NOVEMBER 20, 2010
I gotta hand it to Brad and Josephina Sykes, the husband and wife team responsible for Plaguers – when they set out to rip off Alien, they go at it full throttle. I mean, any movie that combines spaceships and horror (instead of space battles) is automatically compared to Alien just out of traditional habit, but they make sure such comparisons are warranted. Distress signal being investigated? Check. Two male crew members more concerned with their pay cut than anything else? Check. Airlock kill at the end? Check. An android crew member? Check! Though, he’s more Bishop than Ashe (and he’s played by Lance Henriksen somewhat-look-alike Steve Railsback), so at least they were going a bit outside the box there.
They also take a page from Carpenter (they say Assault on Precinct 13 on the commentary and making of, but the audience’s minds are more likely to drift towards Ghosts Of Mars), as the film concerns a single location (the ship) and the banding together of enemies against a common enemy, in this case the plaguers, which are the zombie/mutant things that folks turn into once they die or get sprayed by a green ball of something called a Thanatos. In fact, the most original thing about the movie is that the “bad” thing is already on board with them – the “space pirates” just knock it loose to kick off the horror part of the story.
So you might be thinking “why have the space pirates at all, then?” Well, did I mention they’re SEXY space pirates? Yep, all four of them are hot chicks (one in particular, Sadie, I was quite smitten with, and luckily she lasts a while before getting her mouth torn off), wearing “space” nurse suits that resemble a slutty Mooby’s uniform more than anything else. They’re also horny, so most of them almost instantly tackle the nearest male crew member. I kept wondering if this was some sort of porn movie where they edited out all the sex scenes (they’re not horny enough to show anything good, unfortunately), because it was so goddamn stupid and cheap looking.
Then, finally, someone turns mutant, and from then on it’s not TOO bad. No one ever manages to actually kill a plaguer, nor do the plaguers have the best success rate in changing someone to their kind, so you get a lot of fights. Clunky, awkward fights, but fights all the same, with plentiful gore and goo splashing/spraying around. The makeup effects on the plaguers is pretty good too (well, most of them; there’s a “full plaguer” at the end that just looks like the “MATT DAAAMON” version of the Metaluna Mutant), and everything seems to be practical instead of CGI, so that’s to be commended.
Well, almost everything – the occasional exteriors of the ship flying around or whatever are sub-Star Trek, and yes I mean the 1960s one (before they fixed the effects for HD broadcast). Obviously they couldn’t afford to build a real spaceship and fly into outer space to film part of the movie like they did for Armageddon and Firefly (right?), but I was actually kind of aghast how bad these things looked. Especially when the model of the ship seemed to be pretty big, though we only see like 2-3 corridors and about as many rooms on the ship itself. One of the more annoying aspects of the movie is that it’s impossible to tell where anyone is in relation to anyone else, and they never seem to really go anywhere. The characters are seemingly running back and forth through the same hallways over and over – they should have at least redressed a hallway to make it look a bit different, or something. It reminded me of one of those video games where they show you a whole big city but never let you actually explore it, forcing you to stay in one little block with like, cardboard boxes or overturned cars “blocking” you.
It’s also one of those movies where they show you a key scene of the climax right at the beginning, but don’t pay it off in any way. Folks, if you want to do this, watch something like Casino to see how to do it right. Don’t just toss an “exciting” scene at the top to get some early action in there, all it does is spoil later plot developments (i.e. who gets turned into plaguers). Especially here – if you’re so hellbent on ripping off Alien, follow its lead some more and make the audience get drawn into the world before springing the monsters.
Not too surprisingly, we learn on the commentary that this scene was the request of those ever-pesky executive producers, who indeed wanted to have some action at the beginning of the film (not seeming to care that it’s just literally a few shots that we see again later – why not just loop the scene for 90 minutes and claim the film offers non-stop action?). The Sykes also tell us that the sets were designed for another movie and they wrote the movie to fit them, which is of course, always the best way to write a movie. But otherwise you won’t learn anything of use on the commentary, they mainly just ramble on and on about a bunch of “no shit” concepts, like “it’s so important to have pre-production” and “working with people who know what they’re doing makes things so much easier”. No, I like to hire a bunch of 5 year olds and toss them onto a set mere seconds after getting the greenlight. Railsback is also there, but all he does is occasionally agree with whatever they’re saying.
The making of is slightly more insightful (plus they tell you about the “existing set” thing, making the commentary entirely worthless), and it’s hilarious to watch because you see Josephina calling cut right after Brad does on several occasions, as if his “cut!” wasn’t strong enough. I would divorce my wife on the spot if she did that. Who wears the pants at the Sykes household? My guess? Whoever paid for their copy of Alien.
What say you?
P.S. The best part of the movie has to be when they “barricade” a sliding door (with a flimsy gurney no less!). And it actually seems to hold the Plaguers back for a while! Then they finally get the door open and just casually push the gurney away. It’s breathtakingly idiotic.