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.
Times are tough. Loads are scarce. For John Canyon, being an independent owner operator space trucker in the year 2196, without the influential assistance of conglomerate sponsors and big corporations, is the last freedom in the last great frontier, but even Canyon needs to earn a living and when a questionable load becomes his only way out of a jam with the authorities, Canyon and his new and young partner, Mike Pucci, snatch the haul bound for Earth. Manifested as carrying sex dolls, Canyon and Pucci become suspicious of their cargo that’s loaded with a fatal self-defense mechanism, but when encountered by space pirates, lead by former company man named Macanudo, the space truckers learn their hauling thousands of virtually unstoppable killer cyborgs programmed to conquer Earth.
In today’s age, a nationwide driver shortage threatens to slow down crucial logistics worldwide. Director Stuart Gordon (“Re-Animator,” “Dagon”) with co-writer Ted Mann had the inverse premonition that trucker cargo would be at a premium in the space; the point A to point B in a timely fashion has not and neither have the negotiations of rate costs and demurrage time in this world-saving adventure entitled “Space Truckers.” In the same science fiction-comedy vein as the similarly colorful Luc Besson’s “The Fifth Element,” “Space Truckers” has that unrefined inviting quality about it, categorized as blue collared heroes, that complete the dynamic character arcs, but what’s more interesting about “Space Truckers,” which was released a year earlier than Bruce Willis film, was that it was constructed on a third of the budget, making the film one of Stuart Gordon’s most expensive and ambitious projects chocked with square pigs in cages, a self-built cyborg with a ripcord sexual organ, and an army of ass-kicking fembots with disintegrated lasers…”Space Truckers” is out of this world fun!
In the realm of Sci-fi comedy or fantasy, one legendary actor has nailed his performance in every flop that’s too big for commercial audiences. From “Waterworld” to the movie adaptation of popular and beloved video game, “Super Mario Bros.,” Dennis Hopper ruled the 1990’s with memorable, fascinating, and engaging overweening characters, especially villains, but Hopper snags John Canyon, a long in the tooth trucker who prefers to work alone. Hopper’s in his element, in control, and in the lead role despite not being top bill; instead, a young Stephen Dorff would be eyed as the one to provide fresh protagonist momentum into the mid-nineties. Dorff’s rather low-key to Hopper’s giant persona and that’s inherit to the character’s written traits, by always complimenting and complying with and whatever John Canyon says, but the soon-to-be “Blade’s” Decon Frost actor has a sturdy performance that’s portly as any trucker can be portrayed and has great repertoire with Debi Mazar as a trucking hub waitress who needs a hitch a ride to Earth. Mazar’s all-natural New York City accent compliments her guido-type character attire and she downplays her beauty with instilling innocents and ramping up the wit when the scene calls for it. “Game of Thrones'” Charles Dance makes an appearance as the space pirate captain Macanudo and Dance has always has a steel complexion, but in “Space Truckers,” he lets his hair down as far as becoming subjected to hours worth of cyberpunk makeup and prosthetics that’s comically outlandish and utterly fleshy. Certainly not a role one would consider the actor who comes complete with a rich British accent and an urbane quality about him to then sport a sparkling fishbowl cranium and a battleship gray half a buttocks. The remaining cast includes George Wendt (“King of the Ants”) and Shane Rimmer (“The Hunger”).
CGI was relatively in the early stages of infancy; yet “Space Truckers” had an astonishingly working blend of computer generated imagery and palpable miniature models that were supported with an integrated futuristic edifice style of production design by Simon Murton, whose speciality is high concept science fiction with illustrative art department experience that includes “Demolition Man,” “Tank Girl,” “Judge Dredd,” and “Stargate.” Murton’s style incorporated with the bright colored visuals of neon flicker marquees, illuminating body parts, and red hot poker red infrareds hues are the very antagonistic views of a cold and dark space, yet Gordon and his crew envisioned characters who sought out color, who wanted nothing to do with the darkness, and that’s what made them colorful and maybe a bit off-kilter.
