Not every comic book film is about superheroes. There’s been quite a bit of comic books adapted to film that has no superheroes, capes and superpowers at all. One such film came out in 1999. It was a film adapted from Chuck Pfarrer’s Dark Horse Comics mini-series titled Virus. This was a comic book that had a unique art-style to it that lent itself well to its scifi and body horror tale.
The film itself skews close enough to the comic book with some minor changes. Instead of a Chinese research vessel where most of the story takes place we find the film set on a derelict Soviet research ship. Even with the changes from comic book to film they both shared one common denominator and that would be the alien lifeform that has decided to systematically kill all humans aboard the ship.
Virus stars Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Sutherland in two roles they probably wish they took a pass on or asked more money to do. While the film has some imaginative set pieces involving the melding of robotics and scavenged human body parts to create something bigger and homicidal the majority of the film involves pretty much every cast member in one stage or another of hysteria, incredulity and denial. Really, the only person in the whole film who seemed to go through the story with a clear and level head was Cliff Curtis’ seaman Hiko. All this means was that he would be one not to survive to the end of the film.
While the comic book itself was a nice piece of scifi horror storytelling then film stumbles right out of the gate not just because of the terrible acting, but just a dull and boring adaptation of the story. While, as stated earlier, some of the robotic designs were quite good and the use of practical effects made the killer robots something terrible behold, director John Bruno didn’t seem to have any ideas on how to put together an exciting sequence to take advantage of these inventive pieces at his disposal.
Virus was one film that comic book fans who read the mini-series were quite excited to see when it was first announced as a film in production. Stills of gruesome effects work would be admired and just add to the high expectations. What we got instead was a huge pile of a mess that was neither horrific, terrifying or remotely entertaining. Virus is one such film that I wouldn’t even bother catching on TV being shown for free.