Friday, February 28, 2020

Star Crystal

Star Crystal
Lance Lindsay

For the record, I am a fan of big tonal changes in films. When handled deftly they can be an exciting and energizing way to keep a story fresh. Something Wild (1986) is possibly the most well-crafted example that comes to mind, a wacky manic-pixie dream girl comedy that turns deadly serious in its third act. A big change in tone creates a sense of unpredictability. Comedies are generally consequence-free but what if suddenly that changes? The viewer is left unguarded. Handled poorly, the tonal whiplash can wreck a film diminishing its separate elements in the process. So, what happens when your Alien (1979) turns into E.T. (1982) and you bungle the whole thing?

You get Star Crystal.

Star Crystal opens with a couple of astronauts in extremely cheap space suits wandering around a red-filtered landscape. They find an egg buried in the ground and drag it back to their space station. The egg hatches to reveal a crystal and a tiny slimy monster. A while later another group boards only to find the oxygen running out on the station and they escape before it mysteriously explodes. The alien sneaks onboard and then goes about killing crew members one by one in gruesome fashion at least until it reads the Bible…

Me in the winter before putting any lotion on.
So yeah, Star Crystal starts out like any other Alien rip-off, dark corridors, slime, horrible deaths, and plenty of inter crew tension. The movie makes some attempt to give the space crew some personality, but they all seem unusually crabby at one another, which might be realistic for people in a tense and hopeless situation, but it doesn’t make for good viewing. Thankfully they all die relatively early. It seems like the movie is burning through crew members quickly, we are down to the obvious final couple by the half-way point. Then we are treated to a scene of the alien “Gar” looking up the Bible on a computer and learning the error of his ways. The movie takes a huge shift here as Gar and the survivors become friends, work together, and play chess. The whole thing culminates with a syrupy ballad called ‘Crystal of a Star.’

The Radioactive Testiculon of Altair 4!
The second half of Star Crystal is a complete mess, but I will give it credit for going full-on with both its horror and with fluffy E.T. elements. This is not a film that does anything subtle, blood splashes and people become heartfelt space buddies with equal intensity. The change over from one mood to another never connects, no one really seems to care that most of the crew and hundreds of people on the space station are now dead and that leaves the more hopeful elements feeling hollow. The final capper is the end credits song. It needs to be heard to be believed.

So, what I’m saying is that the movie is a colossal mess and a complete failure, but I love its earnestness and its attempt to weld two completely different kinds of stories together. There are dozens of Alien rip-offs in the world but not one as completely off the rails as Star Crystal.

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