Alas, despite a promising pre-production build-up, Virus proves to be like an increasing number of recent films Species (1995), the Hurd-produced The Relic (1997), Deep Rising (1998) and Supernova (2000) essentially a B-budget copy of Alien (1979) made on an A-budget. The only novelty the film has is that the standard alien of the show has been replaced by an evolving fusion of machinery and organics. Undeniably, a considerable outlay of money has been placed into designing the alien entity and it looks impressive on screen. However, the rest of the film is a welter of cliches. John Bruno attempts to pump everything up with a great deal of noise and chaos explosions, loud bursts of machine-gun fire, slams, bangs, the ship regularly being pelted by tidal waves and the usual quota of false scares. While you cannot deny that Bruno keeps the film busy, he fails to demonstrate any particular skill or style as a director. When it comes to anything other than fairground haunted house slam and bang effects, one realises that noisy visual chaos is the sole trick that John Bruno has in his book.
Similarly, the screenplay has a stripped-down minimalism to it. It never concerns itself with any other ideas like the origin of the monster and why it regards humanity as a virus other than the basic requirements of the monster movie formula. Bruno has a cast Jamie Lee Curtis, Stephen Baldwin, Donald Sutherland who all give competent performances. However, Donald Sutherlands captain is the only one of them who is granted any character depth other than a name (and for most no more than even a surname) wherein we see he is leveraged beyond his capacity to pay and suicidal at the threat of financial loss and this is only there to give ammunition to turn him into the standard character whose greed recklessly endangers the survival of the others.
The film also features Maori actor Cliff Curtis among the supporting cast as one of the salvage crew. In one amusing touch, the film outfits him with a traditional Maori greenstone mere club. The film gets full marks for attempting a touch of ethnic verisimilitude. It is rather amusing to see the inappropriate ends this is put to as the filmmakers then have him charging into battle with the club, unaware that its purpose was ceremonial.
Virus comes from a four-issue graphic novel Virus (1996) by Chuck Pfarrer. Pfarrer is a former Navy SEAL who has written a number of screenplays, including Navy SEALs (1988), Darkman (1990), Hard Target (1993), Barb Wire (1996), The Jackal (1997) and Red Planet (2000).
Virus should not be confused with or is related to several other films with the same title, including the Japanese End of the World film Virus (1980), the Robin Cook tv movie medical drama Virus (1995) and the action film Virus (1996).
(Nominee for Best Makeup Effects at this sites Best of 1999 Awards).