Saturday, August 24, 2019

THE DARK SIDE OF THE MOON (1990) Blu-ray review

The Dark Side of the Moon (1990) d. D. J. Webster (USA) (87 min)

While on a routine mission to repair a multitude of nuclear-armed satellites orbiting Earth in 2022, the crew of the Spacecore 1 are stymied by a mysterious malfunction that sends them drifting helplessly behind the moon and out of communication with ground control. Even more alarming, the ghost ship of the NASA space shuttle Discovery shows up on their scanners, despite having disappeared into The Bermuda Triangle nearly 30 years prior. Running low on supplies and oxygen, they decide to board the vessel where they encounter an array of literally unearthly horrors that could spell the end of Mankind.

Later to become famous for scripting the first film in the ever-expanding “The Conjuring universe,” (pardon me while I gack), The Dark Side of the Moon represents screenwriters Chad Hayes and Carey Hayes’ first produced feature script and while it’s clearly derivative of superior sci-fi efforts (Alien, 2001: A Space Odyssey), there’s an undeniable enthusiasm on display attempting to combine Big Brain Ideas (the end-point coordinates of the Bermuda Triangle all have 6s in them, i.e. “666”!) with the baser pleasures of demonic possession and good ol’ 80s latex gore effects.

Producer/director Webster had made a minor name for himself as a director of 1980s music videos (Til Tuesday’s “Voices Carry” and The Fabulous Thunderbirds’ “Wrap It Up” among them), and his first and only foray into feature filmmaking is by turns ambitious and formulaic. In keeping with the Hayes’ script, the end result is an interesting mish-mash of concepts that are never fully realized in favor of providing some requisite “scares” (faces coming out of abdomens, modulated demon voices, exotically colored contact lenses) that feel oddly out of place amidst the heady material. (Paul W.S. Anderson’s Event Horizon did a better job seven years later of combining the concepts of deep space and everlasting damnation.)

The cast includes a number of familiar faces to genre fans, Robert Sampson (aka Dean Halsey from Re-Animator) as the no-nonsense captain and Joe Turkel’s science officer (The Shining, Blade Runner) foremost among them. As Spacecore 1’s on-board artificial intelligence LESLI, Camilla More, best known as “Tina” of the sexy twins “Terri and Tina” from Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, keeps her clothes on and her facial expressions to a minimum, neither of which play to her strengths. Veteran character actors John Diehl and Alan Blumenfeld (145 and 185 IMDb credits, respectively) fill out the cast, with Will Bledsoe and his rockin’ mullet driving the spacebus as our young heroic lead Giles.

Besides the Hayes kids (who also scripted 2005’s sorely underrated House of Wax), several other Hollywood types made their early bones alongside Webster and Co. This represents cinematographer Russ T. Alsobrook’s first credit, but he would soon be knee-deep in Disney remakes (The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, The Barefoot Executive, Freaky Friday) and then on to Freaks and Geeks where he fell into Judd Apatow’s good graces (Superbad, Forgetting Sarah Marshall), and on to lensing other adult comedies like Role Models, Paul Blart: Mall Cop, and Blockers!

Another familiar name is makeup man R. Christopher Biggs, whether it for be blockbuster Hollywood fare (Star Trek VI, Spiderman 2), low-budget genre efforts (Critters 2, Eve of Destruction), or Martin Lawrence’s eponymous television show (145 episodes, dawg). Here, he delivers the aforementioned ab-bursters that gnaw off several unfortunate crew members’ faces, as well as distorted facial features for our demon-possessed space jockeys, and his contributions represent several high points in what is a frequently talky effort.

As with last year’s release of The Unnamable, Unearthed Films Classics does a nice job dusting off another relic from the VHS era, although this one is less a forgotten gem and more “a not-bad programmer with potential.” Along similar good news/bad news lines, while presenting hours of supplemental materials, the quality of said materials leaves much to be desired.

I’m referring specifically to the Skype interviews conducted by Jay Kay (HorrorHound magazine, the Horror Happens radio show), which are undeniably well-researched, but the sound quality is shockingly poor, especially on the segments featuring Blumenfield and Biggs. I’m sorry, but if you’re going to go through the trouble of asking Kay to prepare and arrange extended interviews, the least you could do is equip him with a decent microphone so his subjects don’t sound as though they are being held captive inside an aluminum dumpster.


Audio commentary with executive producer Paul White (The Unnamable, Society, Bride of Re-Animator) and Stephen Biro

Interview with actor Allen Blumenfield (40 min) with Jay Kay (terrible audio)

Interview with FX Artist Chris Biggs (35 min) with Jay Kay (terrible audio)

Interview with stuntman Chuck Borden (21 min) with Jay Kay (not completely terrible audio)

Production and dialogue notes

Heere There Be Monstersssssss....

The Dark Side of the Moon is available now on Blu-ray and DVD from Unearthed Films Classics and can be ordered HERE:

NOTE: Could Unearthed’s website be any less user-friendly? I’m not sure if you’ve heard, folks, but there are plenty of other sites that are happy to make life easier for their customers which makes for - shock! surprise! - satisfied and loyal customers. I am loath to send people toward Amazon to make their video purchases, preferring to instead connect customers directly with the distributors. But since Unearthed does not provide any direct product links, requiring shoppers to land blindly in their “Store” section and scroll around for ages looking for the item in question, I’m sending you to DiabolikDVD’s site instead.


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