Pandorum

We've invited our friend John P. Higgins to share with us his thoughts about, well.. pretty much whatever he feels like. Schlock Games, Movies, TV-nothing is sacred. John's columns will be a bit more in-depth than our usual reviews, and may feature significant spoilers. You've been warned, but you'll like it.-The Management

Pandorum opens on an intense and intriguing note, with fledgling character actor Ben Foster not playing a crazy person for the first time since X-men 3. He wakes up in a chamber hooked into wires and covered in rubber.

If this sounds like your Sunday mornings, please let me know what the hell kind of club you go to for fun.

Foster gets his uniform on and soon runs in into Dennis Quaid, who's sporting a beard and beady eyes. Quaid informs foster that something has gone wrong (duh). There's some talk of what shift of skeleton crew is supposed to minding the ship on it's journey to the salvation of humanity, and neither of them really knows.

They decide is high time they explored a space ship that was designed by Trent Reznor. It's full of tubes and weird lights and creepy music, Foster crawls around in chamber that's comically full of rubber tubing for a little to long until he stumbles into the locker room. Then he's assaulted by Milla Jovovich 2.0, Bigger Cup Edition, who asks him for his boots.

Then the Space Orcs show up.

The ship is carrying thousands of people to salvation.  However, some of them got out early and contracted a nanovirus that is supposed to adapt them to live in whatever environment they are in. They're trapped on space ship, so they turned into space orcs.

Makes sense.

That whole previous paragraph is recounted in rhyme by Scatman Caruthers' great-great-great-great-great-grandson as he prepares to skin and eat Foster. MJ 2.0 and a Thai farmer they found along the way of such prodigious martial arts skill he apparently worked the Ninja Tree Orchards for many years.

Meanwhile, Dennis Quaid has been arguing this whole time-with a hallucination that really looks like he belongs on Gossip Girl-apparently has the Pandorum, a disease you get from space that makes you crazy. Quaid puts his hallucination in an air lock only to have it get out again. And since it's a hallucination, it wins by shooting Quaid up with Clarity Juice...or something. They merge, and now Quaid is evil.

Foster and his band of ne'er do wells attempt to reboot the ships reactor, which I think works; and then Caruthers XXI is killed by a space orc, and then the Ninja Tree Farmer. Caruthers, okay. But the ninja tree farmer is killed by a baby space orc. What the hell?

The final confrontation takes place on the bridge, where all space-ship based movies have their final conflict, come to think of it.

Foster wants to know where the ship is, and Quaid says Foster has the Pandorum. Foster and MJ 2.0 say that is bullshit, Foster hallucinates, and maybe the space orcs don't even exist! Quaid finally opens the skylights of the bridge to reveal that yes, they are in fact, deep in the ocean of their new planet and have been there for about a hundred years. Which is better than the ship going to hell and bringing back Sam Neil, I suppose.

Foster beats Quaid, he and MJ 2.0 hop in the escape pod, and the ship explodes after discharging all the other escape pods. Humanity then washes up on the continent of a brand new planet that looks suspiciously like Scotland, and Quaid presumably drowns-taking the secret of Pandorum with him.

This movie paired off with another claustrophobic space movie could work either as a horror Space Cavalcade (Event Horizon), or just Space Schlock (Wing Commander).

30 Days of Night

This review has been sitting on my desk unfinished for more than a week. I kept wracking my brain to try and figure out what exactly I should say about the movie, but I couldn't really work up the desire to do so. Tonight I realized that my apathy about the review, and by extension the movie, was an excellent place to start. It's just not good enough to really care about, and it's not bad enough to really enjoy. It just kinda...is.

Some of the problems I have with the movie stem from the source material, as I wasn't the biggest fan of co-screenwriter Steve Nile's original comic. The idea is certainly ripe for some creepiness: Vampires decend on the town of Barrow, Alaska for a month-long safari/feeding frenzy during the winter nightfall that lasts, unsurprisingly, for 30-days.  The problem in the comic is that it just dives into it with little setup, and never generates any real atmosphere. In the movie they spend more time establishing the world, but it still never gets pervasive enough to generate any real sense of DOOM.

The Vamps are of the "Boo!" variety, popping up out of nowhere in quick flashes, tackling their prey like Terry Tate, office linebacker. It's definitely less about suspense, and more about sudden bursts of action. Again, undercutting any real sense of atmosphere.

Speaking of the Vamps, they're very much of the "leech" school, straight down to their circular mouths full of sharp teeth. I can't really call them "bloodsuckers" though, as they get most of the red stuff on their chins, clothes, the floor, ceiling, the street,  hell... they do everything except drink. I had this problem with the comic too, and there it was mostly an artistic decision, here it's just kinda silly.

Director David Slade's direction is solid, even stylishly effective at times. Sadly, the editing of the attacks fails to generate any of the  "Gaaah! Whatthecrapwasthat!" moments they're going for. This strikes me as a huge letdown because his earlier Hard Candy (2005) had you rocking the edge of your seat. However, having said that, I will mention that I have the movie re-running in the background while I write this, and there was one genuinely creeptastic scene involving a lone woman used as bait to draw out the heroes... and the ramifications of her failure.

I'm looking through the last few paragraphs, and I feel I've been more harsh than the movie deserves.  It has some genuinely cool moments in between the bland bits, and I have to admit, if I was stuck in the situation presented, I'd be crapping my pants. These are not fluffy snuggle-bunny Vampires. So to give a better idea of the movie, I'll rip a quote from Roger Ebert's review of the Shaft remake: "The movie is what it is, but more than it needs to be." It's fairly well-crafted, but unfortunately never seems to quite come together, and is completely torpedoed by some major logic/continuity issues in the third act, which, ironically enough, is when the Cavalcaders started to really enjoy the movie because they finally had something they could, if you'll forgive me, sink their teeth into.

As far as recommendations for screening this for an event, you could certainly do far worse, but you can also do better. Both in terms of schlock, or in terms of actual horror. Lastly, a note: The Blu-Ray for this movie is really quite the spectacular, especially in terms of picture quality.