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.

Case 39 (2009): Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice…Not

Case 39

Directed by Christian Alvart (he also directed PandorumCase 39 is a brilliant little horror/thriller. It stars Renée Zellweger , Ian McShane, and Jodelle Ferland. It is interesting to note that even though the film was actually finished in 2007. It did not get an American release until 2010.

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

Social worker Emily Jenkins (Zellweger) is overworked and tired.  She is assgined ‘case 39’ which deals with an innocent  ten year old girl, Lily Sullivan (Ferland) who is being abused by her parents. This abuse is confirmed when Lily’s parents put her in the oven to burn her to death. Emily asks her friend Detective Mike Barron (McShane) to help her. Mike and Emily rescue Lily and her parents are put in a mental institution.

CASE 39
CASE 39 (Photo credit: Galactinet Prensa)

Emily takes Lily home to look after her until a foster family can be found. Once Lily moves in, however, strange things begin to happen. Another case of Emily’s, a boy named Diego, kills both his parents. Detective Barron (McShane) tells Emily that the boy received a phone call just before he killed them. Emily suspects that Lily was somehow involved and arranges for her best friend, psychiatrist Douglas Ames ( Bradley Cooper fresh from  The Hangover  and moving right on to The A-Team and Limitless) to evaluate Lily. During the evaluation Lily soon gains the upper hand and starts evaluating Ames, finding out what his fears are. Later in the evening Ames gets a phone call and dies horribly.

Lily starts acting very strange. Her demeanor is that of an adult. As she begins to take over Emily and ultimately scaring her quite badly. Emily decides to talk to Lily’s parents. The body count begins to rise as Emily comes to the realization that Lily is not an abused child and is not at all innocent.

With a budget of $27 million and a box office of $28 million the film did just make it’s production costs back. I am a little puzzled as to why the film fared so poorly. Alvart does a cracking job with the film. The cinematography was sharp and well lit. The actors all gave top notch performances. Ian McShane, who has turned into character actor extraordinaire was very good and Bradley Cooper, in a part that was little more than a cameo, came across brilliantly as the doomed Psychiatrist. Jodelle Ferland did what she does best, be creepy. Her bona fides include Kindom Hospital (TV) Silent Hill and recently The Cabin in the Woods.

Of course Ms Zellweger gave a more than credible performance as the capable but overworked social worker. She makes the transition from strong and caring to terrified and confused with no problem. I was a bit concerned, I’ll admit, big name ‘stars’ do not generally do horror films and if they do (unless they are Gregory Peck) they look a little out of place. My only complaint was that I kept thinking of her as Bridget Jones.

I am slightly amazed that the film did not do better when it was released. We saw it via a rental and loved it. After we watched it we bought it. I realize that a lot of audiences don’t like films that deal with violence to children and honestly that is the only reason I can think of for the film to fare so badly.

I could not take my eyes off the screen while watching this film. I didn’t have a clue  who the “big bad” was until the film told me. The body count was not huge, but the casualties were well done and memorable. I would caution anyone who is thinking about adoption or taking on the role of foster parent to give this film a miss.

It could put you right off.