HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day Fourteen – 10/14/18

10/14 – 2000: PITCH BLACK

When RIDLEY SCOTT’S ALIEN threw down the gauntlet for other filmmakers who braved exploring the sci-fi genre, and all the sub-genres therein, there were a lot of misfires that fans got out of the deal; a lot of copycat wannabes, and ideas that were tremendous on paper, but they just didn’t pan out.  Luckily for us, PITCH BLACK happens to be one of the ones that did.

Carolyn Fry (RADHA MITCHELL – SILENT HILL, THE DARKNESS) is a pilot on a routine trip, hauling cargo and passengers, including a group who are off to start a settlement on another planet.  When a freak meteor storm cripples the ship and makes it necessary to ‘lighten the load’, she has two choices: eject the cargo or the passengers. But before she can make the most damning call of the two, the ship crash-lands on an unfamiliar planet that happened to be nearby.

Two problems quickly become apparent: the first is that two of her passengers happened to be a bounty hunter named Johns (COLE HAUSER, OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN), and his ‘cargo’…a legendary dangerous convicted criminal named Richard B. Riddick (VIN DIESEL, THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS). And now Riddick has disappeared, and is out there…watching, waiting to make his move.

The second problem? They quickly find out that they’re not alone, the hard way. Vicious, carnivorous alien creatures live on this planet, just underground…and because the light is death to them, they only come out at night to hunt and to feed, when it gets dark.

The planet, once site of its own settlement is now desolate, with not a soul to be found. And Carolyn and the survivors of the crash soon find out why.  Every number of years or so on the planet, a total eclipse occurs, leaving everything in complete, utter darkness. And lucky them…they just got stranded not long before the next eclipse is set to happen. They may have been travelers before…but now, they’re about to become snacks.

Working from a screenplay crafted by director DAVID TWOHY, with JIM AND KEN WHEAT (THE SILENT SCREAM, LIES), PITCH BLACK is a clever, nerve-wracking thrill ride with a damn good scenario, that almost bests what are considered to be the top sci-fi horror classics – even ALIEN itself.

Plus it has a fantastic supporting cast that includes KEITH DAVID (THEY LIVE, John Carpenter’s THE THING), CLAUDIA BLACK (FARSCAPE) and LEWIS FITZ-GERALD (BREAKER MORANT, THE WOLVERINE).

Twohy has a knack for working with modestly-budgeted, well-scripted sub-genre films, as he proved all too well before with WARLOCK, (starring JULIAN SANDS in the title role,) and the underrated, underwater ghost chiller BELOW. He keeps the pace brisk, the suspense taut and follows the Golden Rule of never showing the audience too much of the creatures, designed by master effects artist PATRICK TATOPOULOS (STARGATE, DARK CITY).

Though some characters here are better developed than others, everyone gives memorable performances, particularly Mitchell, Hauser and David.  But it’s Diesel’s Riddick that you walk away from the film remembering most. A murderous convict who barely considers himself to be human, PITCH BLACK becomes as much about him trying to locate some shreds of humanity left in his blasted soul, and actually doing it, under the direst circumstances that anyone could possibly imagine.

So unforgettable was his portrayal, that Universal attempted to cash in with a sequel, THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK, which is still being debated today as to whether or not it was a worthy follow-up. (It has DAME JUDI DENCH in it, so call me biased.)

In any case, it’s yet another great choice for your upcoming ‘Halloween Horrorthon’. In fact, if you really want to get a good group debate going, double it up with ALIEN and see which one comes out the victor!


Posted by Samuel Glass

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