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  Virus Short Circuit 3: Horror From Space
Year: 1999
Director: John Bruno
Stars: Jamie Lee Curtis, William Baldwin, Donald Sutherland, Joanna Pacula, Marshall Bell, Sherman Augustus, Cliff Curtis, Julio Oscar Mechoso, Yuri Chervotkin, Keith Flippen, Olga Rzhepetskaya-Retchin, Levan Uchaneishvili, David Eggby
Genre: Horror, Action, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: The Southern Pacific Ocean and a Russian research vessel is in contact with the Mir Space Station doing routine investigations and checking in with the crew way up above in orbit, one of the scientists on the ship, Nadia (Joanna Pacula), playing a game of chess with the Mir's captain to pass the time. But then one of the cosmonauts notices something strange out of the window, a blue shape advancing on them which is growing larger and larger: suddenly it strikes the station and sends it into chaos! Down on the ship, they realise it is an emergency, but not until a bolt of lightning strikes their satellite dish do they have any concept of the danger they are in - the danger the human race is in.

Virus was pretty much doomed when it stopped being a summer blockbuster and saw its release moved to January, the graveyard slot for movies that were not expected to do well, and so it was that it opened to poor business and not much of a welcome at the box office. For a production from Gale Anne Hurd, this was disappointing to say the least, especially as it was in her specialisation area of science fiction combined with horror, something that had done so well for her from her days as James Cameron's producer up to her work overseeing The Walking Dead on television, but even the most reliable creatives have a blip, and Virus would appear to be her blippiest. But then something not terribly unexpected happened.

It didn't take off in a big way and become and unsung classic by any means, but it was given regular showings in the graveyard slot on television and as a result picked up a reputation as an easy to watch slice of escapism that may not have been down for any awards, but provided entertainment on a basic level. Granted that level may have been a game of spot the rip-off, which you could play as you noticed the inspirations for the action that was unfolding, a bit of Aliens here, a spot of The Thing there, how about a borrow from Hardware, or a deep cut from Death Ship... and so forth, there was essentially nothing original present, which strongly indicated a film being extremely safe in its choices: if it succeeded before, it'll succeed again.

Even the characters spoke mostly in clichés, for instance at one point the Captain of the boat that finds the Russian ship adrift and apparently abandoned really did say "Hold your horses! I’m still the Captain of this ship!", and that it was spoken by Donald Sutherland in a dodgy Oirish accent made it all the more groansome. With the dialogue exhibiting not one whit of novelty, you may be thinking there was one epic drinking game based around noting bits and pieces from other movies possible, but for your health's sake one would have to advise against it: there was business going on here that surely could be traced back to the early days of the talkies. If Virus did not sound up to much, then the most important query was whether it delivered in the action stakes, it was that genre of movie after all, and the answer was, eh, it was all right.

If that was lowering your expectations sufficiently you would find yourself getting along with the movie, if not famously then on a cheery wave should you notice it passing on the street (or on that late night TV slot). Jamie Lee Curtis was our actual star, and she was withering in her assessment of this, what she considered her worst film, but truth be told for all its silliness, there were other, far less enjoyable efforts out there, and she was a solid heroine in spite of lines that made moves towards rendering her wooden. The gimmick here was an alien infection that lives in electricity (you could tell science wasn't the strong point) and makes up robots of increasing size from the equipment it finds on the ship, that including the bodies of the crew, so plenty of opportunity for gory cyborgs in a manner that Star Trek would never have the guts to do on television with their Borg race. John Bruno, special effects man extraordinaire, was at the helm, seemingly putting paid to a promising career in the process, but if he was predictably better at the effects than anything else, well, who watched Virus for the acting? Music by Joel McNeely.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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