Virus (1999 film)

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Virus (1999 film).jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by John Bruno
Produced by Gale Anne Hurd
Written by
Based on Virus
by Chuck Pfarrer
Music by Joel McNeely
Cinematography David Eggby
Edited by Scott Smith
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date
  • January 15, 1999 (1999-01-15)
Running time
99 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $75 million[2]
Box office $30.7 million[2]

Virus is a 1999 American science fiction horror film directed by visual effects artist John Bruno and based on the comic book of the same name by Chuck Pfarrer. Starring Jamie Lee Curtis, William Baldwin and Donald Sutherland. It tells the story of a ship beset by a malevolent extraterrestrial entity that seeks to turn humanity into cyborg slaves.

Virus was promoted with a line of action figures and a tie-in video game. It turned out to be a critical and commercial flop, but generally gained as a cult following.


The Russian space station Mir contacts a research ship in the South Pacific, Akademik Vladislav Volkov. While the crews converse, a large energy source traveling through space strikes the Mir. The electrical surge hijacks the Mir and beams itself down to the oceangoing ship. The astronauts are killed, and the energy invades the ship's computer, wreaking havoc on the crew at the same time.

Seven days later, during a typhoon, the tugboat Sea Star, captained by alcoholic Robert Everton (Donald Sutherland), loses its uninsured cargo, which was the captain's last chance to get out of debt. Sea Star's crew, led by navigator and ex-Navy officer Kelly Foster (Jamie Lee Curtis) and engineer Steve Baker (William Baldwin) discover the engine room taking on water; Foster suggests that they take refuge in the eye of the storm to make repairs. Everton agrees, but while Sea Star rests in calm waters, he contemplates committing suicide. Simultaneously, the Akademik Vladislav Volkov appears on Sea Star's radar, and realizing that it could be worth millions in salvage, Everton orders his crew aboard.

Almost all of the ship's electronics are destroyed and most of the wiring is slashed; even stranger, areas of the ship are riddled with bullet holes. They can't find any crew, though, much to Everton's delight (if there were crew he couldn't claim the ship as salvage). Everton orders Steve to go with fellow crewman, Squeaky (Julio Oscar Mechoso) and restore power to the ship. They do so, but immediately, the ship's anchor drops on its own, sinking the Sea Star with deckhand Hiko (Cliff Curtis) and first mate J.W. Woods, Jr. (Marshall Bell) on board. Steve leaves Squeaky to guard the engine room. Squeaky is soon lured to his death by a robotic, spider-like creature. Hiko has been injured and gets saved by Steve, while Woods comes out unscathed.

As Foster treats Hiko's leg in the sick bay, the only survivor of the Volkov crew—Chief Science Officer Nadia Vinogradova (Joanna Pacuła)— bursts in and shoots at them. She misses, and Steve manages to subdue her. Nadia is hysterical about "it" needing power to travel through the ship and implores them to shut down the engine. She hits Everton and swings an ax at Foster, who subdues her and takes her to the bridge.

When Squeaky does not respond to Steve's calls, Steve checks the engine room and orders Woods and crewman Richie Mason (Sherman Augustus) to help him. Richie and Woods encounter more strange robots and find an automated workshop producing them. When Richie prods a new machine, it shoots Woods with a nail gun, then the pair are attacked by what appears to be a gun-wielding Russian crew member. Eventually, Richie and Woods catch up with Steve, who has found the engine room door welded shut. They are suddenly attacked again by the Russian, who is revealed to be a cyborg. Since they already raided the munitions depot, the trio are able to battle the cyborg.

At the bridge, Everton accuses Nadia of being the one who dropped the anchor and sank the Sea Star. He threatens to shoot her but Nadia doesn't care, as long as Everton cuts the ship's power. Realizing this makes no sense as Nadia was hiding in the sick bay, Foster stops him. Woods, Steve and Richie arrive with the apparently dead cyborg and set it on a table; beginning to connect the dots, Foster asks Nadia to tell them what happened. She explains that the electrical energy from the Mir boarded the ship eight days prior, and it was not just energy but a highly intelligent lifeform. It scanned the data on the ship's computers to learn how to kill humans, then started using the ship's machine shops - first, it built the smaller robots. After that it began killing the crew and converting them into cyborgs; the one on the table was the ship's captain and Nadia's husband.

When the eye of the storm passes over and violent seas return, the crew looks for a way to destroy the creature. They head for the computer room but are ambushed by Squeaky, now converted into a cyborg, and a gigantic robot that kills Woods. The surviving crew flee and barricade themselves in the communications room, where Richie manages to send out a mayday; however, Everton shoots out the communicator, unwilling to let anyone else in on his salvage. Foster punches Everton in the face and removes him from command. Richie uses the computers to talk to the alien; they thus discover that it is "aware" and sees mankind as a "virus" which it must disassemble into "spare parts". This drives Richie insane, and he storms off ranting and raving—but first guns down Squeaky.

Everton stays behind, and the alien (having identified the captain as the "dominant lifeform") uses the opportunity to communicate with him. It beseeches him to proceed to Workroom 14.

