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Christopher Webster [Celluloid 10.10.09] post apocalyptic scifi horror



Year: 2009
Directors: Christian Alvart
Writers: Travis Milloy
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: agentorange
Rating: 8 out of 10


[Editor's note: We usually don't post reviews this long after a film's domestic release but since Pandorum is being criminally underrated by mainstream critics and is getting a staggered release across the rest of the world, we're making an exception]


Pandorum is a lean, mean terror machine of a movie that goes right for the jugular and never lets up for a single minute. It's a tense, claustrophobic nightmare vision wrapped in a scifi disguise that's sometimes illogical but always thrilling. More importantly though, it's the perfect escape from this never-ending cycle of teen slashers, 80s retreads and zombie / vampire overload (yes, I chose to see this over Zombieland).


If Pandorum was called "AVP: Pandorum," or "Resident Evil: Pandorum," critics would be falling all over themselves to praise Alvart for his economy of style and storytelling, declaring the film an instant win and return to form for those franchises. But since there isn't an established brand attached to the it, most critics seem to be at a loss, quick to damn it for its obvious resemblances to films like Alien, Event Horizon or Resident Evil. The same thing happened to Neil Marshall's Doomsday, another great action / horror film whose only apparent flaw was wearing its influences too obviously on its sleeve. Tarantino does it all the time and we love him for it. Go figure. Yes the resemblances are there, but Pandorum is no rip-off.



It's fascinating to look at the opinion difference between critics and audiences on RT and IMDB. Casual viewers are clearly impressed with the experience while critics only appear to really want the same old movie monsters, abiding by the same old tired rules, especially if it all ends up a parody of itself. Christian Alvart has taken a chance with the monsters of Pandorum and, while not entirely new, they at least feel fresh and are truly terrifying.


So what are they? Well they don't have a name and they're thankfully not a mindless hoard of brain-dead zombies. I remember The Foywonder from DC poked fun at them by calling them a "crossbreed [of] the monsters from The Descent [and] the Orcs from Lord of the Rings." To me that's quite possibly the most terrifying combination of creatures imaginable and the intensity these things bring to the screen is palpable. They will stress you out man. And unlike most films - where you're just kind of waiting around for the next encounter - once they make an appearance, you actually sort of hope they never show up again. They're feral, but smart enough to hunt with traps and make weapons, but not so evolved that they won't tear into their victims with teeth and nail. If you pay attention, the film fully explains what they are and where they came from. I mention this because some critics seem to have missed it.



Probably the smartest thing though is writer Travis Milloy's decision to use the amnesia plot device. The script is no complex work by any means, which is why this device is so crucial to making Pandorum work as well as it does. The most successful stories take you on a journey of discovery alongside a main character who finds himself a stranger in a strange land. Dark City, The Matrix, Eden Log, even Cloverfield all used this tactic to build mystery from the perspective of an outsider. In Pandorum this device is used to full effect as you follow Ben Foster through the massive ship as he fights for survival and tries to figure out what's happened to the human race. Not knowing what's going on or what to expect creates a claustrophobic and often disorienting viewing experience that actually reminded me a lot of Silent Hill at times.

Pandorum is a horror film first and a scifi film second, which might account for scifi buffs being somewhat perplexed at the film's lack of deep metaphorical subtext or focus on scientific logic. Personally I don't care if there can be dust in spaceships or if they would make noise in a vacuum as long as I'm compelled by what the characters are doing on the screen. But, as this is a science fiction film too, I should mention that the special FX and production design are simply off the charts. I haven't seen such a fully realized spaceship environment since Sunshine (granted it's a very different one) and thankfully any CGI is beautifully integrated.

Not only does 'The Elysium' feel completely real from a design standpoint, it looks real too. It's leaky, oily, dirty and full of failing equipment. The perfect environment for some kick-ass space terror. It's also one of those environments that seems to play by its own rules, like the buried pyramid in AVP, so you never know what might be around the corner.



Okay so this review may have turned into something of a rant but the bottom line is that Pandorum completely delivers on what it promises and if you're looking for a film to see this Halloween see this one. Don't see some over-hyped film like Paranormal Activity that doesn't really even deliver (review).