Stuart Gordon’s stellar “Space Truckers” rockets to a region B, 1080p Blu-ray courtesy of UK distributor Second Sight that delivers with a widescreen presentation, 2.35:1 aspect ratio, that has out of this world image quality vividly displaying the massive color palette through a 2K restoration from the 35mm negative. Running at nearly 24 fps, Second Sight’s edition is superior in detail, cleanliness, and balance amongst the coloring and despite being able to see the special effect wires, “Space Truckers” has one of the best restorations I’ve seen lately under the black Blu-ray box laced with new artwork by graphic designer Rich Davies. The English 2.0 LPCM uncompressed stereo track, with optional subtitles, has immense range across the board. From cheesy John Canyon dialogue to the vary of space-kindred ambience, not one track felt short to being muddled or murky. Colin Towns bigrig score is big country cadence that’s emits a well-rounded six pack from the dual channel sound. The robot’s disintegrations amplify a high pitch note that can be a thorn in one’s ear, but adds to the chaotic charm when all hell breaks loose in space. Bonus features include a new interview with Stuart Gordon delving into the film’s beginnings and his recollections with the stars, and a new interview with composer Colin Towns (“Rawhead Rex”), a new interview with Art Director Simon Lamont (“Event Horizon”). “Space Truckers” is 96 minutes of mudflappin’ mayhem strapped with slender models in killer robot suits and Charles Dance’s exhibiting his tin-can half-nakedness in a bizarro world of high concept meets tongue-and-cheek performances of a film that ultimately pits the epitome of the blue collar workforce as the unsung heros of space.
The Cologne Space Labs launch their project billionaire sponsor and gold-greedy astronaut Eli Cologne into a two-year journey in hopes for a beneficial Mars expedition. Cologne, being the first man on the red planet, encounters a shiny gold-like object that infects him with a foreign organism. As mission control rashly make the decisive decision to abort the expedition and leave Cologne stranded on the wasteland that is Mars, the brazen astronaut plans not to die on the alien planet, fleeting back to the return module, and blasting off back into space where he becomes lost for one year until his return module crash lands on Earth under the massive cloak of Hurricane Katrina. His human form ceases to exists, transformed into a flesh feasting, hideous extraterrestrial in a space suit who wreaks havoc and terror for years in a podunk Louisiana bayou where the nearby local Sheriff, Dick Ruffman, attempts to save from ultimate destruction.
When Tempe Video and TomCat Releasing dropped the news of “First Man on Mars” feature on my e-doorstep in a Tempe Video press release, something very deep in the cavernous, unholy part of me wanted to screen the film’s trailer. After witnessing a primo homage of super-8 b-horror schlock, I immediately brought my finger tips to my laptop’s keys and typed ferociously, requesting a press coverage copy for a film that had me instantly reminisce of “Lobster Man of Mars,” a 1989 sci-fi comedy directed by Stanley Sheff. As weeks passed, no response of my request was returned from the distributor. However, when the film’s director Mike T. Lyddon, an experienced independent filmmaker with more than two decades worth of low-budget films under his belt, e-mails Its Bloggin’ Evil and wonders if the site could review his latest project, a satirical sci-fi comedy, by forwarding over a screener link, I gladly jumped at the opportunity and, low and behold, I wasn’t disappointed when the end credits started to roll!
Under a massive umbrella of pop cultural science fiction references, “First Man on Mars” oversteps many plot conventions, exaggerating to the fullest extent a simple story of one man’s plight of an unquenchable desire for shiny gold that literally consumes him and, consequently, consumes others surrounding him in a cauldron of cannibalistic campiness. Even though the lesser part of Benjamin Wood’s dual role shows his mug as a friendly bar patron, his Eli Cologne performance never shows character face beyond the golden shield of his space helmet or before his pre-gruesome transformation into a hideous, razor-teethed, otherworldly beast, providing anonymity to an important character much similar to that of the character V in “V for Vendetta,” if you don’t consider the stock footage prior to the film’s title. Okay, so I might be comparing caviar to spam, but nonetheless, Lyddon uses comedy and a jerry-built space suit to create an ambiguity villainous character.
