Dead Space (1991) — Bryan Cranston’s greatest legacy

“That’s what I call SCIENCE.”

Justin’s rating: This movie is 45% backlit fog

Justin’s review: Perhaps the deadliest fallout of the original Alien wasn’t so much the xenomorph as the endless parades of copycat clones that clogged up discount DVD bins. With a formula that involved three things — a spaceship, a monster, and air ducts — countless studios figured that they could hack out their own success. Some were weird (Galaxy of Terror), some halfway decent (Split Second), but most a quick trip to oblivion.

Dead Space didn’t have much of a chance to achieve anything other than pity rental status due to its extremely low budget, Roger Corman’s backing, a short shooting schedule, a 68-minute runtime, and a director who reportedly didn’t even see the script until the first day of filming. The result is a sloppy mess that only has the briefest moments of entertainment. You have to sift and sift hard to find reasons not to keep your attention drifting to something more compelling.

Scientists at a remote research outpost put out a distress call to Steve Krieger (Marc Singer) and his trusty robot sidekick Tinpan (Rodger Halston), who I guess hang out in deep space until someone needs a side of beef to come solve their problems. When Krieger shows up, he discovers that a project to make a virus that destroys an even greater virus resulted in a rather testy monster. Said monster bursts out of the chest of a poor extra, moves into the air ducts, and invites everyone to a friendly game of hide-and-seek.

Nobody at this research station is that watchable, and the only reaction to such horrible acting is to pull hard for the monster to kill them all by the end of Act 2 and leave us in relative peace for the remaining 20 minutes. This is a blight on the career sheet of any present, which is why Bryan Cranston (who plays a doctor infected by the less-deadly-but-still-deadly virus) probably wishes he could use all of his star power and wealth to bury this movie from the public eye.

Dead Space had no business trying to ape Alien without a proper budget to back it up. They only rarely can show the alien, electing far more often to show the main characters reacting and shooting and screaming to something off-camera. If they do show the monster, the actors have to hold it against themselves and wiggle it around for a semblance of life. And since the monster has no consistent behavior or is ever seen clearly, it doesn’t become the draw that it should be in such a film.

Pacing is terrible, and I couldn’t stop laughing at how there’s a point in the movie where everyone says, “Eh, the monster isn’t going anywhere, let’s all take naps and canoodle for a bit.” If a movie has to toss in a nap time due to a lack of plot and action, then perhaps… just perhaps… it wasn’t worth making in the first place.

Didja notice?

  • Yeah just leave that experiment chamber open and exposed while you’re scared of it
  • Put a shirt on! Nobody’s making a space calendar here.
  • Sure, kill a virus with an even DEADLIER virus. Makes sense. Even if it creates a monster.
  • Oh the brain is gone… so WHY ARE THEY DOING SURGERY?
  • It’s a puppet, ladies and gents!
  • Science lab that’s growing a deadly virus? All of its vents have to be closed manually, one at a time.
  • It’s nap time!
  • Slowest… love… scene… ever.
  • All girls in this movie wear a full-body spandex suit to bed
  • Tinpan NOOOOOOO!
  • “Don’t touch her! OK let’s all help her onto this table!”

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