Unearthed Classics: The Dark Side of the Moon (1990) - Reviewed

Years before the hit first-person-shooter videogame Doom and the Paul W.S. Anderson directed horror thriller Event Horizon flirted with the notion of Hell, fire and brimstone in the farthest outer reaches of deep space, there was this low budgeted straight-to-video sci-fi horror flick which somehow managed to beat both aforementioned items to the finish line.  Penned by future The Conjuring screenwriters Chad and Carey Hayes as well as being the only feature film from music video director D.J. Webster, the indie microbudget chiller with the same title as a certain famous Pink Floyd album The Dark Side of the Moon doesn’t quite live up to the antics of alien knockoffs such as Forbidden World or Moontrap yet manages to find its own footing as a piece of old fashioned space horror and fear of the unknown.

Set in the year 2022, the crew of the Spacecore-1 is on a routine mission of repairing nuclear satellites orbiting the Earth when the ship is hit with a power failure, depleting the crew of heat and oxygen.  Out of the deep blackness of the dark side of the moon drifts a derelict NASA space shuttle with no visible crew members left alive but plenty of oxygen.  Naturally the crew of Spacecore-1 boards the dormant spacecraft and ferrets over the oxygen.  Unbeknownst to the crew, a malevolent, invisible force of evil is lurking in the shuttle and very soon the entity takes possession of the ship mates one by one ala The Evil Dead until only one human is left standing against an otherworldly armada from Hell. 

Mostly known as the last film of famed character actor Joe Turkel of Stanley Kubrick’s Paths of Glory and The Shining as well as Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, this modestly sized and mostly sobering chiller co-starring Robert Sampson and Alan Blumenfeld establishes a typical ensemble space crew before unleashing whatever unknown horrors the universe has to offer.  It’s a decent production with expectedly claustrophobic and dimly lit set pieces you’d find on the Nostromo or the Sulaco.  Unfortunately, however, while the film does manage to convey a sense of dread or unease with occasional moments of violence and gore, The Dark Side of the Moon simply isn’t all that frightening and it moves at a surprisingly slow pace despite only running 91 minutes. 

For being a straight-to-video flick, The Dark Side of the Moon looks pretty good thanks to moody cinematography by Russ T. Alsobrook though it uses more split diopter shots than your typical Brian De Palma film.  Unfortunately the synthesized score by Mark Ryder and Phil Davies of Trancers and Society dates the film as a ‘90s movie almost immediately.  Performances are decent with Will Bledsoe looking a bit like a poor man’s Cary Elwes though the most overqualified actor in the movie is undoubtedly Mr. Turkel.  Even in a role that doesn’t require much of the actor, Joe Turkel still manages to make it his own though those thick rimmed glasses will invariably remind many viewers of Dr. Tyrell from Blade Runner.

Overall The Dark Side of the Moon is a halfway decent B-horror movie with some curious spins on the Bermuda Triangle and it was somewhat refreshing to see a thriller that relied more on mood than jump scares, however as aforementioned the film rarely becomes truly frightening and even drags in some parts.  With time the film did attain a cult following with German black metal band Nargaroth and Swedish death metal band Crypt of Kerberos both lifting samples of the slowed down demon voice from the film.  Still, when compared to the film and arguably the legendary videogame it clearly influenced, it sadly doesn’t hold a candle to either of them.

- Andrew Kotwicki