Sunday, 27 March 2011

Quadruple Bill Mini Musings: Killer Cars, Boats, Gators and Space Ships...

It's interesting how two very distinct styles have worked together in this instance. Namely the wistful reminiscing with a killer twist of Stephen King, and the visual and aural design of John Carpenter during his most creative period. A flick about a killer car could have been a load of old cobblers, but because the plot is grounded by the essential thread of a weak teenage boy getting his first car and growing up in the process, it manages to work. Nor is the film in a rush, so the tension and mystery of Christine builds gradually with a genuinely creepy vibe - particularly how the car communicates through golden oldies on the radio. Plus the practical special effects are just a joy.

I didn't have much interest in seeing this horror flick from Christopher (Creep, Severance) Smith, and I didn't know much about it beyond 'Australian blonde on a boat being stalked by a killer' ... which is certainly an element of the plot, but it's certainly not the most accurate descriptor. Indeed it's more like a Twilight Zone episode, but good God does it take an age to get going.

I was seriously considering shutting it off for the first 45-ish minutes - until the "oh, I see!" moment arrived (a good 15 minutes too late to boot). Sure, some set up is required before this point for future pay offs, but it didn't need to take 45 minutes to get to the intriguing point that thankfully held onto my interest for the remainder of the movie. So after a needlessly drawn-out and fairly dull first-act-and-a-bit, the flick takes a marked leap upwards in quality - and indeed writing, as it becomes one of those flicks filled with plenty of intricate details and alternate perspectives on established moments, which I can appreciate must have taken Smith a fair old while to map out.

Eaten Alive:
With a distinctly post-Chainsaw vibe, Tobe Hooper's 'nutter in a hotel with a killer gator outside' horror is pretty good fun (this former "Video Nasty" is otherwise known as Death Trap). Visually it's like a comic book version of the style established in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, with vibrant hues of blue, red and green for the most part, and a handful of appropriately batshit crazy performances (Neville Brand as "Judd", Robert Englund as "Buck" - who was later directly referenced in Kill Bill) punctuating the moments of grisly grue and rubber-aligator attacks. It also features Mel Ferrer, who appeared in Nightmare City (which I recently saw for the first time) - another flick referenced by Tarantino.

Right off the bat, I'll say that I much preferred Event Horizon, which had a sense of terror and plot propulsion that Pandorum sadly lacks. Earth has become an overpopulated mess, and so - in search of an earth-like planet to colonise - a ship is filled with people and samples of every species known to man and shot off into space. However, when Ben Foster and Dennis Quaid awake from extended hyper sleep they find that something is decidedly wrong as there are mutated monsters running around the ship, and so it's up to them to re-boot the ship's power reactor lest the ship shut down entirely, killing everyone on board.

One of the main problems with Pandorum is that this is pretty much the entire movie. It's all about a handful of folks creeping around corridors on their way to a power station. There's little in the way of character development (Dennis Quaid in particular hasn't got an awful lot to do except sit in a chair and talk), and while the art department did a spiffing job designing the ship (I loved the wind/pump-up computers/weapons), it's all for nought as I didn't find myself particularly caring about what was happening. It all feels undercooked, and so again I say that I much preferred the far more focused and terrifying Event Horizon ... indeed Pandorum feels like a mash-up between Event Horizon and the videogame Dead Space (which in itself was no doubt partially inspired by producer Paul W.S. Anderson's space shocker).


Benjamin said...

How can you say Denis Quaid had no character development!? He had loads, he was half the story, getting to the reactor was just a McGuffin to get Ben Foster moving around the ship and meeting people. I liked that it stayed sci-fi where as Event Horizon went supernatural half way though. Still a cool film but not as good as Pandorum.

I never found E.H. scary, probably because I watched it in the middle of the day where as I saw Pandorum in the dark and was on edge the whole time.


Quaid only turns out to have Pandorum and a split personality and become the bad guy!

And the twist where they turn out to be on the planet the whole time was well cool. The scene where all the pods shoot out of the ocean was amazing =D

Nick Thomson said...

Dennis Quaid's "twist" wasn't much of a twist though, as I saw it coming from a mile off. Nobody had much to do, and there wasn't much in the way of subplotting either - to me it was undercooked.

There were some cool ideas in there - like how the ship is carrying samples of every known species, and has wind-up computers, but that's just window dressing ultimately if the script and characterisation doesn't pull me in.

The monsters as well - didn't care for them. Just a bunch of screaming and punching and eating - the supernatural terror of Event Horizon was far more interesting, in my view, and was much more linked to the protagonists themselves. The mutants in Pandorum felt more like to me "well we need monsters to fill the dark corridors" and that was it.

The bit at the very end, I liked ... it wasn't a huge twist for me, but it was a nice ending regardless. However that couldn't save the film from being "meh" for me, even though Foster and Quaid are likeable actors to watch ... and Antje Traue was a highlight. ;)