Sunday, May 26, 2013

Stranded for Eighty Minutes: A Movie Review

Director: Roger Christian.

Writer: Christian Piers Betley.

Cast: Christian Slater, Brendan Fehr, Amy Matysio and Michael Therriault.

This reviewer is going to have to remind himself to avoid direct-to-DVD releases starring actor Christian Slater (Playback). The last several releases that have hosted this actor have not been great, or even watchable. Slater's latest, Stranded, is another lackluster effort. And this time, events take place, B-movie style, in space. Stranded borrows several sci-fi elements from other films and the delivery of this space set semi-thriller is lackluster.

The film follows four crew members on the Moon Base Ark or Vargas. A meteor strike knocks out their communications (of course) and there is a general loss of power, heat and oxygen supplies. To top it off, the meteors contain an alien spore, which is soon contaminating everyone and everything, including character Ava's (Amy Matysio) womb. A creature is hatched and air ducts are used for devious purposes. Soon, the crew is reduced to three and then to two. Meanwhile, the fast forward button looms and Stranded goes where many sci-fi thrillers have gone before.

Meet the alien doppelganger.

There are several science fiction elements in Stranded, which are repetitious. The film is set in space, like hundreds of previous films. The environment becomes hostile, with the loss of power. And, an alien terror is stalking the crew. These sci-fi themes have been used in films immemorial. Ridley Scott's Alien introduced a much more devastating creature. And, the one here is less satisfying to watch, in human form. Christian Alvert's Pandorum also hosted a dangerous environment full of alien creatures. This earlier film is much more exciting, though. There is even an element involving hallucinations, which is a primary theme of Paul W. S. Anderson's Event Horizon. Anderson utilizes a much stronger dark Gothic element in his piece, however. Stranded borrows a piece from each of these films. And, the sci-fi elements in Stranded are often cheaply done, compared to these previous films.

Stranded comes off much like a b-movie from the '50s. The sets are cheap. They also look constructed haphazardly. The same sets are re-used often and the walls look like they are made from styrofoam or grey painted cardboard. Models are used for the film's exterior shots. Again, these external shots look poor. This critic was reminded of his space based Lego pieces. The film's story develops like a standard creature feature and the emphasis here is on gory make-up and a few cheap thrills. All of these elements create for a mostly uninspiring viewing experience.

In essence, Stranded adds very little to the sci-fi film genre. Slater continues to choose poor films in which to star. And, Stranded borrows heavily from other science fiction films from the past. The production here is truly independent and the budget for this film is immodest. Viewers might feel just as trapped as many of the characters in the film and escape only comes eighty, short minutes later.

Overall: 5.75 out of 10 (some good use of makeup, a few gory scenes, settings are overly dark, a lot of melodrama).

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