Stars: Vin Diesel, Cole Hauser, Keith David, Claudia Black
“Pitch Black” is one lean, mean sci-fi/horror machine. This is good, real good. It’s one of the best in the genre since the “Alien” and “Predator” franchises.
The opening sequence is fast and furious as a space vessel carrying civilians and one violent prisoner crash lands on a barren, hot, wasteland of a planet that they discover has three suns, better for the roasting. Among those stranded are Carolyn Fry, the pilot (Radha Mitchell), Johns (Cole Hauser), a bounty hunter passing himself off as a cop, a Muslim priest (Keith David) along with his various disciples; a teenage stowaway named Jack, and a few secondary characters. Then there’s Riddick (Vin Diesel) a muscled convicted murderer who escapes shortly after arrival and remains a threat while they search for the remains of their ship’s supplies, other inhabitants and badly needed water.
There’s evidence that some people were living there….so where are they? Good question. Now comes the the first murder underground. Lots of blood and not more than a severed foot remains. In her search for the culprit (and it sure wasn’t Riddick), Fry discovers the only other inhabitants of the planet – slithery, prehistoric bat-like creatures – and lots of them. The creatures love the dark so our survivors make sure to stay in the light, that is until they discover that an eclipse is coming and fast. Johns and Riddick cut a deal to play nice for the time being then Riddick becomes the group’s salvation. His special vision allows him to see in the dark and he reluctantly helps the others in order to get out of there himself. One by one, they fall prey to the creatures that impale then tear their victims apart before devouring them. Grisly stuff.
What makes this film so good is the very tight story, good characters and tight editing. It’s bare-bones storytelling with no lose ends. The creatures are very scary and the tension is kept high from the first sequence till the end. Diesel’s size makes Riddick wonderfully imposing and his eyes make him scarier. The cast is well chosen, even the secondary characters. TV’s “Farscape” fans will recognize Claudia Black as one of them.
Lotta says “Pitch Black” is a terrific scare intelligently done.