Tuesday, November 1, 2011
2011 October Horror Movie Challenge Movie 79: Pandorum
I've heard so many mixed things about this movie that I didn't know what to expect. I heard everything from "It's great!" to "It's the worst movie of the year!" and everything in between, so I was unsure about checking it out. One comparison stuck with me, though. someone compared it to another horror/sci-fi movie set on a spaceship, a movie called "Event Horizon," and while I love and adore that movie, a lot of other people hate it, so trusting that the case might be the same with this movie, I decided to buy it and check it out in spite of my reservations. And I'm glad I did.
You know those movies where a group of people wake up to find themselves in a place and they aren't sure how they got there or what's going on and they're fuzzy about the details of their lives leading up to whatever brought them together? The "Saw" movies trade on this scenario a lot, and it's a good one because it's disorienting and confusing and puts the audience at the same disadvantage as the characters in the movie: they don't know what's going on, and they have to find out along with the characters. "Pandorum" uses this setup. A man wakes up in a hypersleep chamber on a spaceship, gets out and is confused about what's going on and what brought him to be where he is. Soon another guy wakes from hypersleep too, and they try to figure out what's going on together.
Crawling through the air vent system in a spaceship is a claustrophobic experience, it would seem, and this movie uses that to great effect. The guys encounter lots of strange things along the way, and they split up and communicate with walkie-talkie like things, and that adds to the tension because each of them are discovering things separately and neither they nor the audience is sure exactly what's going on. Memories return in fits and starts, and soon the men find they aren't alone on the huge, cavernous ship. there are creatures that appear humanoid but are violent and dangerous, and there are other humans aboard, each providing a different piece of the puzzle. Once everything is revealed, it's a fight for survival against horrors both real and imagined (or are they?)
As you can probably tell, this is a very disorienting movie. I actually had to check out the movie's wikipedia page after I was done watching it to make sure I had everything straight, but I don't consider that a bad thing, necessarily. It's a complex plot with a lot of heady imagery and some philosophical ideas mixed in with action and horror, and I loved it, honestly, but I can see why a lot of people didn't. People claim this movie is derivative, and to some extent it is. There's some bits of "Event Horizon" and "Alien" and "Pitch Black" and the "Saw" movies and probably a ton of other movies thrown in here, but it's never so obvious that I thought the movie was actively stealing something from other movies. Rather, I just saw it as showing things that are universally scary and confusing and interesting, and since these experiences are common to a lot of people, they're going to crop up in a lot of movies and books. that doesn't means anyone is stealing from anyone else, it just means that we humans have a common language, and while we have a ton of differences, we also have a lot of experiences and feelings in common, so often we find ourselves telling the same story in a lot of different ways in order to better understand our world.
That sounds like a lot of claptrap, I'm sure. It kind of sounds that way to me, and I'm the one writing it. But I'm serious when I say that this movie has a lot of elements in common with a lot of other movies, but it doesn't "STEAL" anything, it just uses some of the same things to tell its own story, and I don't see that as a bad thing. I like the disorientation of the movie, the thrill of trying to put the puzzle pieces together as they are revealed to us and to the characters, and I like the idea of "pandorum," which is a term for a condition that can affect people in hypersleep, causing them to get shaky and confused and eventually to have delusions and become dangerous and violent. An early scene showing one instance of what happened on a ship where one of the crew suffered from pandorum is very creepy. That image is still stuck in my mind right now as I'm typing this. It gives me the heebie-jeebies and enhances the scariness of my experience. And while I kind of guessed the final "twist" early on because yes, it has been used to some extent in other movies, that's not a bad thing and there are enough other twists along the way to keep me occupied. the bottom line is that not everyone will like this movie, but I think you should give it a fair shake and see it before you decide you think it's a derivative piece of crap. I for one loved it (of course; I don't do anything the way anyone else does).