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Pitch Black (15)



Review: Jack Foley

SPECIAL EDITION DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: 9 minute opening sequence of The Chronicles of Riddick; Introduction by David Twohy. The Chronicles of Riddick Visual Encyclopedia; Johns’ Chase Log. Dark Fury: Advancing The Arc; The Game Is On; Feature commentary with director and actors Vin Diesel & Cole Hauser; Feature commentary with director, producer and visual effects supervisor; A View Into The Dark. Regions 2/4.

THE premise may sound familiar - the crew of a spaceship crash lands on a planet and discovers that they are not alone - but seldom has it been done as effectively as Pitch Black, a new sci-fi thriller from director David Twohy.

Whereas most Alien wannabes have paled by comparison to Ridley Scott's genre defining masterpiece, Pitch Black manages to be both wildly exciting and endlessly inventive while at the same time sticking to the same sort of formula associated with this kind of spacemen-in-peril formula. Not convinced?

Then check out the inspired direction, which lends the film a very distinct look; its pitch black humour and its refusal to conform to the familiar. Few characters can be called likeable, yet they exude a certain charisma reserved for all the best type of 'anti-heroes'.

And it is this inability to pick a real hero which adds to the excitement - rendering it virtually impossible to work out who will make it to the final reel.

Among the principle players are Vin Diesel's cold, calculated murderer Riddick; Cole Hauser's dubious lawman Johns; and Radha Mitchell's docking pilot Fry, who would rather ditch her crew than risk her own life when faced with the prospect of a painful landing.

The remainder of the crew comprise a mixed assortment of religious nuts, scheming entrepreneurs and children, all keen to prove themselves against a mounting and unseen adversary.

The adversary in question only come out in the dark and pose little risk at first, given that the uncomfortably hot planet is surrounded by no less than three suns.

But as fate would have it, the crew find themselves faced with an eclipse and must repair their damaged craft before the suns set and plunge them into a nightmare scenario few can hope to walk away from.

And when the creatures emerge (and, of course, they do) the stage is set for a suitably sweaty dash for safety, the type of which makes those hairs on the back of your neck stand on end and your heart start beating uncontrollably.

And here's where Twohy's movie really comes into its own - for having given us an uncomfortably bright opening section (the movie's use of colour is quite amazing), the darkness which follows is all the more terrifying; particularly as we are never quite sure what lies within.

Like the best kinds of horror, Pitch Black succeeds by never showing too much too soon, and offers only glimpses of its aliens as they tear the poor humans to shreds. And it seldom pulls its punches, throwing in surprises right up until the ending.

If the script at times fails to maintain the rest of the movie's high standards, the actors more than compensate, turning in career-defining performances which should send their stars into orbit, and which help to make this a must-see minor classic which is undoubtedly one of the year's best kept secrets.

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