Monday, November 28, 2016

"These Things Happen" - Creatures from the Abyss (1994) - Part 2 of 3

This is Part 2 of our discussion of the maritime adventure Creatures from the Abyss (1994). You can read Part 1 here.

We left our five twenty-somethings on board the good ship Oceanographic Research Institute, a ghost ship with a mysterious lab full of dead and frozen fish. They have just discovered an unconscious crew member in the ship's basement.

Mike and Bobby drag the unconscious man out from behind steel drums of fuel and take him upstairs to the bar. The ID in his wallet says he is a chemist named Clark Dewison. "Dumb chemists," says Mike. "He won't be able to tell us a damn thing until he comes to." As I assume to be the case in your universe, in Universe-Prime most scientists are able to impart information while unconscious, with the exception being dumb chemists.

It deserves to be noted that, if it is possible to overact while unconscious, then Clark Dewison, played by director and occasional actor Deran Serafian, accomplishes that task.

Bobby, disappointed that a crew member is still alive and they won't be able to steal the yacht, suggests murder by throwing the chemist overboard. It is unclear whether he is joking.

Julie and Dorothy try to sleep on bunk beds in one of the neon blue bedrooms. Dorothy tosses and turns, the victim of eating bad fish. She runs to the head and vomits. Excessively. Her green vomit is filled with beetles. She screams and runs into the bar area, where Bobby, Mike, and Margaret intercept her.

The men return to the toilet and find vomit, but no beetles. They also encounter the talking shower with a video screen and a female personality, which they rightly ignore.

When Mike tells Dorothy they found no evidence of creatures in her vomit, Dorothy's demeanor changes. She strangles Mike and demands he take her off the ship.

Mike agrees, so he and Dorothy don raincoats and go out on deck in the pouring rain. They are surprised that their raft, still tethered to the side of the good ship Oceanographic Research Institute, has somehow filled with water. The lifeboat is similarly flooded, but Mike makes the fortuitous discovery of an axe and brings it back inside with him.

Moments later, Mr. Serafian's chemist has flashbacks of a strange eyeball and a monster attack. He also makes choking noises and says what sounds like the word "sex" while Mike gives him a glass of water.

Mike and Margaret return to the lab yet again. He turns on the computer and is presented with a DOS menu of commands. "This is way over my head," he complains.

The fisheye lens on the floor continues to stalk them until Margaret steps on it. "Ah! I must have stepped on something soft." But there is nothing on the floor.

When they activate a video screen with the image of a grotesquely disfigured person, Mike somehow realizes the truth. "I get it now. This is a control console for a distant telecamera," he says. "I believe they're in a bell at the bottom of the sea along with the rest of the crew." He also believes that the secret of the ship is somehow tied to these strange fish. (The discovery of the diving bell is a fascinating plot point, but the filmmakers have other things to get to and it is never mentioned again.)

From one image and access to the computer information that is way over his head, Mike has deduced that the crew found dozens of species of carnivorous fish feeding on plankton and thought to be extinct. These fish have "mobile eyes" and a wide field of vision, explaining the fisheye lens moving around the floor.

Mike raises his voice. "Carnivorous fish that live out of water? Do you know what that means?"

At that exact moment, with no warning, the terror begins. The fish on the operating table breaks free of its cables and flies into the air, attacking Margaret's throat.


Mike manages to pull the fish off and throw it to the floor. Bobby races to the lab to help, but he expresses skepticism that a fish from a museum bit Margaret, which results in the fish slapping him in the face and then disappearing.

Mike and Bobby search the lab for the fish. It jumps out of a sealed box and bites Bobby's backside, but they manage to impale it on a handy machete and kill it. Then, sensibly, they destroy all the containers and organisms in the lab, one of which falls into a convenient meat grinder. Oddly, however, they forget about the freezer housing dozens of the fish.

Later, while Margaret sleeps off her throat wound in the bottom bunk, Mike climbs to the top bunk. Under the mirrored ceiling, he looks at the drawings of the creatures from the abyss.


(It must be noted that the drawings are of high quality and extremely detailed. They are almost up to the quality standards of the hand-drawn map from Shriek of the Mutilated.)

(It must also be noted that the good ship Oceanographic Research Institute is a technologically advanced vessel; despite the storm that rages outside all night, the decks are rock-steady and always level, showing no wave motion whatsoever.)

Mike moves on from the drawings to the book he found, which is filled with trivia about the genitalia and sex habits of deep sea fish. We learn more about the book as Mike reads aloud: plankton, it seems, prefer jacuzzis and limousines to ocean life.

Mike realizes something from all this reading. He jumps out of the bunk and hurries to the living area to confront the chemist. He asks Dr. Dewison how long he has been having sex with fish.

Dewison replies, "They're old enough."

"I understand," says Mike. "These things happen." Then Mike returns to the computers in the lab, his suspicions confirmed. He puts two and two together and realizes that contaminated plankton have made the deep-sea fish sexually aggressive. He explains everything to Margaret, who sneaks up behind him and startles him. Radioactive waste contaminated the plankton in the area, causing the fish that ate the plankton to develop great strength and agility. And the powdery substance that Bobby tasted is actually pulverized, contaminated plankton!

Here is where the film's heady concepts come together. The filmmakers have one thing in mind by combining the vibrant neon bordello decor and the slimy undersea organisms, and that one thing comes down to two words: fish sex.

After Mike gives his explanations, Margaret uses this moment to remind Mike that this is their one-year anniversary, not to mention that she is pregnant. Mike is overjoyed.

Meanwhile, Julie climbs out of her bunk to join Bobby in his bedroom, which contains a stuffed polar bear and an elegant gold bedside lamp depicting an elf with a massive male member whose tip is the light bulb. The lamp turns Julie on; the bulb lights up as she strokes it.

The next scene between Julie and Bobby is perhaps the film's most impressive, and famous, sequence. Stay tuned!

Stay tuned for Part 3, where all the mysteries will be revealed, except the mystery of the diving bell, which will not be mentioned again.