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2013 | 88 min | 2.39:1



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Theatrical release date

 26 July, 2013

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Screenshots from Stranded Blu-ray

Stranded Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, July 26, 2013

Horror films set in space are often a difficult proposition. Horror films set in space that have no budget to work with have more of a creative uphill climb. “Stranded” is a lunar adventure that takes place on a single set, with limited visual variance to help sell the sci-fi aspects of the story, while the script largely avoids anything that might require any type of specialized activity outside of actors stomping around looking frightened. It’s the latest from “Battlefield Earth” helmer Roger Christian, which should be enough of a review right there for most readers. Cheap, dull, and starring Christian Slater, “Stranded” is a generic effort that doesn’t set out to achieve much over 85 tedious minutes of screen time.

On the moon, mineral exploration base Ark has been bombarded by a meteor shower, with large portions of the complex destroyed, requiring quick thinking by the crew to maintain a hospitable atmosphere. Panicked but commanding, Col. Gerald Brauchman (Christian Slater) maintains control, ordering underling Ava Cameron (Amy Matysio) to secure critical airlocks without risking her life. Retrieving a meteor for study, Ava passes her findings to Dr. Lace Krauss (Brendan Fehr), who discovers spores capable of rapid growth. Cutting her finger in the lab, Ava is quickly overcome by the microscopic alien invader, surging through a pregnancy that climaxes with the birth of a monster that eludes capture. While Brauchman can hardly believe the reality of the situation, lackey Bruce Johns (Michael Therriault) is soon assaulted by the invader, who steals his DNA and grows into a human-like menace with a plan to escape to Earth.

“Stranded” aspires to conjure a sci-fi/horror mood along the lines of “Alien,” only without the money required to build a convincing look at futureworld tech. Christian contains the feature to a few rooms and some exterior model effects, which carry an endearingly backyard filmmaking look that doesn’t trick the eye but tickles the moviegoing soul. Despite its moon base setting and haunted house atmosphere, “Stranded” doesn’t cover much square footage, with its drab visual design growing repetitive the longer the director lingers on the same sets. Christian’s hunting for claustrophobia, the torture of being caught in a confined space with a literal monster, but the repetition comes across as extreme budgetary measures, especially in a film that attempts to pass off Brookstone book lights as video recording devices and iPods as door locks. It appears most of the coin was spent on creature effects, detailing the goopy metamorphosis the alien threat endures as it steals Bruce’s essence. It’s money well spent, but a little more expanse would’ve helped the cause.

Of course, any points on budgetary corner-cutting would be moot if “Stranded” were a thrilling picture. Christian (along with screenwriter Christian Piers Betley) cooks up a premise that finds the crew of the Ark fighting for their lives as rescue time runs out, battling exhaustion and hallucinations as the reality of a creature scurrying around inside the base is fully appreciated. It’s a dreadfully routine plot, but one that could still click with a director willing to put in the effort to streamline the thrills, making the feature ripple with excitement. Christian takes the opposite approach, extending his endeavor with pauses and arguments over sanity, padding the movie to a point where it simply runs out of gas, unable to regain pressure once genre-reliable showdowns are amplified in the finale. “Stranded” is short but dull, killing potential for scares and nail-biting the longer it fixates on stillness to make it all the way to a contractually obligated run time. Those expecting a more vigorous exercise in terror should be reminded: “Stranded” is guided by the same man who made “Battlefield Earth.”

We watch Brauchman doubt Ava’s mental health over and over again, witness Dr. Krauss gradually coming to understand the destructive appetite of the spores, and observe Bruce lose his mind, with his body stolen by the alien as a means of evolution. That “Stranded” doesn’t even have an ending, just a cliffhanger for a sequel, is perhaps the most offensive element of the movie. It’s bad enough to have one film seemingly determined to sit down and nap between gore shots, but there’s a promise made at the end of the feature that more time with this aimless material is near. As much as I’m rooting for a resurgence in Slater’s marquee value and applaud the picture’s scrappy means to decorate with items found on a day trip to the local mall, I wish more time and thought were placed into “Stranded” to make it brain-splittingly suspenseful, and not just a placeholder for future sequels.

Starring: Christian Slater, Brendan Fehr

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