PLAGUERS *** USA 2008 Dir: Brad Sykes. 85 mins
Brad Sykes’ busy career has encompassed everything from the shot-on-video post-SCREAM slashers CAMP BLOOD and CAMP BLOOD 2 to an entry in the long running, seemingly indestructible WITCHCRAFT series. PLAGUERS, shot back in 2006, is a fun, straight-forward call back to all those 80’s ALIEN clones that had fun with outer space gore on budgets usually lower than Ridley Scott’s old Hovis commercials. This one even has the tagline “In Space, Everyone Screams!” After a cliched eight-hours-earlier framing device, the USS Pandora is heading back to Earth with a dead captain and a glowing, bright green power source named Thanatos hoped to be a money spinner. The Captain’s widow (Alexis Zibolis) has taken charge and there is much ALIEN-style crew moaning about the work and the freeze-dried meals. Unfortunately, Thanatos is able to turn folks into ravenous, feral, mutant versions of their former selves, something that is confirmed when the Pandora is accosted by sexy space pirates in fetching silver knee high platform boots and purple mini dresses. Not overly reliant on cheap CGI, Sykes delivers a satisfying array of grisly practical make up effects as all Hell breaks loose and the virus spreads at an engaging, throat-ripping pace. The cast are likeable, with always-welcome veteran Steve Railsback, whose biggest brush with sci-fi splatter was Tobe Hooper’s glorious LIFEFORCE, channelling Ian Holm and Lance Henriksen as a sardonic, possibly untrustworthy android (“Nobody’s perfect!”). It’s a spirited combination of post-28 DAYS LATER contagion movie and Roger Corman style space shocker, with a suspenseful finale and a climactic mutant resembling a gloopier version of at least one vintage movie monster. Kudos also for the downbeat ending, which is in line with all those it’s-not-over-yet coda cutaways beloved of 80’s genre flicks.
Review by Steven West