In the year 2022, orbital satellites carry nuclear missiles and maintain flight patterns around the moon. When a satellite repair ship, known as a “refab” ship called Spaecore 1, attempts to intercept a satellite for maintenance, the system wide computer goes into an unexplained power failure that jeopardizes communications, life support, and navigation. Drifting helpless toward sector Centrus B-40, the dark side of the moon, all hope will be lost within 24 hours unless operations can be restored, but a mysterious spacecraft, NASA’s Discovery shuttle, heads toward them and docks onto their outer hull without so much of a hail from the shuttle. Captain Flynn and Lt. Giles investigate a seemingly abandoned ship until coming across a dead body of a presumed missing NASA astronaut, eviscerated with an opening left in a perfect triangle as the cause of death, and that opens the door to more questions than answer as a sinister presence boards their ship, pursuing damnation for their souls.
Just think, in two more years, weapons of mass destruction satellites will loom just above fluffy white clouds, ready to mushroom clouds out of targets with a 10-ton yield; at least that’s what director D.J. Webster and the screenwriters, identical twins Carey W. Hayes and Chad Hayes, modeled the future when conjuring up this delectable Sci-Fi horror film approx. 20 years ago. With special effects models and techniques that withstand against powerhouse space films, such as from the immaculate effects of Alien franchise, “The Dark Side of the Moon” becomes more than just a 1973 Pink Floyd album title Fabricated out of warped creativity of old and new concepts with a Biblical horror base that only the 1990’s could loosely spin into an hour and 27 minute feature, for many of the filmmakers involved, “The Dark Side of the Moon” credits as their first taste of a feature length, large scale production, especially with the mainly music video director D.J. Webster, who loves his closeups, and director of photography Russ T. Alsobrook, as they auto clicks into a team that seemingly have experience of seasoned veterans or, perhaps, spent some secretive, unlogged time in space. Who knows, but the outcome ruminates about the dark side of religion and how each of us deal with it internally.
When mullets and giant framed glasses are afoot, the late 80’s, early 90’s filming era is beyond evident with interestingly gritty characters lined up for an evil figure eager to knock them down and, of course, the story’s lead character is the mullet sporting pilot named Lt. Giles Stewart who is unwittingly thrust into the fast track of a hero’s lane. Giles’s atheism framework has a pleasant sardonicism about it when face-to-face with the immortal conqueror of his ship and crew. Will Bledsoe paints Giles as such as faithless space pilot, bound to duty, and willing to do anything to just not save himself, but others. One of the only recognizable faces, at least for myself, in the cast is John Diehl. The “Stargate” and “The Shield” television actor is best at being a wild card in turmoil situations and as shipmate Phillip Jennings, the same can be expected without being utterly conventional or warrant any kind of typecast label. Another actor to note is Alan Blumenfeld as the ship’s panicky Dr. Dreyfuss Steiner. Blumenfeld, who had a role in the best Jason Voorhees film, in my humble opinion, “Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives, is once again stalked by a larger-than-life villain while maintaining a profusely sweaty persona that’s symbolically intended to be true, unadulterated fear. As a whole, the cast is amazing regardless of some first time filmmakers at the helm, rounding out with “Re-Animator’s” Robert Sampson as the ship’s Capt. Flynn, Joe Turkel from the first “Blade Runner,” “Blood Frenzy’s,” and overall erotic thriller goddess, Wendy MacDonald, stunt man (“Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2, “Army of Darkness”) Ken Lesco, and another “Friday the 13th” actor, Camilla More, or Tina from “The Final Chapter,” as the stationary sexy, ship’s onboard computer-robot named Lesli – think on the same lines as Mother from “Alien,” but in the flesh.
What makes “The Dark Side of the Moon” very interesting is the film being an unofficial precursor to other science fiction horror films like “Event Horizon” that was released roughly seven years later. Space as this gateway to Hell concept is sorely under-appreciated and underutilized. Space is already vastly frightening to begin with and by adding a devilish abyss aspect to it makes the idea an absorbingly scary thought. What’s also fascinating is the Hayes brother. “The Dark Side of the Moon” is the brothers’ roots film; the proverbial patient zero that spread successful movie writing careers for the twins, spawning turn of the century horror with the remake of “House of Wax” that saw the on-screen death of Paris Hilton, had “Underworld” star Kate Beckinsale track down a killer in Antarctica in “Whiteout,” and they penned “The Conjuring” that constructed its very own universe.
