Thursday, November 18, 2010

Dead Space

It seems like almost every week I sit here and prepare myself to tell you about the latest Alien ripoff I’ve seen, and now…wait, didn’t we just have this conversation? I’m not honestly sure that this makes for the greatest double bill with The Terror Within, as not only are both films bad (though Dead Space is clearly superior), but both are shameless ripoffs of the same damn movie (okay, this one’s a remake of Forbidden World, but Forbidden World itself was a bit of an Alien clone), to the point where they have almost identical plots. At least this one’s set in outer space, though, so points for that.

The film stars Marc Singer, who as everyone knows is the Goddamn Beastmaster, as the captain of a spaceship whose idea of r & r is to lean back in his chair and kick his feet up while wearing only a speedo. “Sadly”, his rest is interrupted by a distress call from a nearby research station that’s under threat from what starts out as a deadly virus, but which quickly turns out to be the birth of an alien monster that quickly grows larger than any of the humans at the research station. Now, Singer has to try to stop the monster, as it stalks the station and kills the researchers one by one, before he becomes its next victim.

There are a great many ways director Fred Gallo was able to make this better than The Terror Within was. The most important, and the one I am most grateful for, is that it’s much shorter, clocking in at a lean, mean 70 minutes. First-time filmmakers, take note: a 70 minute running time is nothing to be ashamed of for your debut film, particularly if you’re making a cheapo genre film. If you’re reading through your script, and you’re uncertain as to whether or not you have enough interesting material for a 90 minute film, that means you don’t, so start trimming the fat. Of course, there’s no real guarantee that cutting it down by twenty minutes is going to make the film good, but it certainly isn’t likely to make it worse, now is it?

There are other aspects of this film that are superior to Terror Within, such as Singer’s presence. While I obviously enjoyed George Kennedy in Terror, he was only a supporting character and died stupidly, leaving us to deal with the guy that was imitating Michael Biehn and the girl whose name I never learned as our non stars. The Beastmaster, on the other hand, is just effortlessly charismatic and action star-y. Just watch him in the trailer below; you could buy a car from that man, you just know he’d treat you right. The film is also somewhat better lit -- while it’s still a fairly dark film, you can at least see what’s going on at all times, and I can’t stress enough how much it benefits a film when you can actually watch it. The monster’s a bit of a wash, though. It’s got a more interesting design than the one in Terror, but was clearly unwieldy, as rather than seeing a guy in a monster suit running around, we’re largely just limited to close-ups of its head moving around, and cuts to frightened reaction shots of the poor humans in its path. This is what happens when function tries to follow form.

I feel rather conflicted here. This is still a very bad movie, but The Terror Within set the bar so low that I want to praise it at the same time, as it takes the same basic story and visibly improves on it. I’ll just say this instead. If you’re a big (and I mean somewhat obsessive here) fan of lousy no budget science fiction from the 80s, then this movie should hold some appeal for you. The rest of you should probably look elsewhere.

Rating: * ½

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