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Live for Films (8 years ago) Reply

Totally agree with you. Very underrated film and the creatures are very scary.

Whenever you see the blue light the tension goes off the charts.

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Skinstripper (8 years ago) Reply

I concur. It's an EXCELLENT film with much subtext. Highly recommended!

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loci (8 years ago) Reply

"Editor's note: We usually don't post reviews this long after a film's domestic release but since" we have just downloaded it, we thought we would ;)

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Endy (8 years ago) Reply

I was one of those to review the film, over at Scificool.com and although I agree that the film was great, I disagree that I missed the origins of the creatures. It was suggested by someone that it was a evolution accelerating drug but it was a just a guess, she didn't know. I'm hoping the answer is tied to the ending, which I won't reveal. In what other way could primitive and tribal creatures get aboard the ship??

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blackdragon6 (8 years ago) Reply

i liked pandorum but thought the story could have been told in a shorter amount of time.

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agentorange (8 years ago) Reply

@loci

Nope sorry, caught a matinée earlier this week.

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JackCrow (8 years ago) Reply

plot = stupid,
acting = below average,
script = stupid,
movie = boring,
overall waste of time.
Imagining thing and comparing it to snything is futile, as it is neither exciting, nor thrilling.

I would be glad if I did not have seen it.

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iaga (8 years ago) Reply

Exelent, exelent, exelent! I'm no horror fan or expert, for that matter, but I had a great time watching it. I jumped in my seat, I bit my nails and I couldn't tear myself away from the screen, even though at times I felt terrified to my bones. I don't like slash-movies, so this was just fine for me. I sincerely recomend. It has a quality.

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Hal (8 years ago) Reply

Thanks for review. This is the next movie I will see

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Ivan (8 years ago) Reply

I saw the movie yesterday and think that it is enjoyable. Looks a bit like video game adaptation, and it is filled with cliches, but it is well filmed, intense and made with desire. It really embraced me in its dark world... after the movie I had problems adapting to the harsh reality of the shopping mall in which I watched it.

However, I didn't find it scary.

I hope that Cargo will be even better.

7/10

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Anonymous (8 years ago) Reply

Saw it last night... enjoyed watching it although the story was a bit messy mid-way on and all the characters (except for maybe Ben Foster's) were underdeveloped. Also the last minute thing they did with Dennis Quaid's character was unnecessary. All in all though if you like sci-fi ship horror films I'd say you'll like this. Best for people who liked Event Horizon, Deadspace: Downfall, Alien, John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars, and Silent Hill.

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ASpaceOdissey (7 years ago) Reply

sorry guys but I really don't agree. I didn't like the movie even though the beginning was promising. the story develops in an awful way...

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Tom Happ (7 years ago) Reply

Just rented this and really liked it. Better than Surrogates, which I rented at the same time. This is the kind of movie critics hate and use bad puns to describe, but is actually quite good. I'd love to see a prequel or sequel.

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L3zvz (7 years ago) Reply

plot = Neat, to say the least. Its memorable, but not godly.

acting = To par if not better. Foster and Quaid did an amazing job, and were pretty much the saviors of this move plus the hot german chick and crazy black guy. I hated that prick who played young Gallo though. It sucked they killed off Sheperd. He seemed promising.

script = Unrealistic and stoopid... Yeah I'm kidding you.

movie = Scariest I've seen in 3 or 4 years.

Imagining things and comparing them to anything is quite simple, as they used some pretty good explanations as well, it is both exciting and thrilling, and there is a very, very hot chick in it, who wears leather clothes. And Ben Foster eats a live grasshopper.

I would be not be tormented with the pondering of whether or not they will make a sequel if I had not seen it... I really want a sequel...

Those who didn't like it deserve the punishment of a pair of rapist hillbillies that are turned on by people squealing like pigs.

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Marc-Anthony (6 years ago) Reply

Loved the film and was surprised that it got panned. -_-

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Hayes hudson (6 years ago) Reply

I haven't bothered to watch this yet, based on the mixed reviews it got. You guys never steer me wrong though, so I will definitely check this out soon!!


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