Dark Matter: Episode 1.5 (recap and review)

Four, Two and Six in Dark Matter
Last week’s episode of Dark Matter focussed on Four and included a major plot device that owed much to The Sixth Day, Philip K Dick and Total Recall as well as the crew being broke. This week, episode 1.5 of Dark Matter starts with Three complaining about the quality of food again and having no money.

The plot on episode five is a huge nod and wink to Event Horizon and Pandorum, along with more than a passing homage to the cult classic 1993 video game Doom. As the crew discuss ways of making money, Five mentions the vault that she, and Three, found on the ship and they all head down to discover that they need an alpha-numeric code, that no one knows.

As they stand frustrated in front of the vault door, Android tells Two that someone she knows is trying to contact her. It is the team’s handler, Talbor Calchek (played by Stargate alumnus David Hewlett who also starred in the overlooked and underestimated 1988 Canadian horror film Pin) Calchek manages to upset Android and Three dislikes the man on sight.

He does, however, have a job for the group, a ship salvage for the ISS Far Horizon. Two accepts the job and they head for the freighter’s coordinates. Once there, Five stays on board the Raza with Android and everyone else boards the ship. One and Three are teamed up again, Four and Six head towards Engineering and Two goes to the ship’s bridge to hook up the FTL drive.

Five asks Android to help her identify the item she found in storage, where she also found the dead boy in an earlier episode, and it turns out to be an inter-dimensional device that opens up pockets of space in another dimension. Five asks, “Why would somebody want to do that?” Android replies, “I ask myself that all the time…Rarely do I get a satisfactory answer.” Five then asks Android to keep the information secret. She does not, apparently trust all the crew, logic points to the ever annoying Three being the one she trusts least.

One and Three are searching for overlooked contraband and despite One being dismissive of his teammate’s arming up, both men need the weapons when they stumble across a violent creature. Before that, however, the two continue to bicker and, in their own way, bond. Although One is disturbed that Two and Three apparently had sex.

As Two begins hooking up the FTL, Four and Six find a lot of dead bodies. The injuries on the dead were caused by “bare hands and teeth.” Two decides that the rest of the FTL hookup can take place off the ship. She tries to contact One and Three but there is too much comm interference. Two is attacked by a Michael Berryman lookalike that takes a lot of putting down. After a protracted battle, where Two is bitten by this zombie-like creature, Six and Four come in and shoot it. After falling, the thing reaches out for someone’s foot and more rounds are fired into the creature.

Three and One talk about how they feel about one another and Three explains that Two came on to him and that his “nice guy” act won’t “cut it” with women like Two. The dead “zombie” turns out to be a former crew member on the ISS Far Horizon and Two tries to warn One and Three. Android finds disturbing information that reveals the crew of the freighter were affected by a viral contagion that may have been transmitted by saliva and blood.

They take Two back to the ship after Android tells them that their bitten leader can be isolated and scanned. Six asks that Android find out why One and Three cannot be reached on their radios. Four volunteers that the two men could be dead, attacked by other zombies and Six disagrees. Two says that if anything, the two may have killed each other. Four and Six agree.

The two men left on the freighter continue arguing, One swears that they are lost and going down the same corridor over and over when they hear something. At the end of the hallway, they encounter a woman chewing on a human arm. Three fills the munching zombie with rounds while One tries to get him to slow down on putting more holes in the ship’s hull.

After killing the zombie, they come to a door that is locked. One begins to open the door saying, “I’ve seen Five do this. How hard can it be?” More zombies show up and Three shoots them down as they appear. He also puts enough holes in the wall that the hull is breached and the two men are almost sucked out into space. One saves Three’s life by pulling him through the door he just opened.

Six learns that the comms problem is probably due to the men’s location near the blast site and he heads that way to find them. Four calls Android back to the infirmary; it looks like Two may be in trouble. One and Three are trapped in the room they just opened and One refuses to move till they come up with a plan.

As the two men talk, One actually embarrasses Three into thanking him for saving his life and tells him that they are now even, Three gives a breakdown of the rest of the crew that is pretty spot on, with the exception of his irrational dislike of Five.

