This Is Rumour Control

Sci-Fi Spine Chillers

Back by popular demand, this is Rumour Control, once again helping you to guide through the ever thickening jungle of lousy films released by Hollywood. In keeping with previous issues and the author's tendency for mental divergence, subject matter will invariably stray from the stated, although the basic core will still be sci-fi film. At least for the first two paragraphs. Well, probably, in any case.

Much to my dislike, any film review worth its salt these days seems to have a rating system. Of course, I fiercely believe that it is impossible to justly reduce the rich, complex experience of a film into a single, quantitative measure and have in the past vehemently refused to do so. Which, I grant you, fails miserably to explain why I do it in my PalmPilot database of the films I've seen. Nevertheless, each and every other film review assigns stars, bugs, suns, strawberries, gift certificates, and whatnots, so I suppose that it is only in keeping with the times that Rumour Control unveil ''The Red Bucket Scoring System''.

However, whereas most other scoring systems are based upon the assumption that more is better, anyone familiar with the dark, dim, and disturbing history of The Red Bucket, will instantaneously realize that less is more. In fact, the less, the better. Considering the vile nature of the gook in such buckets, none is absolutely best. So, a film like L. A. Confidential would score No Bucket. Something like Men In Black is about $1/3$ Red Bucket. A film like Anaconda would score Two Overflowing Red Buckets. Naturally, the increments are completely arbitrary, the ordering unclear, and the descriptions unnecessarily elaborate. This is, after all, Rumour Control.

For whatever reason, the genres of horror and sci-fi have traditionally often been pretty close to each other (did I hear anyone whisper Plan 9 from Outer Space?). Granted, the prospects of life on a space station, with the build quality of Mir and food the consistency of recycled toothpaste, is enough to scare anyone into becoming an accountant. However, occasionally film makers will exploit the solitude, uncomfort, and general lack of fresh underwear in space more than usual and this issue sees RC turn its searchlight-like beacon of clairvoyance on this genre.

For some strange reason, Event Horizon never seemed to make it to Swedish cinemas: Which is a shame, because it's a film that would really be a hit in a thx-cinema. In any case, it is available for rental on video. The film itself is a bit of a remix, with roughly equal parts of Alien and Hellraiser, with a smidgen of 2010 and a dash of Dead Calm thrown in for good measure. When watching it, you're continually trying to think of which film you've seen the current scene in before.

The film stars Sam Neil, Lawrence Fishburn, Joely Richardson and Sean Pertwee. Larry Fishburn basically does the Sigourney Weaver bit, but without the stripping at the end, while Sam Neil puts in a decent John Hurt impression. Richardson saves the day by showing that women can stand pressure much better than men, while cracking jokes at the same time. The plot is simple enough: Ship is lost, ship is found, ship is haunted. What saves the film and makes it worth watching is the setting, feel and effects. The production team seem to have put a fair amount of effort into getting a really creepy environment in which it all can take place and have on the whole succeeded pretty well. In short, you do not want to be on this ship.

Another film, again not available at the cinema, with good atmosphere and setting is Space Truckers. This is one seriously low budget sci-fi film. Dennis Hopper is a freelance space trucker in a world of corporate alliances, shipping semi-legal allsorts across the universe. As fate would have it, he proposes to Debi Mazar, gets hooked up with Steven Dorff and the three of them travel to Earth with a shipment of the most gorgeous killer robots since Hardware. Don't miss this, but make sure you've got plenty of beer and popcorn before starting and see it at least three times in quick succession.

If you should have missed it, check out Sphere, while we are on the subject of horror sci-fi. Again, this film relies on atmosphere, settings, moods and psychology more than sudden bursts of orchestral music, even if it does give into the latter too. Dustin Hoffman, Samuel L. Jackson and Sharon Stone star in this moody underwater thriller. Best performance is a tie between Jackson's cranky mathematician (as though any were not) and Stone. Hoffman mainly seems out of place in this film, while Queen Latifah gets suitably awarded pretty early on, if memory serves me correctly. Not brilliant, but good, solid sci-fi horror entertainment, with some thought behind it. A welcome change from, say, Starship Troopers ...

Another link between genres is sci-fi and catastrophes (and no, we're not talking of the Plan 9 kind here...). Deep Impact has apparently made just that at the box office, proving that people will see absolutely anything so long as it has thx sound effects. Still, in all fairness, it should be mentioned that it has other strengths. The film follows the lifes and fortunes of three people, just as these are about to end. The three are a reporter (Tea Leoni), the President of the United States (Morgan Freeman), and a high-school amateur astronomer (Elija Wood). While the film does get sickeningly American at times, horrendously sentimental and terribly predictable (yeah -- like Hollywood is going to let the world end) it does have redeeming features, such as the casting of a tattooed, black American as the President. On the other hand, it is as though the director had the option to make either a thriller, a disaster movie, or a character drama piece, and couldn't quite choose which to go with. If nothing else, see this to compare it with that other inbound sci-fi disaster movie: Armageddon. What's the betting that film relies slightly more on effects than acting performances ...?

Event Horizon gets $1/4$ Bucket, saved by the atmosphere (or rather, atmosfear) and odd laughs. Space Truckers collects $1/2$ Bucket, mostly for the robots' acting performances, Dennis Hopper, and the stripping scene, putting it solidly along side Sphere, but for vastly different reasons. Deep Impact ends up somewhere in that territory too, mostly as a result of overworked political correctness and sentimentality. The first half-an-hour and the effects are great, though.


LSFF:s hemsida