Queens, Prom Night, The Fog), Woods (Marshall Bell; A Nightmare on Elm Street Part II, Starship Troopers, Total Recall), Squeaky (Julio Oscar Mechoso; Machete Kills, Planet Terror), Hiko (Cliff Curtis; Sunshine, Fear the Walking Dead, Push, Deep Rising) and Nadia (Joanna Pacula; The Kiss, Warlock: The Armageddon).

Based on Chuck Pfarrer’s Dark Horse comic series, director John Bruno (visual effects for Terminator 2, The Abyss, AVP: Aliens vs Predator, Fright Night, Poltergeist I-II) terrorizes a film’s tugboat salvage crew while sampling his favorite moments from the Predator and Terminator and Alien franchises, The Thing (1982) and Hardware (1990). It seems that Agent Smith (The Matrix trilogy) wasn’t the only nonhuman entity to classify mankind as a virus—our energy-based alien lifeform came to the same conclusion. To expedite the extermination, it hijacked the ship’s computer and electrical system, developed several castes of robot minions to do its murderous bidding, and eventually sought human victims for spare parts to make evil macabre cyborgs appearing as much zombie as robot! Basically, we’re dealing with a very small version of SkyNet becoming self-aware and, like Agent Smith, it even bargains with a greedy malevolent human.

The special effects span a broad range hitting us in three phases (i.e., as we learn more about our monster and its capabilities) but improve notably as the film progresses. At first, we find little robotic spiders and flies clumsily clunking about while dragging extension cords in their wake. And like little transformers, they have bitty nail guns and buzz saws. This is about as silly as it sounds… but they’re cute and boast a sort of practical effects charm.

Much as The Thing (1982), human victims are overtaken as cyborgs with a (now more evil) semblance of their conscious selves. They look like chunky macabre T-800s with a dash of Borginess (Star Trek: First Contact). This portion of the special effects will please gorehounds and lend credibility to a film already boasting a better cast than ever it deserved. This weird little flick is surprisingly decent!

The final phase of the effects is a CGI-enhanced stop-motion hulking menace; a giant robot undertaking the hive mother mainframe’s most destructive or dire tasks. This thing looks awesome and moves with frightful haste. It reminds me of the MCU Hulk as it bashes through walls and rends steel barricades.

This movie really holds up, continues to boast highly entertaining effects and gore, and is supported by an outstanding cast. Even the script felt highly capable (a rarity in films like this) and I had no major criticism from the direction. No, this is no Oscar winner. But this is not a “bad movie.” It’s a pretty great sci-horror in terms of entertainment value and it deserves so much more attention.

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