Friday, May 3, 2019

Dark Universe

Dark Universe
Steve Latshaw

The plot of Dark Universe feels straight out of the 1950s as astronaut Steve Thomas (Steve Barkett), flies through a cloud of spores on re-entry which transforms him into a giant monster. His shuttle crashes somewhere in the swamps of Florida. This company behind his mission and some scientists head into the area to try and discover what happened to him. Not only have the spores made Steve into a discount xenomorph, but they are also turning the local wildlife into orange-blooded monsters as well. All the stands between us and world domination is a simple flare gun and some swamp gas.

Dark Universe approaches the platonic ideal of what a low-budget 1990s direct-to-video movie should be; It pulls its story and visuals from more well-known larger budgeted movies (in this case The Thing (1982), Aliens (1986), and Predator (1987), it throws in a few action beats as well as some gratuitous nudity, and then liberally coats the whole thing with some humor. The end result is a fun time-waster that you’ll probably forget all about before the credits finish rolling. I can personally attest to this as I seem to continually revisit it and barely remember anything except some mild enjoyment.

Yes, that's how a normal person shoots a gun...
Nearly every actor in the movie seems to be aware that they are making a silly monsterfest and hams it up accordingly. Joe Estevez is the notable exception as he attempts to give a heartfelt speech that is supposed to resonate with the mutated astronaut. The speech itself feels like it was cribbed from the end of It Conquered the World (1956). My personal favorite of the protagonists is Frank Norris (John Maynard), who manages to portray the perfect cliché clueless scientist and meets a fitting end.

The special effects are not top notch but I think they are more than acceptable for a tiny-budgeted film whose a sole purpose to was to get a couple of bucks out of people at a rental store. The big slimy alien is an obvious Geiger rip-off, but it’s general shape and size makes me wonder if it is, in fact, a redressed dinosaur that showed up in Carnosaur ( 1993) and Dinosaur Island (1994). You don’t just get a giant alien in this film, there are also some dried corpses, and exploding neck, and even a mutant armadillo that just loves to interrupt sexy times. These little moments add some variety to what could have been yet another movie consisting of people stumbling around outside and getting picked-off one-by-one by some unseen menace.

"This is what I think of your so-called Earth copyright laws!"

Among the glut of Alien/Predator/The Thing rip-offs, Dark Universe doesn’t offer many surprises, but if you’re looking for something predictably silly and completely of its era then this movie really does deliver. Dark Universe is the kind of movie you can half pay attention to while you are eating pizza with your friends, occasionally stopping to note the boobs and gore, and in that regard, it is a masterpiece.

No comments:

Post a Comment