“The Dark Side of the Moon” comes in at #2 on the Unearthed Films’ Classics label distributed MVDVisual. The newly restored 4K transfer of the Wild Street Pictures production is presented in a widescreen, 1.85:1 aspect ratio, region A Blu-ray release. Surprisingly sharp despite consistent low-lit scenes and not as washed like previous VHS versions, this restoration fine tunes the nitty-gritty specifics needed for proper presentation that doesn’t falter from heavy digital noise or blotch artifacts and shows no signs of enhancing The English language LPCM 2.0 audio track is strapping for a dual channel format. Dialogue pronounced clearly, ambient spaceship clinks and clunks create atmospheric range and depth, and the relentless brooding score by “Society’s” Mark Ryder and Phil Davies delivers shuddering spinal-tingles without being monotonously dull. Bonus features include a commentary with executive producer Paul and Unearthed Films’ Stephen Biro, interviews with Alan Blumenfeld, FX artist R. Christopher Biggs, and stuntman Chuck Borden, plus vintage audio track, trailers, photo gallery, and a insert booklet that dives into about the production and the cast. All packed into a nice little slipcover package. “The Dark Side of the Moon” pioneers into the future of space horror as a good ole dread-inducing fear-monger of the great expanse, deserving this Unearthed Films’ release, hands down.
Ethan Walker is a brilliant scientific engineer, though he doesn’t look it with his long fire-hued beard and pot-belly midsection, but Walker, along with his colleague, believe to have accomplished the impossible: teleportation. When Walker decides to try his machine on himself, the realization of something terribly wrong overwhelms him. Walker didn’t invent a teleporter, he accidentally constructed a time machine, sending himself six months into a grim future where his wife and sister have been brutally murdered and he’s the sole prime suspect. The only way to make sense of the future and to solve the crime against him is to travel back to the past multiple times to unravel a sinister plot and stop the murder of those close to him.
To simply and conventionally tagline “Counter Clockwise,” George Moise’s 2015 directorial debut can easily be described as Terry Gilliam meets David Fincher. Part sci-fi thriller part dark comedy, the adventure of Ethan’s misadventures ingeniously signifies a harsh outlook on the saltiness of our predetermined universe while encountering outrageous and weird characters along the time warp. Ethan, no matter what he does or how he does it, has to use the accidental time machine to thwart the brutal death of his wife and sister and while his reasoning sounds fairly comical being the groundwork of what Albert Einstein calls madness, on-screen it’s rather heartbreaking and tragic to see this guy, an everyday looking joe, desperately attempt to deconstruct, from the unsolicited help of his future selves, a dastardly plot that will destroy everything he holds dear.
Penned also by George Moise, based off a story by brother Walter Moise, along with the film’s lead star, Ethan himself, Michael Kopelow, “Counter Clockwise” will change the way critics will perceive time travel storylines by not as a means of zipping back only once to change the forsaken past, but as a respawning Shakespearean tale of tragedy in order to continue to amend a hapless situation. A respawned Super Mario had more luck saving Princess Peach through the thicket of Koopa Troopas and the fire breathing Bowser. Though the character Ethan repeats his voyage, the way “Counter Clockwise” is written doesn’t convolute itself in the repetition, staging clues as a window into beyond the present and generating eerie and problematic, if seriously disturbed, episodes that doesn’t give Ethan a minute from tirelessly being objective. Combine those elements with George Moise’s neurotic direction and the result seizes to capture not only science fiction aficionados, but movie enthusiasts of every category in this genre-breaking feature. From the first moment of the opening scene, a strong familiar inkling of Ridley Scott’s “Alien” washes over you; the subtle hum of machinery, the slow panning from side-to-side, the very soft touch George Moise applies is uncanny and so endearingly respectful that the direction doesn’t feel like an absolute rip of Scott’s 1979 space horror classic.
Kopelow is the centerpiece that glues the story whole. As Ethan, Kopelow’s gentle giant approach is such a stark contrast to the surrounding darkness that has embodied nearly every other location and character, even his lip flapping, hard loving mother. Extreme opposite on the polar spectrum is voice actor Frank Simms as Roman, head of major corporation aiming to steal pioneered technology from Ethan at any cost. Simms’ talent has two settings in this film, hot and cold; his sound binary method works to composite a character so reasonably rational that when Roman snaps, a trickle of pee squeezes out and runs down your leg at his abrupt and menacing counter personality. The rest of the cast follows suit with pinpoint precision on their coinciding characters and even the eccentric cameo performances were otherworldly good from Chris Hampton’s relishing water fountain patron to Marty Vites one-eyed creepy landlord. Ethan’s landed in bizarre world that hums a very familiar tune in Terry Gilliam’s “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” while the amount of downbeat content spurs moments of gritty David Fincher thrillers, especially in one particular scene with the brawny New Jersey native Bruno Amato being the ultimate bad guy henchman by raping a dead woman for spite and for pleasure. The cast fills out with Devon Ogden, Kerry Knuppe, Joy Rinaldi, Alice Rietveld, and Caleb Brown.
