Monday, September 17, 2012

Black Whole: "Dark Universe" (1993)

I always worry when I see Jim Wynorski and Fred Olen Ray collaborating on a film project together.

The story is simple, and has been done to death. A space shuttle crashes back to earth when the lone astronaut aboard flies through a mysterious cloud and becomes a monster alien. Scientists and a plucky TV reporter try to find the crash site in a Florida swamp and are slowly attacked by the alien/astronaut. People die...

Let me start with the cast. The swamp guide, played by the unfortunately named Bently Tittle, is terrible. While most of the cast was written badly, Tittle (tee-hee) is the worst. His swamp guide has a giant chip on his shoulder for no other reason than the writers could not think of any way for him to be interesting. The plucky TV reporter and Tittle's (tee-hee) girlfriend have gratuitous topless scenes that serve no purpose other than to keep you watching in case they strip again.

When the space shuttle is introduced in the beginning, the laughs begin as well. The shuttle is manned by one astronaut, apparently forgetting that there is no gravity in outer space. The ground crew consists of one person as well: Joe Estevez. He talks into a microphone and yells at the astronaut. Ignored by the Academy Awards yet again, Estevez' one claim to fame is that he sounds exactly like his grating know-it-all liberal poster boy brother Martin Sheen.

After the shuttle crashes, Estevez sends the team into the swamp to find the shuttle. When the crash site is found, the director uses the old forced perspective by putting a model of the shuttle close to camera and actors in the background so the shuttle looks huge. This did not work in "Carnosaur" and does not work here. The swamp itself looks like the rough of a Florida golf course, or someone's backyard.

The killing of the monster, which looks like feces with teeth, is hilarious. You see, bullets cannot harm it, so Tittle's (tee-hee) plucky girlfriend fires flares at it, using the swamp gas to ignite the monster. Yes, that flammable swamp gas that haphazardly floats in the swamp air can kill. Never mind that fires are set all through this film, I guess swamp gas was not around then, even though they were deep in the swamp. One of the scientists, when analyzing some spores, finds out the monster has human DNA...I am no exobiologist like he is, but I did not know DNA testing facilities could fit in a backpack, especially one full of specimen jars and giant bottles of sulfuric acid.

The special effects look like they were done on someone's home computer, and Estevez was obviously filmed at a different time since all of his scenes feature just him alone.

"Dark Universe" is awful. There is not one good thing here, and it is not even funny on a "bad" level. Avoid it. (*) out of five stars.