Friday, January 15, 2010

Pandorum (2009; Christian Alvart)

My life is once again filled with classes and stress, so the intervals between reviews will increase. On the bright side, however, a few friends and myself decided to sit down and make a pact between us. During the year 2010, we will all watch three hundred films we've never seen and no less. This also gives us motive enough to do the other thing we wanted which is to try and be a little more fair. We've always neglected certain areas of cinema and skipped releases we "knew" were going to be awful, so this is our chance to turn that around. So while watching all these films will give me even less free time, what time I have I should be able to squeeze out a review or two because lord knows I'll have enough material to write about.

The earth is suffering extreme overcrowding, resources are low, and all that boring stuff. The solution? A shuttle sent out into space found a planet almost identical to ours and so a plan is set in action to have people shipped over there to make more room. Shit breaks, stuff goes wrong, and everything is dark and metallic.

To be absolutely counter intuitive, this isn't a film I was actually planning on skipping. When it first released I had no idea what it was and more or less just let it sail past me, but recent talks around me got me interested and so I thought I would check it out for myself.

First thing that caught my metaphorical eye was the soundtrack. While somewhat modern, it also felt like it had a tinge from the horror of old. While by no means fantastic or inspiring, it was a step above just throwing tense ambient sounds into the mix.

Second thing, the lighting. I understand a lot of the criticism of sci-fi horror, because visually many of them do look alike. The fact of that matter is, though, that how else would you design a tense atmosphere in a spaceship? The structure is reasonable considering the direction technology is going, and having the dank, dark steel corridor sort of triggers your reaction by itself now.

The most important part of this film to me, though, was the structure of it all. This film could have derailed itself in all sorts of ways, but it managed to keep itself tight throughout most of its playtime. I think the perfect comparison would be Neil Marshall's The Descent. Much like Marshall's work, Pandorum relies heavily on the mystery and darkness to propel fear, but after everything begins to clear up little by little, the film picks up the pace into more of an action setting. It all goes back to my belief that the less you see, the more you are afraid. The over exposure usually kills the tension in a horror film, but if you shift the whole film with the exposure, it all flows much easier with much more effect.

As far as the weaknesses go, while the characterization of each of the survivors was clear, they felt a little cliche. I don't want to delve too much into the story so you are able to go in as blind as I did, but one character in particular had an action sequence which, while it could have been effective in another film, just felt out of place in the reasonable reality that was already constructed so carefully. However, that being said, I would not be lying if I said that had someone wanted to shoot Alien now instead of so long ago, knowing the conventions of popular cinema today, it probably would have come out something like this.

Score: 4/5

Notes: Think The Descent with an Alien twist to it all.

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