When their ship crash-lands on a remote planet, the marooned passengers soon learn that escaped convict Riddick isn't the only thing they have to fear. Deadly creatures lurk in the shadows, waiting to attack in the dark, and the planet is rapidly plunging into the utter blackness of a total eclipse. With the body count rising, the doomed survivors are forced to turn to Riddick with his eerie eyes to guide them through the darkness to safety. With time running out, there's only one rule: Stay in the light.
All you people are so scared of me. Most days I'd take that as a compliment. But it ain't me you gotta worry about now.
Pitch Black is directed by David Twohy and collectively written by Twohy and Ken and Jim Wheat. It stars Vin Diesel, Radha Mitchell, Cole Hauser, Keith David, Lewis Fitz-Gerald, Claudia Black and Rhiana Griffith. Music is by Graeme Revell and cinematography is by David Eggby.
The year 2000 was awash with sci-fi movies, not all were stellar of course, but siting at the top end of the scale was this, Twohy's super slice of action/horror/sci-fi cake.
Right from the off we are thrust on board the cargo ship Hunter-Gratzner, which as it happens is plummeting through space. The ship has been hit by meteorite debris and junior officer Caroline Fly (Mitchell), after coming out of hyper sleep, manages to crash land on a nearby planet. Only a handful of passengers survive the crash, including infamous convict Richard B. Riddick (Diesel), but as the survivors struggle to cope with the threat from within the group, it becomes apparent that there's a bigger threat soon to join the party, a deadly alien species, a species that can only operate in the dark. Pity, then, that an eclipse is due...
Okies, so lets get the obvious out in the open right away, Pitch Black is a variant of Alien, one of a ream of films that grabbed the coat tails of Ridley Scott's game changer. Yet this is still a fresh movie, a lesson in low budget film making with grace, style, blood, brains and balls - the execution grade "A" from those involved.
It's maybe surprising given the synopsis, to find that it's a very character driven piece, with Twohy continually building his characters even as the carnage and terror is unleashed - and these are a very diverse bunch of characters. One of the universe's baddest criminals, a spunky lady officer having to take command, a morphine addicted bounty hunter, an Islamic priest and his young companions, a camp alcoholic and a couple of strays. It's the not so wild bunch, but everyone of them are afforded chance to impact on the story before and during the inevitable picking off one by one at the claws of the beasts.
The narrative strength comes via Diesel's hulking convict, he's double jointed and has had optical surgery so he can see his enemies in the dark! The group must come to rely on him for he is clearly their best hope of survival, but can he be trusted? What is his ultimate ulterior motive? Riddick is the épée to Fry's foil, it's at times like a devil and angel trying to become one in the simple name of survival. These crux characters lift the simple premise to greater heights, that Mitchell (sexy/vulnerable/hard/smart) and Diesel (moody/beefy/gravelly/menacing) are bang on form helps no end. As does the work of the tech department.
The setting created here is a splendid veer from one of the curses of sci-fi films, that of an unbelievable world. Twohy, Eggby and the art department achieve a world of 3 suns, of a scorched barren landscape, with the photography switching between bleached and metallic filters for maximum sci-fi impact. While the effects work belies the budget, check out the pre-eclipse sequence. What of the creatures themselves? They are legion, a sort of pterodactyl nightmare who let out high pitched bleats, they smell blood and move at high speeds, and like Riddick they have special vision in the dark, it's the light that they are afraid of, thus this gives our survivors a glimmer (ahem) of hope in how to stave them off...
The science and logic is hokey, but so what? This is a classy and taut sci-fi film brought about by a very under valued director, one that puts many a bigger budgeted Hollywood production to shame. Come the finale, where there's still time to have your draw dropped, you may be minus nails and on the edge of your seat. 9/10
Interscope Communications by David Twohy, Jim Wheat, Ken Wheat.
Stars: Radha Mitchell, Cole Hauser, Vin Diesel, Keith David.
Genres: Horror, Sci-Fi
Keywords: darkness dystopia comet alien life-form survival eclipse flask spaceship crash
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