The Sex Scene Crew production, “Counter Clockwise,” is not an effects driven project. The indie sci-fi film relies on the trio of coordination efforts in refined editing, camera angles, and practical effects to deliver the intended message. Like I said before, George Moise is neurotic, providing the attention and detail to every scene as if a climatic money shot. Value is placed in the story and in the direction rather than diluting and cheapening with overrated, big budget computer generated special effects that can snap a film’s heart and soul like a thin twig. The biggest effect comes in the form of a composite, placing two Ethans in the same scene and working action off each other. Even the time traveling sequences are a basic edit that’s well timed with simple lighting techniques, gentrifying low budget films more toward a respectable level of filmmaking.
Artsploitation Films’ DVD release of “Counter Clockwise” is an edgy rip in space time continuum sci-fi thriller presented in a widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio with Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound audio option. Image quality pars well with modern releases and the same can be said about the audio, especially with the prevalent dialogue. Aside from conventional specs, Moise adds a sensory surplus to stimulate sight and sound hell-bent to strike an unnerving chord strummed simultaneously with providing an awesomely surreal effect. The DVD contains bonus features include “The Making of Counter Clockwise featurette, going behind the scenes of pre-production, production, and post-production. There are also five deleted scenes with commentary and a trio of commentary tracks that include the director, director and editor, and director and co-writer. “Counter Clockwise” is 91 minutes of time hopping suspense, packed with adversity and pitch black humor from start to finish and finish to start.
Daryll, a New York City night shift janitor and decorated Vietnam war veteran, becomes obsessed with beautiful female reporter and wealthy socialite Tony Sokolow. When Daryll claims to be a key witness to a murder of one his business building’s high profile tenants, a once in a lifetime opportunity opens up to meet Tony when she’s assigned to cover the murder and as Daryll pours his heart out to the reporter, he’s also torn by his claim that could place his war buddy friend Aldo, a hapless former employee of the recently deceased and the prime suspect in the murder investigation, in jeopardy even more. Is Aldo the killer or is the mystery much deeper, tied to a world unforeseen by Daryll whose working in the depths of the building’s janitorial confines?
Hot off from her success from Ridley Scott’s “Alien,” Sigourney Weaver goes from sci horror-thriller to mystery-thriller and alongside her is up and coming co-star William Hurt in Peter Yates’ 1981 mystery drama “Eyewitness.” The film sparks a string of obsession suspense features that would span a decade and firmly place the genre into a popular notoriety among audiences who couldn’t get enough of the peeping tom debauchery. A hefty roster of talented actors also co-star, some on the verge of stardom to the likes of Hurt and Weaver, including Christopher Plummer (“The Sound of Music”) in the prime of his career, the crazy eyes of James Woods (John Carpenter’s “Vampires”), an un-grayed Morgan Freeman (“Se7en”), Kenneth McMillan (“Dune”), “Mission: Impossible” television series’ Steven Hill, and Pamela Reed (“Kindergarten Cop”).
Performances all around are phenomenal as every actor and actress cultivates their character’s purpose in the story and you can surely experience the humble beginnings to some of the biggest A-list celebrities of today; however, Hurt’s performance was one of the only concerning factors. Hurt’s portraying a modest, perhaps slightly traumatized, Vietnam veteran with an afar obsession toward an attractive public figure and his presentation was overly awkward and certainly creepy too the point where I even felt embarrassed and uncomfortable. What made the situation more bizarre was the verbal and facial exchanges between Hurt and Weaver’s characters. Tony didn’t quite seem affected by the oozing creepiness this supposedly good man seeps from every pore of his skin and she, in fact, embraces his forward, if not crossing the line, affections that would certainly warrant a restraining order in today’s society. Maybe social interactions vary from generations and decades, but this type of relationship building dialogue and scenes didn’t produce the appropriate type of chemistry between Weaver and Hurt reducing the strength of their bond.
