Stranded DVD Review
Directed by Roger Christian
Written by Christian Piers Betley and Roger Christian
2013, Region 1 (NTSC), 88 minutes, Not Rated
DVD released on August 27th, 2013
Christian Slater as Col. Gerard Brauchman
Amy Matysio as Ava Cameron
Michael Therriault as Bruce Johns
Brendan Fehr as Dr. Lance Krauss
When a lunar base is slammed by a meteor shower, the physical damage is the least of the crew’s concerns. The dangerous carbon monoxide seeping through the facility is probably going to be problematic, and it doesn’t bode well that it knocked out the communication system and one of the escape pods. But the biggest problem is those meteors that have spores growing on them, because we all know that strange growths on rocks (or anything for that matter) never leads to anything cheery, and this case is no exception.
I have to admit, when I watched the opening scenes of the meteor shower I was a bit nervous of things to come. The space rocks rain on what is clearly miniatures. I suppose credit can be given by going this route as opposed to crappy CGI, but I didn’t want it to be a reflection of what was in store. Needless to say, it was pleasing to see that was the worst of the effects.
Stranded is sort of a low-budget mashup of Alien (of which director Roger Christian was art director), The Thing, and to some degree Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Once the meteor spores find a host, they evolve into a carbon copy of said victim whose sole purpose is to kill the other members of the crew. That’s how things roll in these types of situations. Unlike The Thing, though, there is no question on who is the clone and who isn’t (which is, sadly, a completely botched opportunity).
Make no mistake; Stranded is not nearly as good as any of those films mentioned. It lacks the character development and budget to hold a candle to those classic movies. But that doesn’t make it not enjoyable; quite the contrary. Once the film starts, it doesn’t stop moving, keeping the action consistent throughout with some surprisingly good effects by Emersen Ziffle. I’m not going to go as far to say that the effects were better than they should have been for this film, but without Ziffle’s fine work, the movie would not have been nearly as much fun as it is.
Christian Slater takes the lead role here as Colonel Brauchman, the commander of this seemingly doomed base. I’ve been a fan of Slater ever since Heathers, but sadly he is underutilized here. His performance is solid, but he spends most of the time barking out orders or running toward or away from certain death. I don’t put the blame on him as he isn’t given much to work with. The same can be applied to the rest of the cast. They clearly are doing what they can with what they are given, but that isn’t much – although Amy Matysio as Ava does seem to stand out the most as her character seems to have the most meat (and even then it’s lacking).
Even with the paper-thin characters, I think I enjoyed Stranded far more than I should have. It feels like one of those throwaway movies you’ll catch on a Sunday night on the Syfy channel. It’s not great, but it’s not bad either, and while you may forget it in a week, you’ll know that you had fun watching it when you did. With solid makeup effects, ample action, and an ending that leaves it open to a possible sequel, you’ll do far worse than this. It’s the epitome of the check-you-brain-at-the-door film, and it’s not trying to be any more than that. On that level, it definitely succeeds.
Video and Audio:
Stranded is presented in 2.35:1 widescreen anamorphic and the picture varies from impressive to meh. At its best, colors pop and there is some fine detail, but then there are times where the skin tone is a bit sickly or there is a noticeable loss of quality in the darker scenes. It's not a deal killer, but it's definitely won't ever be a show off disc.
While dialog is always easy to understand, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is a bit weak, with not a lot going to the sides and rears. The subwoofer kicks at times, but overall it is a bit of a disappointment considering the type of film this is.
- The Making of Stranded
- Life on the Moon: The FX of Stranded
The first offered featurette, The Making of Stranded, is about 15 minutes of typical fluff. Everyone loved everyone, backpats all around, best movie ever to work on. The only part worth checking out is when Christian describes how he got the cool location of the base. Other than that, it's rather bland.
Life on the Moon: The FX of Stranded is the more enjoyable featurette. At just over six minutes (sadly more than half the time of the first), this one covers, wait for it, the effects of the film. It's nice that this featurette gives a lot of attention to Ziffle's makeup effects because it's clearly one of the best parts of the film. There's also behind-the-scenes on the creation of the miniature effects which I still found interesting even with my problems of them in application.