In the infirmary the scan shows the presence of a virus. Android reveals that the freighter’s last port of call was to an unauthorized location, Taurian Alpha, a research pharmaceutical station that was quarantined. It seems that this is what caused the problem with the crew. The research lab was working on something to make humans immortal. Two learns that she has just a few hours before turning into one of those zombie creatures.

Six finds One and Three and attempts to get them out. Four offers to give Two an honorable death, she declines. Five is horrified by Four’s suggestion. Android contacts Six and tells him that if the two men on the freighter don’t leave soon, the life support system will shut down and kill them. As the oxygen levels drop the two follow a route to Six.

They find a way out, only to discover that the area has around eight zombies who are also suffering from the lack of O2. One convinces Three to just walk past them since the creatures dying. As Three reaches the room, via a ladder, Android turns on the emergency oxygen and the zombies begin to stir. One shouts for Three to get out of the room and he replies it is too late.

With a pistol in each hand Three clears the room of zombies quickly. He calls up to One, “You can come down now.” The two men escape and once back on the Raza they are scanned and there is no sign of the virus. As the time for Two to change gets closer, One convinces the crew to destroy the Far Horizon preventing the virus from reaching civilization. Two does not change and they scan her again; the virus has disappeared.

Later, Two heads to Three’s room for a repeat of their earlier activity and Three nervously declines the invitation. Two goes to her room and removes the bandage, the wound made by the zombie has disappeared.

Dark Matter continues to pile on new mysteries and introduces questions that beg to be answered. Anthony Lemke as Three is becoming a firm favorite as is his character. Three’s idiosyncrasies are truly funny and the fact that he automatically hates anyone who shares his personality traits is priceless and very revealing.

Zoie Palmer as The Android continues to be the comic relief and at the same time appears to know much more than anyone one else about the crew and their current situation. This is a winning combination of actor and script that propels both Palmer’s performance and the series into true brilliance.

Dark Matter is part of SyFy Fridays and is truly entertaining. Those who love good writing, great acting and mystery should not miss this show.

The Devil’s Tomb (2009): Event Horizon Wanna Be

The Devil's Tomb
The Devil’s Tomb (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Okay. So on Netflix it seems to be Cuba Gooding Jr month or year, maybe. I have seen Gooding’s name on the movie lists of Netflix in about five different lists. It’s not the same film listed several different times either. It’s at least five different films.

Or six.

Someone on Netflix must have gotten a great distribution deal on Cuba’s films. Either that or no-one else wants them. Because if the rest of these films are like The Devil’s Tomb? It is probably the latter conclusion that fits best.

Directed by Jason Connery (better known for working on the other side of the camera) The Devil’s Tomb looks like Jason’s first directorial foray into feature film. Not so says IMDb (which interestingly lists The Devil’s Tomb as Connery’s first directed film chronologically)  Jason’s ‘maiden’ feature film is Pandemic even though it is after The Devil’s Tomb on Connery’s filmography.

I could have forgiven the film some of it’s most obvious flaws if it was Connery’s maiden voyage. Okay maybe not, because let’s face it, the flaws are many and they range across the spectrum of ownership. The script, the acting, the location…You see where I’m going with this?

I have had a moan before about characters that I am supposed to care about not making the grade. What The Devil’s Tomb has is characters that lack dimension entirely. They have been created so haphazardly and sloppily that they aren’t even two-dimensional cardboard cut-outs of characters.

The plot is basic. A group of mercenary (add a question mark here, because in the Cuba Gooding Jr voice-over at the start of the film he refers to his little band of soldiers as mercenaries, but it appears that they aren’t…really) soldiers are told that they have to rescue Hellboy…Sorry, Ron Perlman from hole in the ground in the middle of the desert.

English: Ron Perlman at the 2011 San Diego Com...
English: Ron Perlman at the 2011 San Diego Comic-Con. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Gooding’s gang of merry men and women are joined by Valerie Cruz who, it turns out, is Hellboy’s daughter and she has to save only him from the hole. Nothing else is allowed to be taken from this secret location.

So a helicopter takes the group and deposits them outside a secret manhole cover with a combination coded lock and before leaving tells them they have six hours.

It is at this point that the film tries it’s hardest to be Event Horizon but in a hole in the ground. To be fair though the film has tried from almost the first frame to emulate the far superior Horizon by having Gooding’s character have flashbacks (brilliantly filmed in sepia tones so that there can be no mistake that these are indeed flashbacks) to an event prior to this latest mission.

