Thursday, December 9, 2010

Ryan Watches A Motion Picture #87: Dead Space (1991)

Think about your hungry children, Bryan.

Another Roger Corman Alien rip-off with people and monster trapped in an inescapable lab!

Beastmaster dude Marc Singer plays a han solo-ish space marine, and he's alright. His mildly sarcastic robot sidekick is pretty cool. That's about all of interest in this movie.

The lead actress is absolutely terrible, and every line she delivers falls completely to the floor and shatters into pieces of "Why the fuck am I watching this?" I'd guess that she got the lead role because she was the only one to agree to get topless during the space-sex scene. Any of the relatively much more talented actresses in the cast would have been a better choice, and would have made Dead Space an easier pill to swallow. Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston makes a solid appearance as one of the main scientists at the facility though, and while nearly as boring as the other characters, it's clear from the get go that as an actor he's doing his absolute best with the gig.

The fight scenes are hilariously bad. I know I usually use words like "hilarious" in my reviews of terrible films, but this time I really really mean it. I actually laughed out loud during a few sequences, and had to pause the movie so my brain could do a reality check and confirm that I was actually seeing what I was seeing. Dead Space probably has the worst fight sequences I have ever seen, and I've seen my fair share of shitty violence. Characters just run around, back and forth, aimlessly diving and rolling. From one side of the room and then back again. To clutch at someone they don't think can hold their own and then topple over in fear. And normally, when you have a monster in a movie, you don't just have your characters start shouting and shooting and then show the monster lurking by the fog machine, you give a hint that the creature is there by the fog machine, all misty and atmospheric-like, and then you can have the heroes react. But this movie is riddled with instances where the characters are reacting to a monster we haven't been shown yet - not because we don't know what it looks like, we do already. But solely as an editing choice. The monster shots come last, come separately, and in some cases, have been shot in totally different locations and then edited together. It's pretty clear that most of the special effects shots were done late in the game, and that's normally a relatively fine stratagem if the editing supports it. The movie seems not to care overly much though.

The carelessness of the movie manifests in other numerous, joyously funny ways. Characters will sometimes enter a fight scene as though they were already battling for hours and are ready to pass out, just to match the forced intensity of the movie's scuffles. A particularly lame and cowardly character enters a room with an enormous alien creature he's terrified of and actually takes noticeable time to just walk up to it (in perfectly sound mind) just to get close enough so he could get killed for us. All the while he's being shouted at: "What are you doing? Where are you going?? What are you doing!?" At points it almost seems like a character takes on the consciousness of the movie and expresses its confusion over why it's doing what it's doing. The aforementioned lame character filled that role earlier by asking questions like "Why is he going up there??" and "What is he doing? He's stupid." Those were valid meta-questions, though within the film he was just being a dick.

The space marine walks into a room and somehow doesn't see the same huge alien creature that couldn't have possibly been hiding anywhere. He doesn't notice it until a claw peeks into the frame and attacks. The best response of course is to push the person he's trying to protect, his new girlfriend, onto the floor in front of the creature. He then backs up and starts shooting bullets that have never once injured the creature during the course of the film. If a bear ever came at my girlfriend and I during a secluded camping trip, I know I'd toss her down in front of the bear and start hurling small stones. I guess there's not too much threat with the monster though, it kind of just stands around and waves it's arms.

Of final note, this movie has an awful synthesized orchestral soundtrack that sounds like the jaunty background music to some old medieval strategy game.

So: I barely got through it, but I'm eternally grateful that this movie exists.

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