Blu-ray

{Blu-ray Review} Something’s Out There: The Dark Side of the Moon (1990)

It looks like it’s been through hell.”

Seven years before Event Horizon, the duo who would eventually go on to write The Conjuring penned what is basically a low-rent version of, well, Event Horizon. If you ever saw The Dark Side of the Moon—say at your local video store—you probably remember it as “the movie where the Bermuda Triangle is a portal to the moon, for some reason.” And it is, eventually, though it takes some time to get there.

Feeling a bit like a couple of spec scripts that got crashed rather haphazardly together, Dark Side of the Moon opens with a text crawl introducing us to the (then) far-flung future of 2022, as we join the crew of the Spacecore 1 on a “refab” mission to repair a nuclear satellite that has gone out of orbit and drifted toward, well, you can probably guess where from the title.

We meet the whole crew in short order—including their feminine computer, Lesli, played as a ‘30s femme fatale by Camilla More, aka Tina from the fourth Friday the 13th—just before the power mysteriously goes out. Now drifting in space, running out of oxygen, with the temperature plunging and on a collision course with the moon, the crew encounters a derelict, thirty-year-old NASA shuttle.

“This is weirder than the Flying Dutchman,” the captain (Robert Sampson, Dean Halsey in Re-Animator) proclaims, in case the nautical themes have been going over your head up to that point. It is pretty weird, though. In spite of being lost for decades and having no crew, the ship has power and atmosphere (albeit with unusually high levels of sulfur, hmm) and, weirder still, is soaked in salt water and covered in seaweed.

They find only one person on board—or what’s left of him. The remains of the only crew member who wasn’t accounted for when the ship made a crash landing in the Bermuda Triangle thirty years before. Cause of death? A weird, bloody-but-sterile perfect triangle cut into his stomach.

The triangle motif in Dark Side of the Moon both is and isn’t subtle. Triangles are everywhere in this movie. Worked into the architecture of the ships, emblazoned on uniforms, in the light and shadows that frame characters in shots. In one scene, a character is watching ones and zeros scroll along a computer screen—ostensibly, she is deriving some kind of information from this—and the numerals form triangle patterns.

After a while, you are seeing (or noticing) triangles everywhere. The three rockets on the back of the ship form a triangle, but then, that’s true of actual space shuttles, too…

They bring the body back onto the ship, and in short order he’s up and about, killing or possessing or both the crew members one by one, each one of them with a bloody triangle in their torso. The first time he strikes, a bloody head briefly comes out of that wound and… does something. It’s unclear, and also pretty much the film’s only nod toward a creature effect besides some yellow contacts and a third-act fake-out with a dryer hose.

Dark Side of the Moon is decorated up in the kinds of nonspecific Christian apologetics that may not be surprising if you’ve seen some of the other films that the Hayes brothers wrote—The Conjuring, sure, but also The Reaping(2007). The thing that they bring onto their ship is the devil in all but name—when asked, he gives the classic answer that he has “many names.”

A big reveal comes when our protagonist figures out that the latitude and longitude of the Bermuda Triangle is 666—if you take out all the other numbers. And our hero—a lowkey atheist—saves the day by regaining his faith. And, y’know, using a nuke. This is a movie from the ‘90s, after all.

So, just what is going on? Well, apparently the Bermuda Triangle is a portal to the dark side of the moon and maybe along the way it passes through hell? Whatever happens, the devil has hitched a ride on it, and he intends to “take what is mine,” by which he apparently means souls. He’s going to use those souls to eventually become more powerful than god, until “heaven is nothing more than a crucible filled with dust.”

What any of this has to do with the Bermuda Triangle, exactly, is anyone’s guess. When asked about that particular plot point, the devil seems to indicate that it’s simply “convenient.” It seems like it would be more convenient if it was located in the middle of Times Square, but what do I know about the geo-theology?

Wikipedia claims (without citation) that the film’s title is a nod to the Pink Floyd album, which seems like it might be a stretch, but then again, there are all those triangles…

The movie that wraps all of this is mostly workmanlike, the only feature credit for director D.J. Webster, but the Blu-ray from Unearthed Films makes it look as good as it can. The picture is never muddy, the chiaroscuro of the shadows and light are nice and sharp, and you can generally understand the characters when they’re talking.

The crew of the Spacecore 1 are mostly made up of character actors with filmographies dominated by television, but they all do creditable work, and while they are occasionally called upon to very seriously say mumbo-jumbo, most of the time the dialogue is solid.

The production designers of Dark Side of the Moon had obviously seen both Alien and Aliens, but that was pretty unavoidable on space thrillers in 1990. There’s a dinner sequence, in particular, that calls back the one in Alien, albeit much less dramatically. It does, however, introduce us to Chekhov’s coffee creamer. And it’s hard to imagine that Joe Turkel—who is perhaps the movie’s biggest star, having appeared in both The Shining and Blade Runner, to name just a couple—wasn’t cast partly for his resemblance to Lance Henriksen as Bishop.

There’s nothing terribly wrong with Dark Side of the Moon, but, aside from its rather more literal take on the same plot as Event Horizon almost a decade before, there’s little enough to make it stand out, either. But if what you’ve got is a hankering for a Dennis Wheatley novel in spaaaace, you could certainly do a lot worse.

What may be the film’s best sequence is saved for last, as the camera pans across a miniature set showing the various wreckage from the Bermuda Triangle strewn across the surface of the moon, with an ominous voiceover and earth partly illuminated in the background. Roll credits.

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