(director: John Bruno; screenwriters: Chuck Pfarrer/Dennis Feldman/based on “Virus,” a Dark Horse comic book series created by Pfarrer; cinematographer: David Eggby; editor: Scott Smith; music: Joel McNeely; cast: Jamie Lee Curtis (Kit Foster), William Baldwin (Steve Baker), Donald Sutherland (Captain Everton), Joanna Pacula (Nadia), Marshall Bell (J.W. Woods, Jr.), Julio Oscar Mechoso (Squeaky), Sherman Augustus (Richie), Cliff Curtis (Hiko); Runtime: 100; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Gale Anne Hurd; Universal; 1999)

The next worse thing to getting a virus is to catch this bacteria friendly film.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The next worse thing to getting a virus is to catch this bacteria friendly film. John Bruno (“T2 3-D: Battle Across Time“), who has a rich background in special effects,lazily directs this derivative (“Deep Rising,” “Mimic” and “The Haunted Sea,” for starters) big-budget sci-fi horror film. It’s humorless, and would have played out better as a computer game than a movie. Surprisingly, considering Bruno’s background, the special effects are not up to par (the robots look like cheap children toy rejects from Radio Shack). The thriller is based on“Virus,” a Dark Horse comic book series created by Chuck Pfarrer, and it’s incompetently scripted by cowriters Pfarrer and Dennis Feldman.

The salvage tug Sea Star is towing a barge loaded with cargo in the South Seas and is caught in a typhoon, that has the barge go under and the tug itself start to sink. When the storm subsides, the tugboat crew–the Cuban Squeaky (Julio Oscar Mechoso), the whiner Woods (Marshall Bell), the sharp black dude Richie (Sherman Augustus), the pony-tailed Polynesian Hiko (Cliff Curtis), the hunky sailor Steve Baker (William Baldwin), the admiral’s daughter navigator Kit Foster (Jamie Lee Curtis), and the crusty venal Captain Everton (Donald Sutherland)–go aboard a deserted Russian research ship, the Vladislav Volkov, to salvage it. The greedy captain–who is facing financial ruin after losing his valuable cargo–infects the others (except for Kit) with his greed to make a fortune salvaging this derelict, floating dead on the water, hi-tech ship located on international waters. After exploring the ship, the crew finds a terrified Russian survivor, hiding in sick bay, who is the ship’s chief scientist, Nadia (Joanna Pacula), and she tries telling the skeptical crew they must get off the ship because it’s not safe. The crew doesn’t listen to the Russian, but soon become concerned when the ship is eerily operating on its own and they start getting picked off one at a time. Finally the crew learn that the ship has been taken over by a ruthless alien intelligence, introduced through the Mir space station, that has killed the three hundred Russians on board. This brings about a life and death fight between the bewildered tugboat crew and the aliens, as the crew is caught between their greed to collect their salvage booty and their instincts for survival. The tiny mechanized robotic creatures, created by the alien force, run all over the ship, as there’s a computer-run android-manufacturing workshop operated by larger mechanisms below deck. The alien invaders create bio-mechanical monsters (half man and half machine robots, with the humans used for body parts) for the purpose of exterminating the virus they identify only as humans and to accomplish their aim of conquering the world.

Virus is nothing more than drivel or, if you would, a bad Alien (1979) rip-off and a badly acted film, one that if I did not see I would have felt much better for not having wasted my time on such unpleasant nonsense.

William Baldwin and Donald Sutherland in Virus (1999)