An “electrical life form” generates low-voltage suspense in “Virus,” a derivative sci-fi shocker that isn’t likely to spark much interest beyond its target audience of undemanding genre fans. Theatrical prospects are dim, but ancillary action may be slightly brighter.
Much like its extraterrestrial antagonist, which uses human beings for spare parts while constructing biomechanical drones, “Virus” borrows plot elements and production designs from a dozen or so good, bad and indifferent pics. Oscar-winning special effects whiz John Bruno (“The Abyss”) tries to keep things moving faster than the speed of thought in his first directorial effort. But neither he nor his actors can transcend the pre-fab screenplay by Chuck Pfarrer and Dennis Feldman.
Based on a Dark Horse Comics series created by Pfarrer, “Virus” begins with the invasion of the MIR space station by a marauding mass of crackling blue energy. After that, the mass beams down to a Russian science ship in the South Pacific. Nothing good comes of this.
Meanwhile, in another part of the ocean, a salvage tug is badly damaged during a raging typhoon. Thanks to plucky navigator Kit Foster (Jamie Lee Curtis) — and despite the worst efforts of the hard-drinking Captain Everton (Donald Sutherland) — the crew manages to steer the crippled vessel into the eye of the storm. One thing leads to another, the tug crew boards a seemingly deserted Russian ship, and the body count starts to mount.
Nadia (Joanna Pacula), the last survivor aboard the Russian ship, tries to warn the newcomers about the murderous intent of the electrical mass. Not surprisingly, Captain Everton and most of his crew are slow to believe her.
But then the biomechanical drones begin to appear. And the electric mass reveals itself as a sentient entity that wants to eradicate the human “virus” on board.
Curtis and Pacula are thoroughly convincing in thinly written roles. The same can be said of William Baldwin as a hunky engineer and Sherman Augustus as the tough-talking crewman. But Sutherland is ferociously hammy as he struggles with a vaguely Irish accent.
The special effects are passably persuasive in scenes that involve biomechanical creatures. But the use of a scale model is painfully apparent when the ship is supposed to be tossed by the typhoon. Other tech credits are adequate.