July 16, 2012

WTF Movie of the Week: Pandorum

At the Elysium, shower privileges were hard to come by...
Okay, okay, so lately I've been emerging myself more into science fiction (I realized I hardly know anything about the genre) than horror, but don't hold that against me. It's how I came around to this wonderful pic by German director Christian Alvart. Never heard of him? Neither had I, but man...!

Starring Dennis Quaid and Ben Foster, this sci-fi is actually more of a horror in the spirit of Alien or Event Horizon and certainly no Star Trek. Two crew members wake up from their hyperspace sleep which has gone on way too long, leaving them with no recollection of their mission or who they are. Matters soon become worse when they can't access any of the other rooms on the ship except through a hatch in the wall. Ben Foster's character Bower decides to crawl down the narrow space to find out what's wrong with the ship. Pretty soon they find out they're not alone, and even worse, the others are not human. But they love the taste of humans.

The suspense of this, especially in the beginning is on a par with Alien. Tight, claustrofobic spaces, dark close-ups, panting and far-off screams are plentiful and even a body or two springing out of nowhere sets the tone for the rest of the movie.

This is not to say, though, that this leans on cheap scares alone. Not by a long shot. Right after the first act is over and the director is content that people are now on the edge of their seats, he makes sure that there is an actual plot we can sink our teeth in. Without giving away too much, suffice it to say that during their hyperspace sleep, the personnel on the bridge (the ones supposed to stay awake), underwent a horrible psychological disease called Pandorum which endangered the whole mission and put the crew in the mess they are in now. The whole storyline reminded me very much of old pirate movies dealing with cabin fever and exploring new and strange territory. Except this is space and not the Caribbean.

The acting is wonderful for a film like this. It could easily have slipped off into a shoot-when-it-moves action flick with Ben Foster's character emerging heroically with a smoking gun, a smoking cigar and cracking a few funny lines. But instead it focuses on team work and psychological drama to deal that final punch. Dennis Quaid delivers, of course. It's hard for him to really mess up a role. I don't think he ever did a bad role, although he starred in some pretty poor productions (Day after Tomorrow, anyone?). This one is no exception. His Lt. Payton is wonderful as he slides slowly down into insanity. There are plenty of 'better' actors who cannot pull off a deeply dark role like this one.

If you get a chance to see this hidden gem, please do so, especially if you like dark sci-fi without the shiny perfection of Star Trek. It's nitty, it's gritty, it's bloody and insane. I'm starting to develop a taste for movies like these...

I'll keep you posted.


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