Deepstar Six

Not every movie released this January is going to be a thoughtful, serious film along the lines of Mississippi Burning or The Accidental Tourist. No, there’s also room for trash. And trash describes Deepstar Six, a dopey but curiously welcome little science-fiction contraption.

Deepstar Six is utterly without an original concept, but it does have a certain B-movie kick. It borrows from Alien, Jaws, and just about every other successful horror film of recent years, with a bit of The Poseidon Adventure thrown in.

It takes place in a high-tech research lab sitting on the bottom of the ocean, where scientists are doing whatever it is scientists are always doing in these movies, and the military is preparing an undersea base for nuclear missiles. When a cave under the ocean floor collapses, something nasty gets out. Something nasty and, apparently, hungry.

You can see Alien creeping in. Actually, this sea monster is something of a red herring (ahem) since the crew’s real problem is in leaving the lab before a nuclear detonation occurs (a boneheaded engineer mistakenly set the controls to self-destruct). So the valiant scientists must find a way to liftoff while keeping shy of the sea beast.

Okay, it’s dumb. But if you have a fondness for the conventions of funky 1950s sci-fi movies, Deepstar Six is easy to take. For instance, it is traditional in these movies that the women scientists are shapely PhD.s who like to wear tank tops. That tradition thrives in Deepstar Six.

Director Sean S. Cunningham, whose place in cinema history is assured thanks to his creation of the Friday the 13th series, takes his time about setting up the situation and then letting the good times roll. Granted, the characters are cardboard and the special effects are cheesy, but that’s part of the fun.

Even the actors are a surprisingly decent bunch. Taurean Blacque (of “Hill Street Blues”) is the captain. Greg Evigan and Nancy Everhard are the young couple in love. Cindy Pickett (“St. Elsewhere”) is the capable doctor, and Miguel Ferrer steals the show as the crew’s coward (there’s always one).

Plus, they’re not writing dialogue like this anymore: “That thing killed half our crew. I want it dead.” And: “When we get out of this, I’ll marry you in a minute.” And my favorite: “Wait a minute. There’s something in the airlock!” So who can resist?

First published in the Herald, January 12, 1989

“Dopey but curiously welcome” strikes me as a legitimate subgenre of movies. But I haven’t found this one welcome enough to view since then.

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