Monster of the Deep (2023) Review
Monster of the Deep (深海大鱼, Shen Hai Da Yu) opens with a brief shot of a freighter sitting on a calm sea as an ominous dark blob glides under it before cutting away to a woman in the shower. Calm down, this is a Chinese film, you don’t see anything naughty. From there it launches into a strangely comical attack on the ship by what appears to be a giant octopus. It’s all scored to an uptempo song and ends with the woman from the shower being swallowed by what looks like a giant toothy vagina.
Elsewhere, Xiao Mei (Li Mu Yun, Yin Yang Painted Skin, Shaolin Pirates) and her younger brother Jun (Tian Hao-Ning, My Son, Murloc) are also on a ship, and a couple of crew members have just fished a container, covered in biohazard symbols and containing a live octopus-like creature out of the ocean. What do they do? They give it to the cook, “Uncle Fatty”, and bet on whether he’ll eat it alive. Needless to say, it does not go well for him, or anyone else on board.
Back on land, Zhang Yang (He Zi Ming, My Sassy Deskmate, The Soldier King Legend) is getting talked into taking part in a robbery. It seems an extremely valuable diamond is being transported by ship and the gang, led by his brother-in-law Cui Li (Zhang Bo Yu, Be No Trivial Matter, Time Raiders) needs his expertise with explosives. Yang doesn’t want to return to that life, but he’s, you guessed it, a single parent whose daughter has a medical condition. Conveniently. she has an attack during dinner, forcing his hand. When they get to their target, however, they find it deserted.
Monster of the Deep borrows heavily from the basic plot of Deep Rising pitting modern-day pirates against a kaiju-sized creature with hungry tentacles. The poster art, which features almost exact copies of those tentacles, was what convinced me to actually watch Monster of the Deep. Then it adds in a small child to play the role of Newt from Aliens and some plot points from Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection for good measure. The result is a fairly decent bit of monster mayhem that could be shot relatively cheaply on limited sets.
The darkened corridors of the freighter make for an effectively claustrophobic setting and director Wu Yingxiang (The White Haired Witch, A Man Called Hero) takes advantage of them as the characters try to stay one step ahead of the creature. Amusingly, even though the credit sequence tells us it’s the result of genetic experiments, the characters refer to it as a Kraken, ”a foreign giant octopus”. It would have to be foreign, no Chinese giant octopus would do something like this and risk their social credit rating.
Monster of the Deep’s creature is mostly CGI with a couple of scenes that look like they used a tentacle puppet to let the characters interact with it directly. The CGI isn’t bad for one of these films and, perhaps unsurprisingly given twenty-five years have passed, some of the scenes look better than Deep Rising’s. There are still some noticeably bad shots, however, such as the tentacles carrying off one of the victims from the ship’s wheelhouse. The green screen work and shots of the sinking ship in the prologue and a miniature near the end are also pretty poor.
Monster of the Deep also suffers from an extremely weak ending. The actual escape from the ship, while not matching the jet ski scene in Deep Rising, is well enough done. But it feels like the filmmakers went for the kind of final scene “gotcha” that so many of these films end on but were overruled by the producers. The film now ends with a slab of text that looks like it was hastily added to make it less grim.
The result is a film that’s still better than a lot of other Chinese monster movies, or even the recent Thai film The Lake, but is hurt by a prologue that not only doesn’t match the rest of the film’s tone but shouldn’t exist as the creature didn’t exist yet and the botched ending. Since Monster of the Deep is free to watch on Youku’s YouTube channel or embedded below, it’s worth checking out if you’re in the mood for a creature feature.