Today I watched David Twohy’s Pitch Black (2000)
Pitch Black is another in a long line of cult classic science fiction horror, more specifically fitting into the creature feature trend. A commercial space transport ship is hit by a meteor shower and is forced to crash on a mysterious planet with three suns. The survivors are a rather colourful cast of characters including the ship’s pilot, Carolyn Fry played by Rhada Mitchell, a bounty hunter played by Cole Hauser and his bounty Richard B. Riddick, a cold blooded murderer who is one of Vin Diesel’s defining roles. Along with them are a a few space Muslims, a young girl disguised as a boy, and a few others who serve to inflate the body count. As they explore the endless desert of the world they are stranded on, they find an abandoned human colony and learn that despite the perpetual daylight from the three suns, there is a night and it is long and it is coming soon. Soon they learn that there is a race of alien predators that will awaken in the coming night and if they don’t find a way off the planet soon, these creatures will make lunch of all of them.
The film is a very well paced thriller that constantly builds suspense, it doesn’t purely rely on the monsters to do so as the humans themselves are at each other’s throats. The presence of Riddick is a particular sticking point as his reputation as a brutal murderer precedes him and he does his best to play it up to make the others uneasy. The crux of the film becomes a balance, the characters need to trust each other to survive, even Riddick. So the survivors need to contend with the human monster in Riddick to survive against the bestial alien menace, it works quite well and keeps the audience constantly off guard. The film also uses some really intense lighting to enhance the alien threat of the hostile world, it serves to get the audience into the desperate head space the characters occupy.
Perhaps the largest factor in attaining this film’s cult classic status is the character of Riddick. He is the epitome of a badass, always one step ahead of his opponents with lightning fast reflexes and a murderous attitude. he comes across as something of a sociopath though as he is quick to push people’s buttons and to prey on their emotions for his own gain. Yet this makes him very intriguing as he still has an identifiable humanity to him, mostly visible in he finale. Despite the complexity of his mental state, he is still pure pulp, a character of comically over the top traits. He has a penchant for classic action one liners that actually don’t sound as preposterous as the classic Eighties style they are aping. Vin Diesel combines that uber masculine cheesiness with a darker edge that makes his small acts of bravado fit into a broader and more complex character.
That character would go to have other interesting adventures and this film provides a very solid foundation for this pulp hero. The strong performances and effects give the film that used future look which enhances the grittiness of the violence and thrills. It is a very well shot and well paced horror flick that utilizes some creative world building to deliver a fun and creative plot that flows effortlessly through the deadly alien night. This is straight up fun and creative space pulp that blends Eighties machismo with Nineties edge and gives us one of the more memorable characters of the modern film age. 5/5