Whatever happened to Christian Slater? After a star-making turn in “Pump Up The Volume”, throughout the late 80s and 90s, he could do no wrong, and starred in a continuous string of pretty high-profile films. Then, after a couple of blunders in the late 90s (“Hard Rain”, which I liked but few others did, and “Very Bad Things”, which was one of the least enjoyable films I’ve ever seen) he just seemed to fall off a cliff, career-wise. He’s still a face on the front cover of the DVD for films he’s in, but it’s a great deal less likely you’ll have heard of any of them.
After our review of “Last Days On Mars”, we promised you more indie sci-fi reviews, but then one of our hundred other review projects got in the way; and in this review, you’ll find out the difference between “indie” and “low-budget”, a fine bit of semantics.
It’s six months into a year-long mining project on the moon, and Slater is the Colonel in charge, giving us the sort of exposition that we’ve come to know and love from bad movies – the “speech the people you’re giving it to really ought to know, directed straight at the audience”. Wasting no time, we start with a meteor shower which completely cripples the base, destroying communications, main power, food stores, and causing a carbon monoxide leak, which could cause hallucinations and even death. We’re told it’s going to be 96 hours before a rescue can be expected, so the scene is set; and when they start analysis on one of the meteors and find a weird yellow substance inside, all hell quickly breaks loose.
This film is a handy combination of three others – “Alien”, “Species” and “The Thing”. But a cloth-eared version – like you showed all three films at the same time to an enthusiastic child and then got him to tell you what happened. It relies on people acting in counter-productive ways to drive the plot along – firstly, a similar problem I had with “Last Days On Mars”, is that the crew fall to pieces really quickly. If I was sending people to the Moon for a year, I’d do a bunch of psychological testing on them, but aside from Slater and the crew’s doctor (Brendan Fehr, best known for being one of the aliens on “Roswell”, many years ago) everyone just flips out at the first possible opportunity.
Two different people who get infected by the alien thing don’t tell anyone, because they were both worried about being locked up. Personally, I’d love to be locked up if there was an alien who enjoyed killing people trotting about the base! But no, for no reason whatsoever, people keep their mouth shut and that inevitably leads to disaster. Well done, dumbasses! The female member of the crew, who after getting infected and not telling anyone, gives birth to…something…is put in quarantine, but it is by a distance the least accurate use of that word in cinema history, as people are in and out of her quarantine area more regularly than they’re anywhere else on the ship.
If I could say one thing to the casts of low-budget sci-fi movies, it would be “BE MORE SUSPICIOUS”. If someone starts acting weird, they’ve probably got an infection or they’re an alien doppelganger or something! Don’t just shake your head a little and carry on with your business – you’re in space! Show some basic competence! Do you want to stay alive?
I apologise, reader, but I’m going to have to spoil the ending of this film. If what I’ve said so far has entranced you, please stop reading now; if you’ve got any sense, read on. There’s a race to the last remaining escape pod, but the weird alien creature (who evolved into a replica of one of the dead crew members), after sabotaging the air supply, gets there and just figures out how to use it and sets off. Slater and the alien’s “mother” sit there and wait for death, 18 minutes to go. But rescue arrives! Here’s where it gets a bit confusing. We cut to Earth and a shot of the crashed escape pod, and the army guys who go to check it out are just being sent a video from the rescue ship.
Fairly dramatic, right? But it immediately falls apart if you think about it at all. It takes three days or so to get from Earth to the Moon, while radio signals take about a second and a half. The escape pod with the alien had, at the very most, an 18 minute head start. So not only did the rescue ship not attempt to intercept the escape pod, but they didn’t bother telling anyone on Earth about the danger until it was too late. Or, the people making this film either didn’t know or didn’t care how long the trip from the moon to the earth would take. It’s the second one, isn’t it?
After this film ended, I turned to my wife and made a long fart sound, and her reply was to say “I’ve seen worse. At least Slater didn’t do his Jack Nicholson impression this time”. That is as much praise as this film deserves. It’s lazy and boring and the people who made it don’t deserve careers in something as awesome as making films.
Amazingly, that person is Academy Award-winner (okay, for set design) Roger Christian, who’s had a long and varied career and was amazingly allowed near a director’s chair again after “Battlefield Earth”, a film even worse than this one. Still, I can’t be too grumpy, as he worked as a set dresser on one of my favourite TV shows, “Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased)” at the beginning of his career, and may have been one of the people who stopped George Lucas making “Star Wars” bad.
Rating: thumbs way down