A sci-fi shocker high on SFX, low on survivors and set on a planet where the self-serving and rather motley crew of an interplanetary cruiser are forced to pitch down after some unforeseen space ructions. It turns out that they are not alone on the planet. In fact this alien world is populated by some very unpleasant flying creatures who only come out in the dark. And – guess what – there’s a ginormous eclipse of the planet’s three suns on the way. Luckily, one of the spaceship’s number is gifted with uncanny nightsight. Unluckily, he is a vicious murderer locked in the ship’s brig. So there’s an awful lot of sucking of teeth and manoeuvring to be done before the killer’s heroics and redemption can begin. Co-writer/director David Twohy is something of a Hollywood workhorse, having written the butch GI Jane, the tense The Fugitive and a little thing called Waterworld, which at least had ambition, I think we can all agree. A director of low-key sci-fi on his days off – Timescape and the overlooked The Arrival are on the imdb and I’ve not seen either so no comment – but his big advantage in Pitch Black is that he has the industrially monikered Vin Diesel as reluctant (anti)hero, a man who can do muscle and soul at one and the same time. Let’s not pretend that this film is an original piece of work. It’s not, it’s a genre piece to its DNA. But Twohy’s excellent direction of mood, his command of the ensemble – Radha Mitchell, Cole Hauser and Keith David being exactly the sort of actor you’d expect (talented but not too pricey) – and his ability to herd special effects technicians and point them all in the same direction has produced just the sort of midweek horror to whoop and slurp along to.
© Steve Morrissey 2001