The Steve Tesich script strummed the strings reminiscent to my viewing experience of George A. Romero’s “Land of the Dead.” Yes, you read that correct – “Land of the Dead” – and what does this zombie horror film have in common with “Eyewitness?” Well, in the 2005 film about the continuous decline of humanity in a zombie apocalyptic world, Romero had written a social commentary about the separating of social classes where, even in a dying world, the rich stayed safe in their loft, sustaining an obsolete lifestyle, and the poor suffer below their feet living in the present, but in the end, anyone and everyone is fair game for being unprincipled and for the undead. Tesich’s script does the same without being lavishly upfront and without the hordes flesh eating zombies. Beneath the obvious murder mystery lies the merger of the classes as Dyrall and Tony eventually fall for each other, but their friends and family on either side condemn the relationship, making the statement numerous times that a janitor absolute can not fall for someone as wealthy as Tony. James Woods’ Aldo becomes just another example out of many where a court-martialed and discharged Marine with erratic behavior and struggling with living a middle class life becomes suspect number one in a murder case, but with a victim whose profession was international trading, the pockets might be a bit deeper and with a laundry list of ill-will individuals.
Signal One Entertainment releases “Eyewitness” in the UK for the first time on Hi-Def region B Blu-ray anywhere with a 1080p presentation in a widescreen 1.85:1 format. The video quality is far superior than, of course, it’s DVD revival with the restoration of much of the natural color tones without a hint of compression artefacts or obvious image or edging enhancements from the 35mm stock footage. The English LPCM audio 2.0 track is fair, full-bodied, and well balanced with really no issues, especially not with composer Stanley Silverman’s lively score. Signal One Entertainment certainly knows how to treat a classic film providing a slew of extra features including an audio commentary with director Peter Yates and film historian Marcus Hearn from 2005, an audio only conversation with the director along with film critic Derek Malcolm and another conversation with another film critic Quentin Faulk on a separate extra feature. Composer Stanley Silverman discusses his approach to scoring “Eyewitness” and there’s also an alternative VHS presentation of the film under one of the original titles “The Janitor.” Original trailers and TV spots round out this robust bonus feature cache. “Eyewitness” on Blu-ray is a must own with a clean and refreshing version of a this classic whodunit thriller from Signal One Entertainment!
Sergeant Gregory Dapp, A lone wolf space cop, travels lightyears to Earth, ordered to hunt down and capture one of the universe’s deadliest and sought-to-extinction creatures, simply called a Phobe, before the extraterrestrial being reproduces on a massive, world obliterating scale. This particular species has wiped out all of Drapp’s special Phobe hunt and destroy unit and were thought to have been blotted out off the face of his planet until one lands on Earth. Drapp must team up with Jennifer, a local high school girl caught in the middle, to help capture the Phobe before spreading it’s seed for world domination.
“Phobe: The Xenophobic Experiments” is an extremely ambitious sci-fi action film from Canada. Directed by Niagara, Ontario filmmaker Erica Benedikty, the 1994 film had a ultra-micro-budget of only $250 to cast a two-world, space odyssey complete with light-saber action and a behemoth amount of laser fodder. Being a slave to nearly no financial backing, “Phobe” had to manage without shame and roll with the flawed punches and, somehow, obtained popularity when broadcasted at a television station with which Benedikty was associated even when the film had to be diluted down to PG content. Fast forward 22-years later, Intervision Picture Corp. releases the aspiring director’s DIY fantastical vision in a glorious and plentiful remastered DVD edition.
The Benedikty written and directed alien action feature pulls inspiration from many admired blockbuster sci-fi films including some potent familiarities, such as a revamped form of the alien from “Predator” who stalks with heat vision and blends in with camouflage or the dazzling lightsaber duels from the epic saga that is “Star Wars,” creating an endearing homage from a knowledgeable science fiction enthusiast with a dedicated cast and crew during a year long shoot. The Ontario filmmaker scribes her hero as not necessarily the hunter, but as the hunted because as soon as Dapp lands his ship and saves Jennifer’s life from a Phobe laser (a roman candle blast), Dapp and Jennifer spend the entire night on the run, never challenging the being until forced to do so and the structure harps upon a plot similar to “The Terminator” with a “Battlestar Galatica” villain presence.
Rostered completely with unknown local actors, John Rubick stars as the mullet sporting, Phobe asskicker Sgt. Gregory Dapp who bolts into light speed with a very John Belushi appeal set upon the shoulders of a calm and candid Rubick demeanor throughout the entire Phobe capturing and Phobe egg destroying ordeal. Dapp’s semi quasi love interest Jennifer, Tina Dimoulin, blankly unconditionally follows Dapp into certain utmost danger. The Dapp and Dumoulin combo are Earth’s last hope against the Merv Wrighton’s portrayal of an invading, combat-ready, ultimate killing machine species. Wrighton’s tall and broad shoulder stature ideally constructs an intimidating antagonist being ultimately unraveled by a very inanimate casted mask with no texture or any kind of cosmetic makeup whatsoever and that highly resembles a toothless ivoried skull.
