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Review: 'Virus' is gonna bug you

Web posted on: Wednesday, January 20, 1999 11:03:04 AM EST

From Reviewer Paul Tatara

(CNN) -- Director John Bruno's "Virus" mostly consists of the two must-have ingredients of the "there's a monster out there and the crew's gotta kill it" movie genre: idiocy and coincidence.

The idiocy, of course, comes in the guise of terrified people who are nonetheless ready to crawl curiously into open air ducts, only to be attacked by something that we know is out there, but haven't caught a proper glimpse of yet. The coincidences are coincidences, stuff like power switches in a room full of complex gadgetry, that happen to be right next to the person who needs to yank them at a dangerous moment.

Theatrical preview for "Virus"

Windows Media: 28k or 56k
Real: 28k or 56k

Clip: "You are virus"
Video clip: 1.7Mb QuickTime

To top it all off, you also get choice nuggets of stinko dialogue like, "There's no such thing as easy money, Squeaky." Well, there certainly is easy money at the box office, but I suspect that "Virus" will have to wait for its allotment when it comes out on video. That should be in about, oh, six minutes.

Producer did better with 'Aliens'

Producer Gale Anne Hurd -- who managed this kind of stuff with a great deal of class when she worked on "Aliens" -- brings us a boring-as-mud compilation of the dark corridors from that film and the humanoid robotics of "The Terminator" (which she also produced).

I've been reviewing movies for two years now, and I've seen about five of these things already. You have to have a crew of mixed sexes and races aboard some kind of ship, so the "Virus" crew is packed onto a seafaring tug boat, of all things, when the movie opens. Donald Sutherland's ham is showing as the nutso, Quint-style ship captain, a guy so ripe with growling pirate mannerisms, I kept expecting him to say "Arrrrgh, matey." He and his crew, including Jamie Lee Curtis as the tugboat navigator (yeah, right) and Billy Baldwin as a hired-hand seaman (ditto), lead the pack of otherwise unknown-actor shipmates, the kind who are always the first to be gobbled up when the aliens get rattled.

And you just know they're gonna get rattled.

The tug is caught in a torrential downpour, and it starts to get flooded (Sutherland drives headfirst into the storm, because, as I've already said, he's crazy). Eventually, the disabled boat comes upon a huge, abandoned ship that has a big hole charbroiled into the side of it.

Movie formula, step 49: "Our crew has to get on that mysterious ship, then lose any chance of ever getting off of it. This happens in short order."

The crew doesn't know it yet, but we've already seen that a bunch of Russian scientists who were communicating with the Mir space station from their seabound lab have been nailed by a giant bolt of space-traveling electricity. First, it took out the Mir crew (thus enabling the Russian space program to avoid accidentally doing it themselves one day), then shot down to Earth via a satellite dish, where it zapped into the electrical system of the ship.

Well, that means that our crew has to get on that mysterious ship, then lose any chance of ever getting off of it. This happens in short order. By law, they also have to find one surviving member of the massacre who quivers like Jell-O while describing the monster's otherworldly capabilities. Then, as many of the poor suckers as possible need to get killed, and gruesomely.

That takes a while to happen, though. First, everyone has to crawl around the ship and deliver lame dialogue that sounds a lot more like noises designed to fill in spaces between monster appearances than it does actual communication. They do experience a great deal of luck, however, when the surviving crew member turns out to be played by Joanna Pacula, who looks like she's a Russian scientist about as much as Baldwin looks like Popeye the Sailor Man. If these two make it out alive, they might be able to parlay the experience into a modeling deal with Versace.

The monsters themselves are quite a bit less than frightening, most of them being little mechanical gadgets with spidery legs and not much resistance to machine-gun fire. The Big Kahuna monsters, though, kill humans, then use the fleshy leftovers as part of a half-human, half-machine killing entity. They clink and clank around, strafing the area with nails and the like. Plus, at one point, we get to see a guy dig his finger into the gooey brain matter of a dead one! I'd wash that finger if I were you, buddy.

"Virus" is the same old, same old. Blood and guts, bad language, bad movie. I'm surprised Sutherland didn't hold out for a peg leg. Rated R. 100 minutes.

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