Genetic Dracula

A cinematic melting pot of ideas, characters, and monsters, Leviathan doesn’t ignore its influences. With so many minor studios pumping out video store or b-level material, these cycles often happened in the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s – in this case, the underwater disaster/sci-fi film, of which audiences saw five of in a two year span, both before and after James Cameron’s mega budget The Abyss. Of those, Leviathan is arguably second.

It’s not just the hodgepodge approach to the story creates a familiar, inviting feeling, but how well Leviathan uses those elements. Even more than just the underwater setting, Leviathan skims Alien and more obviously, The Thing for its horror. All combined, it’s a frantic spectacle, led by a stellar performance from Peter Weller, who as a stoic commander, never loses his cool factor.

Leviathan makes a slow crawl to its eventual chaos

The mission captures the latest possible capitalism, with a well-off, demanding corporate woman comfortably sitting in her (then) modern office while this crew risks death for what’s certainly a limited payday in comparison beneath the ocean surface. Leviathan’s take isn’t as hearty or forceful as Alien/Aliens, but it’s still carrying bite, especially by the final act.

Leviathan makes a slow crawl to its eventual chaos, usually a budget pinch to avoid costly visible effects. In this case though, the script is engaging, with authentic banter between team members that readily establishes their personalities and a touch of Cold War paranoia as the resulting disaster is Soviet-born.

Shot intelligently (and mostly) dry-for-wet, the result isn’t always convincing on screen, but it’s remarkably close (and certainly less dangerous than Cameron’s The Abyss turned out to be). The only chink in Leviathan’s armor is the final creature, which comes after spectacular practical makeups before that created a convincingly gooey transformation of a soon-to-be distorted human-esque shape. Once fully formed, it’s seen only in passing edits without a decent look at this Stan Winston-team beast.

Luckily, the human element is a satisfying one, from Weller to Ernie Hudson both wholly involved in a blue collar working stiff roles. Both of them seemed to specialize a bit given RoboCop and Ghostbusters before, but Leviathan plays its material dead straight, the corporate satire happening organically rather than directly as in RoboCop. For a film about a mixed-DNA monster terrorizing an isolated crew, there’s a lot of shaken DNA making up Leviathan’s pieces too.


A moderately impressive master lacks a spark. The slightest indicator of a low filter pass shaves off the finest level of texture, but the after effects are few. In close, Leviathan shows excellent resolution and fidelity. Even in the dry-for-wet sets, facial definition can escape the diving helmets in the right circumstances. Medium/wide shots erode this same texture leaving the imagery on the muddier side, but it’s nominal.

While typically restricted by design, flesh tones and a few primary colors do pop. Lights and underwater blues look great. Muted grays of the interior sets are bland and lifeless, as they need to be.

A moderate Dolby Vision pass spikes a few light sources, nothing too impressive though. The command center, with CRT TVs and bulbs everywhere, looks satisfying enough. Shoulder lamps on the dive suits display little intensity for their purpose.


The 5.1 mix is not recommended. Dialog tends to wander and drift, creating an imbalance. On the plus side, the original stereo track is great. Not only does dialog rest at consistent volume, the split between the stereos impress, overall fidelity brings a clarity worthy of a movie from 1989 (and better than expected).


Kino ports bonuses from Scream Factory’s Blu-ray, including a commentary from historians Steve Mitchell and Nathaniel Thompson. The main making-of runs 40-minutes, and as with the other bonuses, reside on the Blu-ray only. This is supplemented by two interviews, one with Hector Elizondo, the other with Ernie Hudson. Trailers become the leftovers.

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While a blatant knock-off of multiple sci-fi stories, Leviathan does what it does well with great special effects.

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 35 full resolution uncompressed 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD:

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