Arrow Video UHD: Pitch Black (2000) - Reviewed

Convicted murderer Riddick (Vin Diesel) is being transported across the gulf of space to imprisonment when his journey is interrupted as the intergalactic spaceship he is on crash lands on a desert alien planet.  Aboard the ship is Fry (Radha Mitchell) who gathers together the remaining survivors.  Riddick escapes his shackles but soon, as the sun goes down, an even greater threat than Riddick himself befalls the surviving astronauts, forcing them to hastily join forces with Riddick for their own self-preservation.
The Arrival writer-director David Twohy’s Pitch Black, billed at the time as an Alien action sci-fi thriller, is best remembered for spawning the action film series Riddick as well as cementing actor Vin Diesel’s status as an action movie superstar.  Though the sequels helmed by Twohy prominently featuring Diesel leaned more heavily towards action adventure, the original film was something of a future noir horror piece channeling Alien while offering a different kind of leading “hero”.  At the time the tightly budgeted picture which felt not all that dissimilar from a Syfy channel original production and opened to mixed reviews but amassed a strong following upon home video release, prompting the genesis of the three sequels including an animated film named Dark Fury

Which makes Arrow Video’s 4K UHD disc release of the film something of an unusual but welcome choice.  Seen now however, the film joins equidistant battleground with Paul Anderson’s Event Horizon as a, yes, derivative but solid B science-fiction ensemble action adventure as well as horror thriller.  Looking at it even closer now though the CG effects are indeed dated, the Super 35mm footage of the sets glimmering in 4K as well as the intimacy of the tight closeups of Vin Diesel’s brooding face, from a purely technical end it feels both behind and ahead of its time. 
Visually the film takes advantage of the desert locations with David Eggby’s high contrast cinematography looking hotter than ever in 4K.  Mostly however, Pitch Black is Vin Diesel’s show making him a threat from the beginning but also giving ample playground for the character of Riddick to form an uneasy charm over the audience.  The film also includes a bevy of gifted character actors such as Keith David and Cole Hauser.  Silent Hill fans will notice Radha Mitchell right away with Pitch Black arguably being among her first scream queen roles. 

Despite some areas where the effects show their age, as an ensemble B action horror flick Pitch Black is quite fun and remains a taut modestly sized science fiction thriller.  Moreover, it formed a unique working relationship between Twohy and Diesel who reunited twice more over the character which made them a namesake.  The new Arrow Video 4K brings out the lushness of the Super 35mm photography and being among Arrow’s first forays into the 4K disc format business Pitch Black is most certainly a forward step in the right direction for them.

--Andrew Kotwicki