Trust me, “First Man on Mars” is not at all serious as the feature is comprised of zany rednecks, birdbrain scientists, and gratuitous violent hilarity garnished with suitably colorful dialogue that can be funny while being extremely crude, can be smart in it’s admiration, and can be juvenile with bathroom-riddled humor where appropriately scened. Every actor executes the swallowing of pride process to extend verbal and physical indirect comedy that purely goes hand-in-hand with this sort of satirical storyline constructed from the certifiable portions of Mike Lyddon’s brain that might or might not be sizzling on an illegal and dangerous narcotic. Gavin Ferrara, Kirk Jordan, Marcelle Shaneyfelt, Roy “Rusty” Jackson, Jr., Kelly Murtagh, Joey Harmon, Sam Cobean, and Tresslar Burton round out the comically darling cast.
“First Man on Mars” is an absurd blast from low-budget director Mike Lyddon and his team of willing actor and crew participants, putting everything on the proverbial line to make this ambitious project first and put their seemingly absent shame second. The TomCat Releasing was presented to me as a screener link, therefore I can’t officially review the audio and video quality nor any bonus features that might have accompanied the release, but as a soft judgment, the 16mm stock that “First Man on Mars” is shot on revels in the hokey dialogue, the substantial monster violence, and the utter gore as a remembrance of the once larger than life creature feature movies from the drive-in theater era.
Earth has become an uninhabitable wasteland. The human race have resettled and colonized on the red planet of Mars. Years have past and the younger generation has never had the experience of living on Earth. Every year, a select few, those who pass multitudes of tests and reach the age of 30 years, will join the Revive Program and will travel through space on a seven day journey to Earth in order to aid in the planet’s rehabilitation of their once ancestry home. The journey between Mars and Earth is this story, a story of psychological perplexity between three travelers who get to go home for the first time.
“Earthrise” is the creation of writer-director-producer Glenn Payne, tackling the production limits of a space film in an independent market. Payne and his production team effectively generate the illusion of being a single speck in a vast universe without getting overly galactic (i.e. “Moon”) and widely interstellar (i.e. “Interstellar”). Yes, “Earthrise” embodies a minuscule budget that’s certainly evident, but the ambitiousness to recreate the innards of a spaceship without being too blatantly cheap gives creativity credit to the crew. The brief transitional moments outside the ship are about as good as money can afford, but still don’t quite cut the mustard with some big Hollywood blockbusters or even larger independent films.
Along with much of the crew, Payne’s experience mainly stems from a variety of short films with “Earthrise” being his latest full length feature out of a total of four. The three actors who portray the focus-centered characters also mostly come from a short film background. Meaghin Burke (“Trick or Treat” short), Casey Dillard (“Blackout” short), and Meaghin’s husband, Greg Earnest (also from “Trick or Treat”), portray the three protagonist Dawn, Vivian, and Marshall, voyaging to Earth. Within a non-linear story, their tensions cut through finely as an unexplained terror has overtaken, not only their flight to Earth, but their minds that visualize apparitions of people and creatures that shouldn’t be there. Giant spiders, man-eating alligators, alarming amounts of blood – just some of the psychological tensions testing the characters. Is it a form of space dementia? Or the inability to grasp leaving your home, your family, to live on another planet and not having the ability to contact anyone from home for a year, per the Revive Program’s policy? Or is it something else? “Earthrise” domes the answer fairly well until the end.
The sequence of events surround a near catastrophe involving a sudden meteor collision. One side of the collision tells the story prior to their insanely dangerous visions, building upon their backgrounds and delivering their soon obtained new found hope, while the other side explores their descent into madness and, eventually, the two stories meet in the middle with the major calamity. Contrasting the two sides defines, in a good light, director Glenn Payne’s editing style while still able to clearly convey the crews plight. Mise-en-scene clues were used to differentiate the catalyst, such as Marshall’s head wound or Vivian’s limp, but these details were minor enough to not pose an extravagance in order to make clear the outer edges of the story.
The 2014 sci-fi thriller is presented by Indie Rights Movies and MVD in a widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The details are richly sharp, drenched in a metal tone to create a ship’s inner hull racing through space atmosphere. The dual channel Dolby Digital mix is clear and balanced and purposefully isolating to get inside the loneliness of the great big infinite. Accompanying the 100 minute runtime, a couple extras include the film’s trailer and a commentary. Sci-fi on a budget, “Earthrise” is enjoyably subtle, sleekly structured, and soaked with heart and soul. Many will not be attracted to “Earthrise” and it’s slow-to-build momentum, leaving only true film aficionados and appreciators to find Payne’s work entertaining.