“Phobe” won’t be palatable to every sci-fi devotee’s intergalactic taste. Only a microscopic niche fan base will greatly appreciate the tongue-in-cheek fashioned computerized imagery, the depth scale modeling, and the automaton deadpan acting that establishes “Phobe” as cult material and Severin’s InterVision Picture Corp. label does right by this small time Canadian film by remastering the original video elements and supplementing the DVD with a vast amount of bonus material. The video quality presented in a full frame 1.33:1 aspect ratio is as good as it’s going to get with the inconsistencies of magnetic tape from a camcorder as the darker scenes are, at times, hard to visually construct because of the digital noise, but the Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio quality is quite balanced and clear. The laundry list of bonus material includes an audio commentary from writer-director Erica Benedikty, the first feature film from Benedikty “Back in Black,” “The Making of Phobe,” Q&A with cast and crew, original FX shots from the 1995 broadcast version of “Phobe,” outtakes, and “Phobe” theme performed by Gribble Hell. Whew, that’s a lot of extras. To sum up the experience, “Phobe” is campy sci-fi schlock with stellar intentions and with tons of heart made of grenade tomatoes (this reference will make sense once you see the film) all while breaking the DIY mold.
After years of being distant from each other, Abby and Rebecca reunite at their isolated family cabin to release the ashes of their recently deceased mother into the nearby lake. They stumble upon what seems to be a crash site of sorts and come into possession of a small sphere object. The sphere has become the object of Abby’s husband’s obsession and Abby starts to have nightmares of weird beings experimenting on her body. When Calvin becomes withdrawn and Abby learns she’s pregnant, Rebecca reveals her beyond the stars tale of why she’s kept her distance away from her sister and from their family cabin. A tale of abduction and unwanted incubation.
“The Invoking” director Jeremy Berg has carefully constructed a film where the characters actually feel human. What I mean by this is that the characters don’t feel overly transcribed and built up to a point where their on screen personas are unbelievable and stereotyped. Abby (Angela DiMarco) and her husband Calvin (David S. Hogan) just work and come home while Abby’s sister Rebecca (Kate Alden) just lounges around the house as a guest and this feels more like normal life and gives a big sense of reality to this little sci-fi film. When the other world beings do make an appearance, whether in Abby’s nightmares or in the finale act, their presence thrilling disrupts the normality.
The alien creature by the Killer Makeup FX company does a not too shabby job on the suit for actor Gabriel Congdon as The Visitor. Congdon’s simplistic take on the alien doesn’t draw too much attention to, at times, the bit of costume cheesiness that oozes out especially when the alien hand bangs against the window of Abby’s house. However, I’m still very pleased with the outcome and the Visitor’s amount of screen time strives toward their anonymity that works well within the patiently paced story.
The story itself is nothing audiences haven’t experienced before. “The Device’ strikes familiarities with other more well-known films such as “Fire in the Sky,” “Astronaut’s Wife,” and even a little with the medieval fantasy film “The Lord of the Rings.” I keep imagining David S. Hogan’s, who delivered a strong performance and showed off some good acting chops through most of the film, character Calvin caressing the black sphere and gargling, “my precious;” he certainly has the face to make a great Golum. Also, where other critics might believe “The Device’s” pace is too slow, some might find the steady pace to be a nice build up, deconstructing character personas and removing their humanity and morphing them into meager savages. However, what really kills the film’s fairly solid structure is the ambiguous and confusing ending that would make the previous first two acts nullified.
I do appreciate the special appearance by Russell Hodgkinson who plays Doc on “Z-Nation” and I do appreciate, on a more serious note, the effort that went into “The Device.” With that last remark, I can’t help but to think that some scenes could have been reshot to omit movie making mistake thus placing “The Device” on a higher pedestal. For example, when Abby and Calvin are at the isolated cabin and their having a heart-to-heart talk outside on the deck, you can obviously see a car with it’s lights on driving in the background and this absolutely ruins the authenticity of the scene.
“The Device” won’t knock your socks off for it’s a basic sci-fi alien feature where subtlety is key, but this epitomizes indie filmmaking and we can’t take for granted that all films are not made equal. “The Device” is about obsession, it’s about facades, it’s about lack of communication; basically, the device itself is a metaphor for all that could be what’s wrong within a relationship whether it’s between two lovers or two families and I think that’s where “The Device” gets it correct without making a huge splash with the sci-fi material.