Home > Movies, Reviews > In Space. Screaming. Yadda.

In Space. Screaming. Yadda.

pandorum01Horror movies set in space are always a bit hit-or-miss: for every Alien, there’s a Jason X, and a hell of a lot more in between. Pandorum, a US/German co-production from director Christian Alvart, might have a trailer that tries to sell it down the Alien-route, but having watched the film, you might be left wondering if you have to re-evaluate your opinions on what makes a bad horror-in-space film.


On board the space-ship Elysium, Corporal Bower (Ben Foster) awakens from suspended animation: disoriented, he remembers little other than the role he was trained to fulfil as a member of the flight crew, taking over from another team who will then enter “hypersleep” themselves, who are strangely absent. When Bower is joined by the similarly awoken Lt. Payton (Dennis Quaid) the two struggle to find a way out of the anteroom in which they’re trapped. As both deal with the after-effects of their extended sleep, both physical and psychological, Bower makes his way out of the room and into the ship proper, where he finds what appears to be an abandoned ship is instead haunted by flesh-eating monsters, intent on stopping him from reaching his goal in the reactor.

There are really three different movies on offer in Pandorum: each on its own has the potential to be quite interesting: maybe not a wonderful film, but there’s the potential here for a psychological thriller, an all-out science-fiction film as humanity messes with forces it can’t comprehend and a balls-out creature-feature with some scary monsters. But the film flits between one and the other with no real reason to do so, wasting characters and actors in the quest to cram as much into its running time as possible (and, at shorter than two hours, the film feels a lot longer, in the worst possible way.)

Pandorum Denis Quaid

For every thriller, there’s a twist, and there’s certainly a twist in this film that’s advertised so long beforehand you have time to adjust your speed accordingly. It’s not a terrible twist, but anyone who’s seen a similar film before will be able to spot the twist long before the film stops trying to act like there’s nothing to see. What science fiction elements there are to the plot are really only there as an ineffective plot device, mentioned at various points to remind us that the film is set in space. And then let’s take a look at the monsters, or rather, we’re going to call them Orcs, since they look and act just like they’ve been recycled from the Lord Of The Rings films.

What little we see of the “Orcs” is impressive enough to scare, but seeing little is the order of the day when it comes to Pandorum, and the film is successful in creating a sense of close, claustrophobic unease, contributing to the psychological side of things, but really doesn’t allow the audience a good chance to get a feel for either the villains of the piece, or the Elysium as a ship. It also depends too much on the performers to show us that they’re scared, rather than providing anything to really be scared of.


Foster may not have top billing, but he’s really the star of the film, certainly carrying the bulk of the story as he explores the ship relaying back to Dennis Quaid. In such a role, Foster isn’t given much to work with, and operates at extremes of tense to calm, often acting one when he has no right to be and should be the total opposite. Quaid brings a more mature sense to his own role as Lt. Payton, but most of that involves providing a foil to Foster’s tension/calm or acting at thin air, although the relatively bland over-acting of Cam Gigandet arrives later to give Quaid something else to act at. German actress Antje Traue has the action-chick performance down without acting, but the character she plays has little point but to progress the story, be an action chick and dredge up some compulsory sexual tension with Foster.

Coming from the producers of the Resident Evil movie franchise, the film never has that much potential to begin with, so when it doesn’t live up to it, it’s a much graver crime. It might be one of those movies worth picking up on DVD when it’s out, but only if you’ve got someone nearby to cry to about how bad it was afterwards.

Zombie Rating: D

Pandorum is out in cinemas now.

  1. October 11, 2009 at 11:56 PM

    Looks like a poor mans Event Horizon!

  2. Paul
    October 8, 2009 at 12:22 PM

    Yep a poor film that has a decent premise of two and doesn’t know what to do with them.

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