Sometimes, I just do not understand then human race. Take, for example, the current enigma running through my head. Why, in the future, are we so fascinated with building derelict space crafts? You know, massive ships with long, dark hallways, water dripping from the ceiling, and power that's as reliable a wind up clock? I mean, nothing good ever happens on these types ships, so why will we ever build them? Take Pandorum. If it's version of reality is anything to go on, then such a spacecraft will be the home to vicious, cannibalistic, mutants, paranoid and delusional humans, and lots and lots of death! Do we really want to become that society? I didn't think so!
Pandorum starts off on a very unsettling note. Two men wake up from cryo-sleep on a massive ship, with no recollection of their mission, and no idea why they woke up. One of them, Bower, ventures out of their secure room into the rest of the ship, while the other, Payton, stays behind to relay info from a computer console. It immediately becomes apparent that something went very wrong with the mission. For one, Bower is constantly stalked by dozens of crazed, homicidal, monsters, who may or may not be of human descent. He also runs into a group of people who have been awake for far longer then he has, and who have spent the time fighting off the mutants. But, as is explained in a very clever way, the biggest enemy to Bower and Payton may, in fact, be themselves, as they soon start to experience symptoms of a brain disorder called Pandorum, which leads the victim to become paranoid, start to hallucinate, and eventually become homicidal. All throughout the movie, you are constantly asking yourself, "Are the things that are attacking Bower real, or is he just slowly losing his sanity." Wait until a third character named Gallo shows up in the third act and the movie really starts to fuck with your head! In terms of storytelling, Pandorum has it in spades, especially when compared to other movies in this genre.
Ben Foster plays the confused and frightened Bower, and Dennis Quaid plays his guide, Payton. Both these guys do fine jobs. As an actor, Foster hasn't really found a, big, star making performance. He popped onto the scene with 2006's Alpha Dog, and started to really get noticed with his sociopathic and deranged gunslinger in 2007's 3:10 to Yuma. But, he still hasn't appeared in more mainstream stuff. Pandorum probably won't be the movie that starts getting him revered by the general public, but he still does an admirable job. The script he has to work with isn't the best, but he throws himself into it, and reveals a much deeper character then I think the writers had even thought possible. Quaid doesn't really have much to do, but the sequences of him coping with Cam Gigandet's Gallo are more intense and scary then any of the sequences with the mutants. Speaking of Gigandet, he is really good here. He's not in the movie for very long, but when he is, the screen crackles with a paranoid energy so fierce, you feel the skin on your back start to crawl. The last main performance falls to Antje Traue as a botanist turned warrior, who is easily the person most capable of handling the mutant problem. Performances here aren't great, but they are leagues better then others in the genre.
Director Christian Alvart must love movies like Alien, and Event Horizon. The infulences of these two is certainly prevalent in Pandorum. Though it may look like a standard horror movie, which the predictable scares and such, Pandorum is so much more. First off, the movie is legitimately scary. Not only are the standard, jump out of your seat, scares there and used to good effect, but the amount of psychological terror in this movie really starts to get to you. There's a twist, which I won't spoil, that, while a little easy to predict, is extremely unsettling and disturbing, and really ratchets up the horror for the rest of the movie. Pandorum is suspenseful, startling, and terrifying in ways that other horror movies these days can only hope to be.
There are a few problems. First off, there's the mutants. They look cool, can run up walls, and are great with a blade. But, when you mix in the expertly crafted psychological horror segments, the multiple chase and mutilation sequences seem a little out of place. Also, Pandorum is yet another movie to suffer from coked up camera men. During the action sequences, the camera jumps around so damn much, it's almost impossible to see anything. It's worse then Quantum of Solace, I shit you not! You actually never get to see a detailed image of the monsters until the end, because the damn camera is moving around so fast. But, it stays rock steady in the segments leading up to action, which, in accompaniment with an effective score, really ratchets up the suspense.
Pandorum is a pleasant surprise. Usually, movies of this sort are nothing more then B-movie, escapist, crap, but Pandorum is significantly better then these. Bolstered by strong performances, slick direction, and a real sense of terror, Pandorum is everything a horror fan wants. Be warned: I'm not kidding around here. This is probably the scariest movie I've seen in a good while. Be prepared to leave the theatre a little shaken. B