The B-movie still seems to be an active force in Hollywood. It’s most noticeable in the current crop of cut-rate horror movies and teenage comedies. It’s less noticeable, but nowhere less prevalent, in the romance movies that Hollywood has produced recently.
Universal Studios opened the science fiction movie VIRUS with little fanfare in January, because it obviously fits the mold of today’s B-movies. As such, it is a sci-fi thriller in the tradition of such movies as ALIEN, DEEP SEA RISING and SPHERE. The movie follows the formula of those movies where a small group of people must fight a monster in the bowels of some kind of ship, either a spaceship or an ocean vessel. Like others of its kind, VIRUS gives off the feeling of a horror movie, the kind where people are trapped in the archetypal “old dark house.” Thus, the technological weapons attacking the humans in this movie have, unlike other science fiction movies, a personal, intimate quality about them, like the knives you might see in a slasher movie such as PSYCHO. Indeed, the characters in this movie are attacked by sharp instruments at several points, such as a nail gun. Also, the alien menace in this movie uses spare body parts to create cyborgs, part-machine, part-human creatures, who try to kill the survivors. This increases the sense of horror more than the sense of wonder.
VIRUS stars Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Sutherland as the navigator and captain, respectively, of a salvage tugboat. The story begins with a noncorporeal alien infecting the computer system of Russia’s Mir Space Station and a Russian satellite ship caught in a typhoon. The salvage tugboat is caught in the same typhoon and loses the barge it was tugging. Sutherland, as Captain Everton, heads the boat toward the calm eye of the typhoon, where he and his crew discover the massive satellite vessel, that is now dead in the water.
Eventually, they find that the ship has only one survivor, a female Russian scientist who tells them they must turn the power off again, or else the alien will kill them all. The crew doesn’t believe her, and the alien uses the ship’s computer to sink their tugboat and then starts killing off the crew one by one. Its goal is to reach a nearby satellite monitoring base to infect the rest of the world’s computers. (Of course, why the alien can’t use the ship’s computers to infiltrate the world’s computers via the Internet remains an unspoken mystery in the movie.)
Mildly entertaining, VIRUS has lots of foul language and violence and many gory scenes with the cyborg body parts. The gory scenes remind one of the over-the-top gore of the ROBOCOP movies several years ago. Thus, VIRUS contains enough taboo material to give it a low rating for moral acceptability. It does, however, have instances where main characters sacrifice themselves for the lives and safety of others.
The predictable moments in this action thriller are overcome by some of the performances, especially Donald Sutherland, Jamie Lee Curtis and Sherman Augustus, who gives a really captivating performance as a black engineer and explosives expert who is fascinated by, then angry at, the machines the alien builds. His character and the captain’s character are the best written ones. The filmmakers should have made him the love interest for Jamie Lee Curtis instead of the boring William Baldwin, who really should consider going into another line of work.
Mild pagan worldview of self-preservation with some moral elements of self-sacrifice; 61 obscenities, some mild, & 14 profanities, mostly strong ones; graphic, sometimes gory violence including violent typhoon at sea, noncorporeal alien attacks humans with electrical energy & use spare body parts, including brains, to build cyborgs (part-machine, part-human creatures) to kill people, humans shoot at machines & cyborgs, woman nearly drowns in large pool of fuel, man thinks about suicide, putting gun barrel in mouth, torture scene, & explosions; alcohol use; and, some feminist elements.