A pair of crew members aboard a spaceship wake up with no knowledge of their mission or their identities, and as they struggle to piece together the fragments of their minds, they come to learn that the ship is infested with an unknown life-form, and a vicious one at that...
I have a theory regarding film critics. I'm talking 'professional' film critics here. You know, the ones who actually get paid good money to sit through a movie? It seems to me that as soon as one 'established' critic, and I use the term loosely, writes a negative review on a film; the whole lot of em have to follow suite. It's perhaps something to do with saving face, with looking superior, or maybe its simply to do with lacking the confidence to enjoy something on its own terms without fearing the sacrifice of their standing. I don't know. What I do know is that every now and then I come across a film that I've read almost everywhere is seven shades of shite, only to find its, well....fun. Sometimes even great.
Now, PANDORUM certainly doesn't reach said greatness, no matter how many beers you sink, but its a fun film for what it is. With a producer like P.T Anderson, you're going into this one with your bollocks-proof vest on, or at least I was. You really won't need it. This is far, far better than anything the mans touched since the somewhat awesome, (and underrated), EVENT HORIZON.
Maybe I'm just easily pleased. Maybe I'm not a man of evolved mind. I don't know. I mean, I love much of Argento's work, (the early stuff anyway), and I understand and appreciate German expressionism in Horror. I've read William Blake at length and I've studied 'Fine Art'. But sit me down in front of a decent Horror film set in outer space, with bloodthirsty creatures, explosions and a hot space-chick...... and I'm putty in your hands, man. Not every film has to be MARTYRS, or SUSPIRIA. Some films just exist to please, and damn it, PANDORUM pleased me.
The two leads are tip-top. Quaid is his usual gruff and groovy self. His character a balanced mix of disciplined cool, and creeping paranoia. The brilliant Ben Forster is instantly believable as the films hero. Both these men wake from 'Cryo-sleep' to find they have little to no memory of what their doing on this huge space vessel, and their immediate confusion and dread is palpable. I bought it. I felt like I was right there with them. Following close behind the confusion, is good old claustrophobia, and I felt that too. Theres a scene early on when Forster is crawling through a series of increasingly narrow air vents that managed to do quite a number on me. It was nowhere near as suffocating as the similar scene in THE DESCENT, (that fucked me up royally!), but it worked. It done its job. Fair play.
PANDORUM is that sort of film. It's not ever going to be a classic, and its hard to get excited about it or bored by it. Its simply a good movie that leaves no real lasting impression, but gives you 90 minutes of cool locations, violent action sequences and genuine suspense. You wont be running around to all your bud's houses and forcing them to watch it, (as I did with I SAW THE DEVIL last year, sorry troops), but you may find yourself happy to view it more than once for your own pleasure. For me, its a film I'll watch more than INSIDE or MARTYRS. Is it a better movie? Not in a million years, but for sheer entertainment, and lightweight fun, you really cant go wrong. I love hard, soul-breaking Horror, but I don't wanna subject myself to it all the time. This on the other hand...
The films central mystery revolves around discovering what has happened to the ship, 'The Elysium', on which our heroes awake, and its an engaging mystery that had me hooked from moment one. The introduction of the strange and vicious creatures that seem to have overrun the place only adds to the sense of confusion. Without giving too much away, the story manages to fit the fate of the entire human race into its narrative, and pulls it off well. Remember how THE THING felt like the end of the world, despite its few characters and its sole location? PANDORUM goes for that vibe. It's got a very cool plot, and one that, (I believe), is quite original. The films title refers to a form of mental deterioration that can occur in deep space, adding to the film a welcome sense that all may not be as seems, and that our characters may be going nuts. Good stuff. The film may look like some we've seen before, but its plot felt fresh. In fact, the whole thing felt fresh. And the final act is really great, that's all I'm sayin..
Theres not a whole lot to say about PANDORUM. If your a Sci-Horror fan, you'll probably lap it up like I did. The creatures are brilliantly designed, (hooray for no fucking CG!!), and the film looks like they spent some serious cash on it. The lighting is used to great effect and the cast are all pulling their weight. If a creepy adventure set on the far fringes of space, where the fate of mankind lies in the balance, sounds like your sort of entertainment, give it a look. Ignore the fact that Anderson produced it, and ignore the overanxious critics who feel that every fucking Horror film ever made has to be THE SHINING or THE EXORCIST, and just enjoy it.
As for me, I've watched it twice already. When I want cerebral Sci-Horror, I'll watch ALIEN, and love it like I always have. Yet something tells me I'll watch this more. Its just a damn good time, and I can't think of a film of its type I've enjoyed more in over a decade. So there!
Outer space, baby.....!!
8 Cosmic Cannibals out of 10