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Indie Memphis Review: Interplanetary

October 12, 2008

Chance Shirley, director of Interplanetary, on set at a rock quarry in Alabama.

Whenever you meet cool filmmakers, like Chance and Stacey Shirley before their screening, you hope that their movie will be good and worry that if it isn’t, you will have this uncomfortable awkwardness afterwards. But, luckily, with their film, Interplanetary, I didn’t have to worry about that. Sure, it has some work to be done before it can achieve great status, but for a rough cut, this soon to be a B-movie classic, was a delightful romp through Mars and corporate greed.

In the Q&A after the film, Shirley pointed out that they wanted something between Office Space and a horror movie, which is the perfect description for this film. The movie is about the people working on the second station on Mars, with the first station said to be a rumor. Two members of the team have the greatest discovery of mankind which soon leads to their demise. As the story unfolds, we discover that even space exploration could be corporatized and that bureaucracy in space is just as stressful as on our third little rock from the sun.

But, I have made this movie sound much deeper than it really is. Sure, the premise is intense, but the execution is classic B-movie comedy/horror. The comic gags are executed well but some work is needed on a few scenes where the story falls flat with yet another joke. For example, one of the explorers wanders the station without speaking to anyone only later to discover he is an alien, and everyone who encounters him calls him an asshole. It worked the first couple of times, but then it got tired.

However, comedy aside, some of the effects were delightfully gross with limbs being torn apart. The best example is when an alien attacks a man using the toilet and leaves the lower half of his spine and body remaining seated. It is gory and makes you cringe but is an excellent prop, unlike one of the limbs that is put on ice in another scene. The ligaments of the bone sticking out look just too much like celery for me.

Michael Shelton stars in Interplanetary.

The horror angle of the movie was a blend of Aliens and Amazon Women on the Moon which may be unfair to say as it really stands out on its own as a great addition to the midnight movie scene. However, the iconic sci-fi characters were all in place. The female mechanic that is just one of the guys, the half naked slut, the rebel, the hero, the puppet of and the evil antagonist (corporate!). They follow the rules of slasher films, killing off the girl with her boobs hanging out (almost) first and then taking people down one-by-one. As the film gets near the conclusion you start to wonder if there will be anyone left, especially since the final chapter is named: Everyone on Mars is Dead. After the bloody mess left, it is a surprise that any remain.

Although Shirley did the rough cut screening here, his intention is to take the audience feedback and finish up edits on the movie to start it on the fest circuit. I could easily see this making it to Slamdance and Fantastic Fest next year and look forward to following its progression.

The movie has the right blend of sex, blood, greed and aliens to make for a classic. Watch out for this one.

On a sidenote – look for Sidewalk co-founder and now Indie Memphis director, Erik Jambor, in a cameo early on in the film. His cameo is part of a delightfully cheesy video explaining Life on Mars.

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