Pandorum is a 2009 science-fiction/horror film. It is set onboard a massive space ship called the Elysium. At the beginning of the film two men wake up from hypersleep with no memory of who they are or why the flight crew that was supposed to relieve them are absent. As they explore the ship they discover terrifying creatures are lurking in the corridors and other survivors hanging on to their sanity by a thread.
Right so before cracking on with the review let me give you the lowdown on what Pandorum actually is within the film’s context. Basically Pandorum is a form of psychosis which can happen during extending space missions and is triggered to an uncontrollable level by a massive emotional trauma. Those suffering from Pandorum experience severe paranoia, vivid hallucinations, and eventually homicidal rage. Weaker minds like those belonging to a human would be susceptible to such a condition whereas the mighty brain yours truly has, would never be affected by such a condition.
Anyway, so we start off with the sleeper ship Elysium…
Due to massive over population, probes have been sent out into space in order to locate any Earth-like planets for the human race to establish a colony on. Eventually a suitable planet was found and 60,000 people were placed in hypersleep onboard the Elysium, which was expected to take around 120 years to reach the planet. A flight crew would monitor the ship and its systems, being replaced with another crew who would awaken from hypersleep so the previous crew could go into stasis, this would happen over and over with multiple different crew taking it in turns to be awake.
An astronaut named Bower (Ben Foster) awakens in a hypersleep chamber with no memory of who, or where he is. He begins to explore his surroundings and eventually wakes someone in an additional chamber whose name is Payton (Dennis Quaid). They are part of a flight crew but are initially surprised about why the previous flight crew was not there when they woke up, plus a flight team is made up of three people and there are only two of them so what happened to the third person?? Together the pair try to get to the bridge but are unable to access the rest of the ship or make contact with anyone else onboard. Bower slips through a ventilation shaft and begins to explore the eerily quiet vessel only to discover a mutilated body. Encountering screeching creatures that seem almost alien-like Bower has to keep himself alive before the ship’s reactor shuts down for good killing everyone on board.
The power is rapidly failing and as the memories of both astronauts slowly come back Bower works to repair the ship.
Along the way he encounters various other survivors, some of whom help him on his journey and others who would quite happily kill him just to stay alive. To make things worse he also encounters a group of strange humanoid creatures that have a taste for human flesh, that may be alien life forms that have come onboard and started attacking the crew. Bower must battle his way through the ship to reach the reactor before it goes critical and the ship is destroyed whilst Payton monitors him, giving him routes to take to reach the reactor.
I feel I should make this very clear right off the bat, Pandorum is a film in which every single aspect of it has been taken from another film source or even a game. The idea of humans travelling long distances through space in sleeper chambers was done in Alien, survivors just looking after themselves has been done in countless films like Dawn of the Dead, and even the setting of a ghost ship being inhabited by monsters that may be alien or may have evolved from the original crew was done in Dead Space. So if you are hoping to find something new on display then you will be disappointed because Pandorum stays well within the established rules for horror without trying to do anything new or even remotely original.
In addition, Pandorum is a film that is also firmly lodged in the jump scare tactic category of horror with nothing being especially atmospheric or tense, but enough sudden shocks to make your heart pound a little harder. Director Christian Alvert uses long periods of near silence with abrupt moments of loud noise to make his audience jump. Other elements of horror come from seeing unfortunate people ripped apart and eaten alive by the screeching creatures, however, that is nothing that we haven’t seen.
There are many films set on dark spaceships and the idea of people going crackers whilst in isolated place has also been done. The members of the Elysium suffering Pandorum begin to behave in an increasingly unstable way, however, this idea was done in the film The Abyss in which a marine went crazy whilst on an underwater mission.
The creatures roaming that ship have a lot in common with the mutants in Ghosts of Mars, and typically the explanation for them sits well within the horror comfort zone. A dying ship requiring repairs has also been done in games like Dead Space and films like Event Horizon.
The cast of Pandorum work hard to create tension and atmosphere but there is simply nothing new happening. Foster and Quaid work well together and watching Payton regain his memory over the course of the film does create some of the best moments. You are left to wonder if one or both of them might be suffering from Pandorum, still yet again, the idea of someone struggling to regain themselves before going mad has been done to death. The idea of ordinary people going insane during intense situations or due to some environmental reason has been done over and over again. The audience will wonder on occasion if what they are seeing is a hallucination but more often than not what they are seeing is real so we are not seeing through the eyes of someone’s madness because these monsters truly exist.
There are a couple of twists that are interesting but unfortunately the film seems to play out almost like a live action video game. Bower wanders around the ship and encounters other survivors, some help him some hinder him, and he has a general objective of restarting the reactor. Once that is done he needs to get to the bridge. Once he has done that he needs to determine how many people are still alive in stasis. He needs to do this because as his memory returns he believes that his wife is onboard somewhere…so basically it could have been a computer game and wouldn’t have been that bad if it was.
Horror fans that enjoy films for their shock value are given a few moments that will make them jump. But aside from that there is nothing that makes Pandorum stand out. The plot and situation could have been inspired by a thousand other films which ultimately makes Pandorum easily forgettable. Personally I think it is as close to a live-action Dead Space film there currently is, and considering some of the make-up effects it makes me think that a Dead Space movie could work…that is if EA doesn’t completely balls it up by letting Uwe Boll direct it or something
As for Pandorum it is nothing original, nothing special, and whilst it is not that bad I cannot give it a rating any higher than an indifferent…meh…as a result my Thumb will remain Horizontal.
4/10 - Pandorum is a below average film in which Alvert remains firmly within the established comfort zone of sci-fi/horror and does not try anything new or original. It is worth a watch but it is one of these films that you’ll forget pretty quickly because there is nothing that stands out separating it from countless others.