Friday, August 19, 2011



Shock-O-Rama Cinema
Region Code: 0 NTSC
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 83 mins
Video: 16x9 Widescreen (1.78:1)
Audio; Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo
Director: Chance Shirley
Cast: Mia Frost, Kyle Holman, Michael Shelton
Tagline: Monsters and Mayhem...40 Million Miles from Earth

SYNOPSIS: Nine men and women, employees of Interplanetary Corporation, live and work on Mars. Their days aren't particularly interesting, much less exciting, until they are assaulted by a murderous band of strangers and a seemingly unstoppable alien creature. Do these attacks have anything to do with the Martian fossil recently uncovered by one of the employees? Will the rapidly increasing body count adversely affect Interplanetary's stock price? And can anyone survive long enough to fill out the inevitable paperwork?

Director Chance Shirley's INTERPLANETARY is a retro futuristic science fiction homage to the Roger Corman style schlock cinema of yesteryear. Nine men and women working for the Interplanetary Corporation call Mars Base 2 their home away from Earth. It a pretty stale existence for the crew, their lives are a series of repeatable routines and protocol, that is until an engineer named Will (Chuck Hartsell, HIDE AND CREEP) and his assistant Ed stumble upon the fossilized remains of an alien lifeform while scouting locations for a future base Mars base. They're documenting the discovery when Ed is shot by a an unknown assailant and suddenly things get a bit more interesting for the crew, whom up 'til this point were under the assumption they were the only inhabitants on the planet, even though it is called Mars Base 2, one might assume otherwise, right? Soon after another assailant launches an attack on the base taking out the office slut Michelle (Amanda Meyers, DEFILED) with nothing less than a rocket launcher, a loss to every man (and woman as it turns out) at the facility, no doubt. The base goes into emergency lockdown but it's not long before someone, or something, is tearing Interplanetary employees to pieces.

The film takes a bit to get up to full speed as the filmmakers set about establishing that life in space is really, really boring. I fear it's just slow enough that it may send a few less patient viewers running for the exits but stay with it my friends, trust me, it's laced with a wonderful OFFICE SPACE style-humor that had me grinning from ear to ear from start to finish. Another complaint might be that there are too many characters, but they are a fun bunch. There's the aforementioned and unfortunate slut Michelle, the protocol obsessed administrator Lisa (Melissa Bush) and her side-kick Kevin (Kevin Van Hyning, BUDDY: THE MOVIE) with his nose buried firmly in Lisa's ass, these two are just annoying office manager stereotypes that you most definitely wanna see hurt and hurt bad, and you do, rather painfully and bloodily so. On the opposite end of the spectrum we have the cook Jackson (Kyle Homan, SLEEPAWAY CAMP III), the everyman tech guy Steve (Michael Shelton), the laid back mechanic Beth (Mia Frost) and the wanna-be golf pro slash physician Jones (Sylvester Little Jr). very cool cats all but the film's El Ray character is Jackson whom unexpectedly rises to the occasion when the shit hits the fan, his past on Earth is shrouded in mystery but on Mars he's a take-no-shit ass-kicker. These are the film's most likable characters, the actors know their in a low-budget b-movie and the tight script backs 'em up all the way, it's a very quotable film.

The acting is pretty spot-on, some of it's "bad" but that's kinda what the movies all about, celebrating bad sci-fi cinema, though it's not a bad film, know what I mean? Something else that the film celebrates is low-budget campy retro-futuristic technology. We have computer control panels with blinking lights right outta 50's sci-fi matinees, dated future-tech like a miniDV cam and digital alarm clocks, very cool retro space suits with Tint-O-Matic self-tinting space bubble helmets and oxygen canisters that look an awful lot like super-soaker watergun tanks connected with vacuum hoses, plus a profanity filter that bleeps all profanity uttered while using corporate communication devices and a cool working Mars vehicle, it's all very kitschy and quite awesome.

For the interiors of the base the filmmakers constructed a set from scratch which gives the production a claustrophobic retro futuristic aesthetic, complete with STAR TREK-ish sliding portals. There are also a few establishing exterior shots of the Martian landscape (shot in Alabama and Las Vegas, not Mars), it looks pretty darn good, too. Major bonus points for the use of practical special effects, there's no shortage of gore and splatter, just the way I like 'em. Shirley knows when to pull back though and while we do get some nice gore and gross-outs some of the action appear just off camera, or is judiciously edited, so that we're left with the gruesome aftermath but not a shitty CGI effects shot. The last 15 minutes of the film really ramps up the splatter with a bloody array of carnage at the hands of a rubber suited alien creature, apparently they're not all fossilized after all. Like the practical effects the creature design is pretty decent and looks equal parts C.H.U.D. and PREDATOR, good stuff. Lastly, the film some nice gratuitous nudity, what with the office slut and all, so it has that going for it, too. 

DVD: Shock-O-Rama gives INTERPLANETARY an 16x9 enhanced widescreen  (1.78:1) DVD release with English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo with no subtitles.  I think the film was shot on 16mm and the image is a little soft and a bit bit grainy too but it's not too distracting. There are also some cigarette burns and some minor print damage, I was unsure if this was an effect to give the film a nice retro patina but if that's the case it very subtle and nowhere near as obvious as say PLANET TERROR. The black levels do fluctuate a bit but again not problematically so. Overall a very nice presentation, unfortunately there's not too many supplemental materials here aside from a Shock-O-Rama trailer vault and audio commentary with director Chance Shirley and producers John White and Shirley Chance which is a fun casual listen, tons of production anecdotes and observations from the making of the film, locations, actors and a little bit of everything else inbetween.

Special Features:
- Commentary by director Chance Shirley and producers Stacey Shirley and John White
- Shock-O-Rama Trailer Vault

Verdict: Chance Shirley's INTERPLANETARY is a schlocky, gore-strewn, low-budget science fiction film with some sweet homages to 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, STAR TREK, ALIEN and John Carpenter's THE THING in particular, all with it's tongue planted firmly in cheek, smartly written and directed. I give this a solid rental recommendation, possibly a buy depending on your taste in sci-fi and appetite for cinema fromage. Apparently Shirley first made the horror scene with the zombie comedy HIDE AND CREEP (2004) which he co-directed with Chris Hartsell, never seen it but it's definitely in my future at some point, this was a blast.