Friday, July 13, 2012

Movie Appraisal: The Dark Side of the Moon (1990)

Recently I've been enjoying some sweet space horror movies. I've always liked the genre, especially with some spaceship floating through space and finding something waiting out in the cold darkness. It's always been fascinating to me. I mean, look at the tagline of this movie: "Something is waiting." This movie is about space, anything could be waiting. Anything at all. It's what makes space so fascinating, and it's what makes space a perfect place for all the best kinds of horror. You have to be creative when you use space as a medium for sci-fi and for horror. It's not just regular movie monsters jumping out at you, but can be anything from creepy aliens to something very different. Hell, it can even be ourselves. Sometimes we are the demons.

The Dark Side of the Moon was a direct-to-video affair from 1990, directed by D. J. Webster and starring some actors who I recognize and some whom I've never seen before. Joe Turkel is arguably the most famous of the cast (being in Blade Runner will do that for you), and besides my vague recognition of Alan Blumenfeld, Turkel is really the only actor in this movie that I've seen in other sources. I will say that for a direct-to-video movie, it's pretty high quality. There are very few effects, which is a good thing. When they do show up, they're not the best things I've ever seen. Most of the movie's charm comes from watching the actors do their thing and watching the story unfold.

Now, before I get far into this, I have to say that I have a special liking for these types of movies, and I really did enjoy this one. Again, kind of a cheaper sci-fi horror/space horror affair, but it's competent and pretty fun to watch. It has a pretty standard, almost SyFy channel-esque plot and plot twist at times, but the acting and the cinematography are MUCH MUCH better than most direct-to-video crap I've seen in the last decade or so. Hell, this is better than most of the movies I've seen in theatres. I mean, I'd much rather watch this than the travesty, the absolute abomination, that is Black Swan. That movie still makes me angry even almost two years later.

The film starts out on a maintenance spaceship going to fix a satellite only for all systems on the ship to fail. It moves quickly as the crew tries to figure out what's wrong despite all of the systems being green. The ship's computer, a robot woman... uh... thing... named Lesli, tells the crew that nothing is wrong, and yet the ship is rapidly losing both air and heat, and the systems still aren't responding. Now, I have to take a moment and talk about Lesli. Her character is utterly baffling to me. She's a robot computer thing controlling the information of the ship and such, but she's also somehow a beautiful woman for some reason. She never moves out of the chair she's sitting in, and she never truly has any real relevance to the plot beyond being used as an exposition machine. She has a beauty mark and a whole lot of cleavage, but never is shown to have any effect on any of the male crew members who treat her as a machine and nothing more... all the while the one female crew member, Alex, is hit on by basically all of the slimebag characters. Lesli also seems to have some element of artificial intelligence rather than just being a computer, but I'm still baffled. Why does she exist as an actual person? Can she move out of her seat? Can she move at all? Why was she made like that? Does she have functionality close to what a human would? Why didn't they simply make her a gynoid then? She became kind of the central question to me. She was treated as an utterly normal thing to have on a ship (maybe a little experimental with Joe Turkel's character taking care of her, but still...) and it seemed that most of the suspicion for earlier events of the movie fell onto her, but she was never really utilized. Why didn't she do anything? Why was her presence never really a thing? Why did the antagonist presumably try to take her over? And more importantly, why did he fail? I was much more interested in what the hell Lesli was and what she represented and how she was being portrayed than I was in the actual plot of the movie. I still have no idea why she existed in her form in the movie besides being good to look at, but why waste the resources and the time and money and such to have that character when a computer would have been sufficient? I mean this as a question both in the universe of the movie and to the filmmakers. I mean, Camilla More did a fine job as the character, but I'm still baffled by Lesli's presence in the film. I guess if I had the choice I would have used her in some way, used her to make a statement or as a central protagonist or ally to the antagonist. When Joe Turkel's character Paxton goes rogue, I assumed he would shut off control of Lesli's character. It was set up earlier in the film that he could do that with a swipe of his hand, just shut off certain controls to certain crewmembers. That's why I thought he was visiting her near the end of the movie. But no. He went to visit her so she could tell him to back off... and I guess he did? I'm so baffled that my head hurts. I could go on about this for a very long time. It's easily the most confusing and most interesting part of the film. It sets it apart from other films of this type, but still has no reason to be in the movie. Why is she there? What is her purpose? Why wasn't she put to better use? I mean... if I has a robot that could move and was humanesque... well, I would have sent her into the shuttle the crew finds, instead of risking the lives of the crew. Okay, I'm going to stop. I could keep harping on this for a long time.

