DIR: Christian Alvart • WRI: Travis Milloy • PRO: Paul W.S. Anderson, Jeremy Bolt, Robert Kulzer, Martin Moszkowicz • DOP: Wedigo von Schultzendorff • ED: Philipp Stahl, Yvonne Valdez • DES: Richard Bridgland • CAST: Dennis Quaid, Ben Foster, Cam Gigandet, Antje Traue

Pandorum is a pleasantly unexpected surprise. Horror films may not typically inspire confidence; however, if you are willing to give Pandorum the benefit of the doubt, this exciting film should give your heart a workout.

Director Christian Alvart has chosen the science fiction genre as a base for his tale, which is a bold move considering how quickly sci-fi can descend into ill-considered tripe if not handled thoughtfully. Refreshingly, Pandorum has been meticulously designed and planned. Everything from the sets, costumes, props and models are entirely convincing and well realised, which immediately supports the films authenticity as a sci-fi and is more accessible to the viewer.

Ben Foster and Dennis Quaid, initially being the only two characters, carry the first act with conviction. Predominantly, Ben Foster’s claustrophobic panic-stricken vulnerability affects the viewer. This becomes acutely engaging as this vulnerability ebbs and the character develops. Additionally, credible supporting roles layer the intrigue on thick, notably Cam Gigandet providing a foil for Quaid.

Although constantly at risk, Pandorum’s protagonists are by no means the typical slasher film victims. On the contrary, they are likeably tenacious and their growing ingenuity and confidence help them to develop into rounded, human characters.

The narrative itself is intriguing, which can typically be remiss in the horror franchise. The back-story is revealed organically, via revelations and memories, rather than in typical linear fashion: the result of which is a keenly interested audience throughout, mirroring the characters’ own growing comprehension. This empathy compounds the relationship between character and viewer.

As mentioned, the sci-fi glamour compliments the ambience. The lack of high brow techno-babble is a mercy and the gadgetry induces wide-eyed awe as well as the occasional appreciative giggle, i.e. the lightsaber-esque razor Foster’s character uses to shave with.

This said, the most impressive characteristic of Pandorum is its decision to fuse various tones and practices, uncharacteristic of the horror genre. This is a sci fi horror, but it’s also more. Expect veiled threats, masses of creatures, chase scenes, special effects, riot guns, the occasional twist, plenty of gore… And fights. That’s right: Fight Scenes. In a horror film. And not just one, there are a number of quick but impressively brutal and technically sound fight scenes littered throughout Pandorum. Action junkies should be overjoyed.

This may present the film as a woeful amalgamation of cinematic methods that shouldn’t quite gel. But that’s what is so remarkable, and surprising, about Pandorum, it presents an excellent synergy of these techniques without descending into madness (unless intentionally.) In fact this synergy further promotes the viewer’s affinity to the characters, and the pace changes to constantly keep the blood pumping. Pandorum is no horror by numbers.

Unfortunately, it is very possible that Pandorum will get lost amongst larger releases, or sceptically attacked, due to bias against horror films. But this film demands recognition: At best, it is a bold synergy of great ideas that sync remarkably, and transcend its genre. At worst, Pandorum is an imaginative venture and deserves the benefit of the doubt and an open mind.

Jack McGlynn
(See biog here)

Rated 16 (see IFCO website for details)
is released on 2nd Oct 2009
Pandorum – Official Website

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