This post here at Necrotic Cinema will mark a slight change in direction for some, though not all, of my reviews here and at The Uranium Café. Up until recently most of my reviews have been pretty much filled to the brim with spoilers and I am going to try and restrain myself from giving away too much of a film’s plot and storyline. It is not that I am adverse to spoiling a film with my reviews but I just want to try and talk about the movie in a new way. Reviews I read go either way but in terms of newer films I think I will try to hold back. Now if someone is going to complain (and I have had no complaints about spoilers) that over at my more ‘classic’ film blog The Uranium Café I spoiled some film like Them, The Blob or The Bride of Frankenstein then I do know what to say. I just assume everyone knows those stories already even if they have never seen the film. But even there I am going to try some new approaches for a while and see where it leads.
So onto the film for this post called Pandorum, directed by Christian Alvart and starring Ben Foster, Dennis Quiad, Cam Gigandet and Antje Trau. I tried again to watch the British zombie film Colin and I am sorry I just could not get into it. Some people see genius in the lack of production values and I simply did not. Anyway, I will not bash Colin here today and will get around to finishing it eventually and reviewing it. But I simply got tired of all these ‘indie’ horror films I had gotten from Demoinoid and Horror Charnel recently. I wanted something with some technical skill to it and some passable acting and a camera that was actually mounted on a tri-pod once in a while and a film where the photography consists of what appears to be a drugged spider monkey running around with a cheap video camera. I had not heard of Pandorum before and took a chance and was pleasantly surprised by the experience. In that horror movie sort of way of course.
The film has gotten some good reviews on the net but of course there are those who just feel the need to see lack of absolute perfection in any horror/sci-fi film that comes out and I wonder why some of these people even run horror/sci-fi blogs in the first place. I wonder if many horror viewers have just become too jaded and cynical. One criticism I read from a couple sites is that the look of the film and storyline are ‘derivative’ of prior great and original horror/sci-fi films like Event Horizon, Alien, Resident Evil and a few others. My response is so what? A student of classic horror will discover that even those great films were inspired or influenced in style or story by films that date back to the 50’s. That’ does not take away from those newer films in the least and how original would a new film have to be so that there is not one malcontent’s declaration it is ‘derivative’. Totally original does not mean good or watchable either. There are reason that rock songs built around simple chord progressions like A, D, E are listenable but ones with way out diminished minor chords are never heard. Okay, I like diminished minor chords and King Crimson but I am trying to create an analogy here. I certainly felt the look of the film was influenced by Event Horizon, Outland and Alien and that school of thought in regards a space ship. That a rusted and dark and a smoky, ill-lit space ship looks cooler than a brand spanking new craft where everything is spit polished and working.
The general story (with minimal spoilers I promise) involves various crews of people aboard an ark type space ship called the Elysium. Most people spend the entire trip to a new world in hyper sleep but the flight crew must be awakened in shifts to run the ship. During one such crew’s watch affairs aboard the Elysium are discovered to be completely out of sorts. Flight crew Bower (Hudson) and Payton (Quiad) are jolted out of hyper-sleep and into amnesia and mayhem. The ships controls are not working properly and the reactor seems on the verge of a melt down. There are other passengers who are awake and surviving on the gigantic space ship by any means they can. Not only is food an issue but there are bands of mutant hunters who are super humanly strong and fast who track down the humans as though they were animals. We are never sure who the mutants are or where they come from despite various conflicting theories. On top of these and other matters is the possibility one could be suffering from a form of space madness called Pandorum and not be aware of it. Bower must make his way to the reactor room and restart the reactor in order to give the ship enough power to be operational and to prevent it from becoming unstable and blowing up. Bower must crawl through claustrophobic passage ways and fend off hostile mutants while trying to decide which freed passengers he can trust and which ones he can’t while trying to regain his memory and make it to the reactor room in one piece.
The film succeeds on all required levels including acting, direction, film score, photography and set designs. Don’t pat attention to reviews that say Ben Foster and Cam Gigandet (James from Twilight) compete with other for ruining the film. They do absolutely fine as does Quaid. Are there some criticisms I might have? Of course. I am a cranky old guy anymore. The whole matter of the space madness, Pandorum for which the film is titled, is not really explored enough. I agree with a couple criticisms that this could have been more a part of the story and the mutants could have been less. The mutants are okay but the photography in those sequences is edited too quickly. The shots are bouncy, dark and rapid, like the shots of the monsters in The Descent or Feast. Or the mutant side could have been explored more. More crew members could have been woken from hyper-sleep and stalked by the mutants and brutally killed off. But I can watch any film, horror or otherwise, and say ‘I wish this and I wish that’. I wish Woody Allen had not broken with Diane Keaton at the end of Annie Hall. But what the hell do I know. I watch movies and I do not make them. That does not mean I have to accept anything I shove into my DVD player either (like Colin) simply because I cannot write or direct a film.
I have been waiting for a film to get me back in the mood of reviewing modern horror films and Pandorum did just that. I read that this film was originally to shot on video in an abandoned paper mill for a budget of about $200,000. I guess if that had happened I would not be praising it now. Luckily it got big studio backing from Impact Pictures. The ending, which I will not spoil and it is a good ending, does leave the door open to a sequel but if there is not one that would be okay. This movies stands on its own as it is now just fine. And see, hardly a spoiler at all.