Monday, January 11, 2010


PANDORUM (2009) is an forthcoming, well-made entry in what I call "Astronauts In Hell" movies, a subgenre exemplified by films like ALIEN and EVENT HORIZON or even PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES. It’s a natural for filmmakers; a starship alone in the vast vacuum of deep space does make for a nicely claustrophobic setting for horror, and the best films in this little subgenre manage to really milk that for all it’s worth. PANDORUM, directed by Christian Alvart, tries admirably, but doesn’t quite make it work.

In the distant future, two crew members – Payton (Dennis Quaid, DREAMSCAPE) and Bower (Ben Foster, 30 DAYS OF NIGHT) - aboard the vast colonization vessel Elysium, awake from suspended animation to find the ship apparently abandoned, its systems malfunctioning, and both of them suffering from hypersleep-induced amnesia. When Bowers sets out through the maintenance ducts to investigate, he soon discovers other conscious crew members who are engaged in a savage struggle for survival against feral, mutant cannibals… are they the result of "Pandorum," (space madness) or are they aliens? And is anyone going to do something about that nuclear reactor that’s about to go critical?

Now, to be fair, I was exhausted when I watched the movie, and my attention was wandering, but I found the film to be slow and uninvolving. The many action sequences seemed unconnected and somehow suspense-less (and over-edited, but I guess I’m going to have to just learn to deal with that particular, overused and annoying trend). The acting overall is pretty good (when did Quaid turn into Harrison Ford?), the sets and production design are excellent, and the monsters are pretty cool. I even found the film’s resolution to be unexpected and dramatically satisfying. I just never really got caught up in it the way I should have.

As for Anchor Bay’s Blu-Ray presentation, I have no reservations. The 2.35:1 high definition 1080p anamorphic transfer is beautiful, with rock-solid blacks and razor-sharp detail. The Dolby True HD 5.1 audio is robust and clear.

Bonus features include an audio commentary by director Alvart and producer Jeremy Bolt, a behind-the-scenes featurette, a couple of featurettes that delve into the film’s fictional backstory, deleted and extended scenes, and still galleries. A second disc contains a Digital Copy of the film.

So, what I guess I’m saying is that it’s not a bad sci-fi thriller, and may actually be a bit better than "not bad." If it’s your sort of horror film, you might consider giving it a rental and make up your own mind about it.

BUY: Pandorum [Blu-ray]