Consider this – space horror movies are honestly the same genre as big spooky house horror. Most space movies with horror aspects take place on a giant, creaky, abandoned ship in space. This is just a big, spooky, flying space house. Pandorum is maybe my favorite space horror film outside of Alien. It really nails a lot of things well, and doesn’t suffer from the early production issues most movies do (see Event Horizon).

If you wake up in a strange location and can’t remember who you are, what might be your first decision? Is it to wander around and explore the area? No? Congratulations, you probably won’t be in any horror movies any time soon. Unfortunately, the protagonist of Pandorum decides that he is both capable and willing to do some exploring (in order to find the reactor and restore power)!

The immediate drawbacks are claustrophobia and a building sense of unease. His sole crew mate talks him down a bit, and tries to help guide him, but there’s a limit to how calm you can make someone in a stressful situation. This leads to a lapse in judgement and a short fall and fade to black.

Upon waking, our protagonist decides to explore MORE for some reason, and encounters a few things. A living girl who runs from him, a dead man hanging with his entrails exposed, something that pulls the hanging man into the ceiling and eats him, and then the living girl again who proceeds to steal his shoes. That’s not a joke, she literally takes his shoes. The reasoning is less about theft, and more about making less noise, so as not to attract the creatures that ate the hanging man.

And holy shit are those creatures brutal. It looks like a twisted version of a human that had never seen the light of day, and visited the set of Mad Max: Fury Road. These are all practically made, instead of CG, so they have aged incredibly well. I’m a sucker for good practical effects, and when incorporated into a good design? Yeah, that’s some good shit. Basically, they are just a jumble of Road Warrior gear on a pale-skinned imitations of human life. It’s a really impressive design, and there are just so many. This is an excellent threat, as they can’t be immediately explained outside of the fact that they are a very persistent and imminent threat to all life on board the ship.

As the protagonist gains a couple of friends, the perils only mount further and further. Who can be trusted on a ship floating in space that has been lost to time? There are a number of identity crises that occur for most characters as they regain memories and learn new information about their environment. The mental and physical exhaustion is portrayed brilliantly by the actors as they are worn down by the creatures chasing them.

The sound design constantly draws you in and elevates every scene. It’s appropriately manic at the right times, and eerie the rest of the time. It truly reminds you that danger is around every corner, and it can’t just be escaped so easily.

Couple the excellent sound design with great cinematography and practical effects and you have an aesthetically impressive movie. The lighting for each scene feels so deliberate, the angles for each shot convey feelings very well. Overall, it feels like this movie was designed from the ground up based on visual and sound design, and the care in each of these areas is evident. This movie is a love letter to almost every genre: Creature features, things from beyond, the others, human nature.

I wouldn’t call Pandorum a masterpiece, as it’s missing some critical components like better writing and better editing. However, it’s a movie that’s clearly made with a huge amount of love for horror, and I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a scare.

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