So, anyway, the ship finds another ship, this one a lost space shuttle, drifting towards them and then eventually docking with them. Nobody is alive on board though. The shuttle does give them both air and some hope, but that doesn't last long. The shuttle has a ton of water damage for seemingly no reason and eventually they find a body in a standard sci-f horror way. The doctor, Dreyfus Steiner (played by Alan Blumenfeld), discovers that the body has a perfect triangle cut into its stomach... and that's when the plot gets a little ridiculous. It all has to do with the Bermuda Triangle and a corresponding triangle on the dark side of the moon, and all that space in between somehow. It's a really silly plot, really SyFy movie schlock, but it actually works kind of well as long as you don't think too hard about the whole thing and how it would work because the moon... you know... orbits the entire Earth and the Earth rotates itself. Also, since the FAR SIDE OF THE MOON is not always dark, there really isn't a DARK SIDE OF THE MOON. It would be like calling the where it is night on Earth "The Dark Side of the Earth." It's silly. (Yes, I know that the term references a radio blackout to and from Earth from that far side of the moon, but most people think of it as an actually dark place which is totally false.)

Yeah, the sci-fi of the movie is weird. Thinking about the movie too long in most aspects of it will make your head ache. It has a Biblical plot tied in with the Bermuda Triangle too... because why not. And let me tell you that the religious aspect is dealt with in the most awkward way possible, showing some of the crew having religious affiliations just fro the express purpose of showing parts of the crew having certain religious affiliations. It's not well handled, with the captain crossing himself at one point despite never mentioning religion the rest of the time, the doctor being Jewish suddenly and inexplicably before having it forgotten before and afterwards, and the body of Gotier having a cross around its neck. And the Devil is some kind of parasite that leeches onto a certain body and gets transmitted through the triangle in the possessed people's stomachs.

The effects for the devil are ridiculous. He's not scary, quoting Biblical passages at me and being so over-the-top evil. It's kind of silly rather than terrifying. There is a scene in this movie as well that's also kind of baffling as the Devil goes to take over his first living victim. There is a weird nude scene... but I already found the objectification of women off here with Lesli. With Alex showing her breasts its all kinds of why? What I mean is that in some of these movies the girls get naked for some reason... a reason that I guess only the filmmakers know. I don't mind it. I mean, seriously, who minds a little nudity from time-to-time? But in my opinion the nudity felt incredibly awkward and out of place in a movie that was kind of sterile and felt like a good made-for-TV movie. I mean even the gore effects are pretty tame... and yet... nudity?  I guess it goes together with the B-movie status of most of these films, but I find it kind of strange. I haven't seen too many other movies this summer (besides Possession) to have a girl show off her assets. And it's weird that it would be this movie to be the first in a while to have a girl get naked in front of the camera.

Anywho, the pacing of the movie is pretty good. I found myself interested in the movie the entire time. I was never bored, never wished for it to be over. The ending was good, although I think some people would be unhappy with it. I honestly feel that it should have ended with the Devil succeeding... but that's okay. It worked well the way they did it.

I honestly enjoyed this movie quite a bit despite certain failures of the plot and sense. I enjoyed the characters, enjoyed the situation, and found the movie acceptable in most ways. It is highly reminiscent (even though it came out before these movie) of Event Horizon and Sunshine, but much, much worse than either of those films. I still haven't reviewed Sunshine, have I? That's a movie I have to get around to watching again. Hell, I've been wanting to watch Event Horizon again too. I love that movie so much.

Well, anyway, I guess I'm moving into doing some space horror movie reviews. I was on an Asian horror binge for a while, and I do have more to watch and more will be incoming, but I need a break from those movies at times. The ones I've seen are all very similar to one another and most... although being creepy at times... are rather dry and boring at others. I recently took some time and saw Whispering Corridors and Apartment 1303, a Korean and a Japanese movie respectively, but haven't written reviews of either of them yet. They'll be coming, I just don't know when. I also saw Roger Corman's Galaxy of Terror, and I can't wait to put out a review of that.

Uh... oh no... I'm getting away from The Dark Side of the Moon! It's a decent movie, but one I would not recommend unless these types of movies are your thing. There are many better space horror movies, and this one is more average and kind of dumb when compared to others. I enjoyed it though although as you can tell I had way too many unanswered questions that I was baffled by in the end. That took away from my ultimate enjoyment of the movie.

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