The “Project Shadowchaser” films are weird, because if you saw them without the titles, you’d never guess they were part of the same series. Their main linking element appears to be Frank Zagarino’s hair (magnificent that it is), but in terms of content, he plays the first two films very differently and is barely in the third one at all. It looks like the fourth one, which goes by a completely different title (“Orion’s Key”) and may be more difficult for me to source, is completely different again.
A Russian ore-mining spaceship is seen in chaos, as its crew are fighting assailant / assailants unknown. But we don’t have time to care about them, as we’re thrown 25 years into the future and the crew of Comstat 5, a communication base orbiting Mars. These scenes bear more than a passing resemblance to the establishing scenes in “Aliens”, and the crew, multi-ethnic and gender, are surprisingly well introduced – the problem with so many B-movies is you get the feeling the dialogue could come from any character, but this lot all have separate characters.
It’s 48 hours before their relief ship shows up! Ain’t it always the case? While they’re waiting around, the films kicks into gear with the sudden arrival of…the mining ship from 25 years ago, a ghost ship long thought lost, and it’s on a collision course. I don’t know if it’s the sort of films I’ve been watching recently, but the fact the crew don’t immediately fall apart and even show some basic competence is a refreshing change. Sadly, they don’t succeed in getting out of the way, so have to go exploring the gigantic “Pandora” to ensure their survival until they’re relieved.
This is when those characters come into play. Renko drags Snake along with his plan to steal the special ore on board the Pandora and get rich; Rea (played by genre film favourite Musetta Vander) wants to know what happened to her Dad, the captain of the mining ship, which is admittedly a fairly hefty coincidence; Lennox and Dee want to kick some ass; and Kody the maintenance guy is falling in love with Rea. So you’ve got lots of different motivations and these all come up against…well, it’s kept secret until 54 minutes into the film, and he doesn’t get fully on the screen until 1:12, but Frank Zagarino is back as Android, this time a part of the crew of the mining vessel who became infected with a virus.
It’s not the most original film you’ll ever see, that’s for sure. There’s elements of films like “The Thing”, “Aliens”, and “The Terminator” in here, but if you think of those plots as classic sci-fi baseline ideas, then this film uses them well. There’s plenty of tension, there’s the worry over whether Max the cute little terrier will survive, and there’s the debate over whether Zagarino actually has any dialogue in this movie. If you’re at all a fan of sci-fi, then you’re definitely going to find something to enjoy about this film – plenty of “That Guy” actors, plenty of tension, looks like its budget was a lot higher than it undoubtedly was, and so on.
I guess I’ll leave my grand madness-inducing attempt to tie these films together until after I’ve seen part 4. Wish me luck!
Rating: thumbs up