ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, JAN. 21, 1999
By Steve Newton
There’s a scene near the beginning of Virus in which oceangoing-tug engineer Steve Baker (William Baldwin) and his supposedly hip Cuban sidekick, Squeaky (Julio Oscar Mechoso), have just boarded an evidently abandoned Russian research ship. The salvage tug they’ve transferred from has just had a run-in with a typhoon, and they’re cautiously casing the conked-out vessel to see why nobody responded to their mayday signal—and maybe claim a $30-million salvage fee. “This is very stoopeed, Stevie,” whines Squeaky as they sneak along the ship’s shadowy corridors. “This is very stoopeed, Stevie.” I must have repeated that line to myself a dozen times before this abysmal techno-thriller shuddered to a much-appreciated end.
Not that it’s worth even knowing about, but the ghostly ship commandeered by the tug’s seven-member crew—which includes tough-cookie navigator Kit Foster (Jamie Lee Curtis) and deranged Capt. Everton (the seriously slumming Donald Sutherland)—has been infiltrated by a mutating alien life form, seen here as electricity from space. The killer current with a mind of its own came blasting down like lightning from the Mir space station, natch, slaughtering all but Russian scientist babe Nadia (Joanna Pacula) and infecting every electronic aspect of the ship, including the vast array of robotics.
After trying to shoot them, Nadia pleads with the newly arrived tugboat twits to turn off the ship’s power, because that’s how you stifle the extraterrestrial menace. But they don’t wanna; they’d rather roam around in the dark (I thought the power was on!) and get startled by the scurrying robot spiders from Runaway before being turned into gruesome biomechanical creatures reminiscent of the seriously mangled Terminator.
The rest of the film depicts the fast-dwindling crew battling these pistol-packing cyborg types in a run-of-the-mill Aliens rip-off that is short on everything but volume. I actually nodded off at the height of the extended aural assault, and when I woke up, sole survivors Curtis and Baldwin (what a surprise) were being flown away on a helicopter. I kept hoping that one of those steel spider things might skitter out of nowhere, scare the pilot, and cause the chopper to crash, but that never happened.
I shoulda kept snoozin’.