Unfortunately these flashbacks include an almost unrecognizable Ray Winstone (it must have been the uniform, I honestly did not recognise the man until the end of the film) and they are so short, frequent and unedifying that only at the very end of the film do we learn the supposed purpose of them being here.

Once inside the tomb the small band of saviors encounter a priest with a really bad skin condition and Bill Moseley. I’m a huge fan of Moseley and was disappointed to see his cameo wasted as badly as Winstone’s. Quite frankly the producers could have used any unknown in either role, but they obviously thought the names would put a few extra bums in seats.

I don’t want to head into spoiler territory here (Are you kidding me? I hear you cry. What spoilers??) but after they all get ‘trapped’ in the lower floors of the underground facility everything goes ‘Pete Tong‘ (wrong) and they start seeing things and it all goes Event Horizon like but in a bargain basement, ‘we really don’t know how to do this,’ way.

If you look at the shooting budget of 10 million dollars, it is mystifying and downright difficult to figure out where the money went. It most certainly didn’t go into getting a decent script. Or even in getting a decent location. *In the Goofs section of IMDb they point out the very American graffiti that is present in an Iraqi underground bunker that is 900 floors beneath the desert floor.*

Now don’t get me wrong, I like Cuba Gooding Jr. Up until now he’s never failed to move me when I’ve seen him in other films. But in The Devil’s Tomb he just does not deliver. Jason Connery I’ve seen act and I like his work. He has a little bit to go on the directing front, but hey, he has to be given some decent material to work with.

My final verdict on The Devil’s Tomb? Put it back under the sand where it came from. For me a film has to be bad if all I can say during the end credits is, “Huh. So that’s it then.”

They didn’t like the movie either…

Event Horizon (1997) A Haunted House in Space

Film poster for Event Horizon. Copyright 1997,...

Helmed by the English director Paul W.S. Anderson (Mortal Kombat, Resident Evil, AVP: Alien vs Predator, Death Race) Event Horizon is a nightmare inducing ride through a celestial  haunted house.

Amazingly this ‘space screamer’ was penned by Philip Eisner after he initially ‘pitched’ the idea to the studio money men on a film he referred to as “The Shining in space.” He was given the go ahead, although he had not written one word on a plot. It turned out incredibly well, despite it’s ‘shaky start.’

Blessed with an amazing cast: Laurence FishburneSam NeillKathleen Quinlan,  Joely RichardsonJason Isaacs, and my personal favourite Sean Pertwee and a good multi-written script, the film has no problem selling us the idea of a haunted spaceship. Although, I personally would have loved to see the original 130 minute film before Anderson had to trim twenty minutes of the more spectacular violence out.

The “Reader’s Digest” version of the plot is as follows:

It is 2047.  The crew of the ‘Lewis and Clark’ have been tasked to answer a distress beacon that seems to be coming from another ship, the ‘Event Horizon’ that vanished seven years preciously.  A scientist, Dr Weir, has been tasked to join the crew because he was the man who was behind the technology of the Event Horizon.

The crew find out that the Event Horizon was capable of creating it’s own black hole. This black hole would enable the ship to travel to the furthest reaches of space. Unfortunately, the first time that Event Horizon used the black hole device, the entire ship and it’s crew vanished. The distress beacon indicates that the Event Horizon has re-appeared.

When the crew find the Horizon and board it, they find out that the distress beacon was actually a warning. They also find a ships video log and have to fix it so they can see what happened prior to the ships disappearance. While the crew and Dr Weir are trying to piece together what happened and the status of the Horizon, they all start experiencing things. They soon find out the wherever the Horizon went, the furthest reaches of space was not where it wound up. The ship has returned and brought something terrible with it.

This film can almost literally scare the crap out of you. Taking metaphorical pages from Solaris, Legend of Hell House, and yes, even The Shining the film works incredibly well. Even though there are a few blaring plot holes (and to be fair these seem to be the result of the studio enforced editing of some of the gorier scenes to lower the film rating) and the ‘dating’ of some of the FX, the film still has the ability to creep around in your head long after you’ve watched it.