APRIL 16, 2012
If you play Pink Floyd’s classic album over the first 45 minutes of The Dark Side Of The Moon, you can hear a great rock album instead of listening to any of the dialogue in the first half of this movie, which is mostly just generic nonsense along the lines of “There’s a distress signal.” or “No one’s heard from that ship in years". That or it's cribbing character archetypes from Alien and The Thing, depending on what the scene calls for. The movie eventually gets around to some interesting ideas, but it’s a case of too little, too late.
You know how a lot of times I say “this movie should be remade” when I find an older, underwhelming movie that had potential? For the most part it’ll never happen (they only remake the ones that were good/great to begin with), but this one kind of did – Event Horizon is basically the same movie, except with a budget and less stealing from The Thing. Not that Event is a perfect film, but if you want the outer space horror where the villain is based on the ideas of Heaven and Hell, that’s the one to go with.
This one also tosses in the Bermuda Triangle, which is pretty novel considering the location (the, uh, dark side of the moon). If I’m following correctly, the Bermuda Triangle has a mirror spot on the moon, and their ship is directly in between them. Also, God has banished the Devil to this spot, and sure enough he breaks free (he was floating around on an abandoned NASA shuttle – since this movie takes place in the future, I like to think it was the Independence) and starts picking off our group of would-be rescuers one by one, because that is how outer space horror works.
Now, that’s actually a cool plot for a movie, but they are so hellbent on copying Alien that the Devil is presented as a chestburster type thing, and also can possess folks The Thing style, which keeps the FX work to a minimum. If you’ve ever wanted to see a movie where the devil was represented by random schmoes with filtered voices and contact lenses, this movie’s for you. Not that any interpretation of the Devil can ever satisfy everyone, but no human being has ever said “Dark Side Of The Moon got it right,” unless they were just being assholes (my personal favorite is still probably Viggo Mortensen in The Prophecy, for the record).
And even once they finally get around to this stuff after the interminable first half, they’re still wasting time on dumb bits like having the hero get trapped in an airlock (spoiler: he doesn’t die) or the obligatory “Let’s talk to a computer and have it do things that a real computer wouldn’t understand how to process via a voice command”. The goofiest has to be when he calls up a map of the Bermuda Triangle complete with coordinates and says “Remove all of the numbers that aren’t six”, which of course leaves one six on each point of the triangle so he can say “666. The number of the beast.” (SAC! RIFICE! IS GOING ON TONIGHT!). Now, again, there’s no way a computer would be able to understand his command just like that, but why does he even need it? He can plainly see that each one of them has a 6 – wouldn’t it have made more sense/been cooler to have the digits in each coordinate add up to 666? Or something/anything that would actually require a computer to figure out quickly, at least. As it stands, it’s just a hopelessly useless sequence that tells us nothing. There’s probably a 2 in each of the coordinates too, doesn’t mean Paul McCartney has anything to do with it.
At least it offers up some fun cast members. The great John Diehl is in the Harry Dean Stanton role (or David Clennon if you want to go with that template), which delighted me not only because I wasn’t aware that he was in it, but also because I randomly saw him doing a red carpet as I waited at a red light on my way to Harmontown (which is about a moon colony, ostensibly – it was the reason I picked this particular film today). Then Tyrell from Blade Runner (or Joe Turkel) plays the oldest/most sinister looking crew member, and unsurprisingly gets most of the exposition when it’s his turn to be the devil. Oddly, this is the only feature film Turkel has made since Blade Runner – he had to have been getting tons of offers (he’s also in The Shining as Lloyd), so what the hell made him pick THIS as his sole excursion back into movies? In fact the only thing he’s done since is to voice his character in the Blade Runner video game and then an uncredited role as a janitor on an episode of Boy Meets World. What the hell? Final Chapter’s Camilla Moore also appears, though her twin is not around and she does not bang Crispin Glover, so it’s not nearly as memorable a role.
Apparently this has never hit DVD, making its appearance on Netflix a bit of a catch for them. It’s watchable, but it can’t escape the fact that any audience member will constantly be reminded of the movies that did it better both before and since. For space horror completists only, if any such people exist (and if so I love you, because it’s a genre that could really use a home run, and you guys keep the sub-genre alive).
What say you?