The crew finds the computer room is bare except for a number of the spider robots; the alien moved the computer elsewhere in the ship. Realizing that the ship is moving, they struggle back to the bridge by going outside, where Hiko is lost to the typhoon. Meanwhile, Everton finds Workroom 14, where the alien is busy creating and assembling cyborgs. Impressed with the alien's work, Everton bargains with it, and it asks him to help it survive.

Foster identifies Lord Howe Island as the ship's destination, and Nadia surmises the alien wishes to seize a British intelligence station from which it could control the military forces of the world. As they decide to sink the ship, the protagonists are beset by the now-cyborg Everton, which they defeat with a thermite hand grenade. The saboteurs empty the ship's fuel tanks and set some explosive charges.

Foster, Steve and Nadia run into Richie, who fled earlier. Suddenly, a giant robot appears and brings down the walkway Nadia, Richie and Steve fall. It captures Foster and tortures her for the location of the bomb's detonator. A fatally injured Richie reveals to Steve that he prepared an escape route in the ship's missile room. Nadia and Steve manage to rescue Foster from the giant robot and Nadia sacrifices herself by shooting a flaregun at nearby gas tanks to kill it, but the majority of the creature survives anyway. As Foster and Steve make it out safely by using Richie's escape route (a jury-rigged ejection seat designed to launch them out and away from the ship), their escape device has also been rigged to trigger an explosion, which finally causes the ship to blow up and sink and the electricity-based alien intelligence to be grounded into the seawater, fatally dispersing it. The survivors get rescued by the Norfolk crew and share a relieved hug as the credits roll.



The ship used as the Akademik Vladislav Volkov was the retired Missile Range Instrumentation Ship USNS General Hoyt S. Vandenberg (T-AGM-10).[3] One of the ship's satellite dish antennas was intentionally damaged for the film's final scene where the ship was destroyed. Some of the Cyrillic lettering applied for the film was still visible on the hull before it was sunk on May 27, 2009.

Several lines of dialogue in Virus were improvised.[4] For instance, Richie's emphatic comment that the Volkov has a "fucked-up" antenna resulted from the actor's surprise at the condition of the Vandenberg.


Virus was a critical and commercial flop, grossing less than half of its budget and earning awful reviews. Based on 47 reviews, the film holds a 9% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.[5]

Most critics found the film derivative and unoriginal.[6][7][8]

Reviewers pointed out similarities with the 1998 film Deep Rising.[9][10] Roger Ebert gave Virus an even lower rating than Deep Rising, which he considered one of the worst films of 1998 and placed on his most-hated list.[11] Many echoed his complaint about the underlit cinematography.

Jamie Lee Curtis herself did not think highly of the film. In an interview, Curtis had the following to say about Virus: "That would be the all time piece of shit...It's just dreadful... That's the only good reason to be in bad movies. Then when your friends have [bad] movies you can say 'Ahhhh, I've got the best one.' I'm bringing Virus."[12]


A line of action figures, the Virus Collector Series, was developed by ReSaurus to promote the film. The line included figures of Foster, Baker, Richie, Captain Everton, Captain Alexi, Squeaky and the Goliath Machine (the Goliath set also included a Nadia figure). The captains and Squeaky were built with their cyborg implants, with parts included to restore their human appearance. All of the sets, excluding Goliath and Nadia's, included one or more firearms for their figure. Goliath also featured three sound clips of his lines from the film.

A Europe-only tie-in game, Virus: It is Aware, was also developed and published by Cryo Interactive for the Sony PlayStation. The game is a survival-horror title akin to Resident Evil in concept and to Tomb Raider in control. The game had little to do with the film, apart from the introduction and ending cinematics, which feature creatures infesting a ship and a space station, respectively. The actual game follows a female police officer, Joan, trapped in an infested hotel along with her partner Sutter. The game is generally poorly regarded and has since fallen into obscurity.

The original comics were re-released in graphic novel format with alternate cover artwork based on the film's climax.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Virus (18)". British Board of Film Classification. January 29, 1999. Retrieved September 24, 2016. 
  2. ^ a b
  3. ^ "NavSource Naval History". NavSource Naval History. Retrieved 2011-03-27. 
  4. ^ John Bruno, Marhsell Bell, Sherman Augustus (1999). Director and cast commentary. Universal Studios (DVD). 
  5. ^ "Virus (1999) critic reviews". Rotten Tomatoes. 
  6. ^ Van, Lawrence (1999-01-16). "Celluloid Comic Book About Aliens". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-03-27. 
  7. ^ Schwarzbaum, Lisa (1999-02-05). "Virus". Entertainment Weekly. Your average winter cold follows a less predictable course. 
  8. ^ Leydon, Joe (1999-01-17). "Review: Virus". Variety. 
  9. ^ Berardinelli, James. "Review:Virus". Reelviews Movie Reviews. Archived from the original on 2008-05-17. 
  10. ^ McDonagh, Maitland (1999). "Virus". TV Guide. 
  11. ^ Ebert, Roger (1999-01-17). "Virus". Chicago Sun-Times. 
  12. ^ Otto, Jeff (2003-05-08). "An Interview with Jamie Lee Curtis". IGN. 

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