Pitch Black (1999) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Humans crash land on a barren planet that seems to have eternal daylight because it has three suns, and it appears that there is no life at all on this world until .....

... the humans realize that there is some peculiar alignment in this solar system, with two planets dancing in harmony around a triple star. They are on the smaller planet, and they come to understand that the giant ringed planet will soon move into a position to block out all three suns at once.


It turns out that while there is no life on the planet's surface during the daylight, there are nocturnal animals beneath the surface of the planet. Really nasty ones. They are winged carnivores who live in subterranean caves during the nearly perpetual daylight, but take advantage of the occasional eclipse to explore the surface. They are large and very fast, travel in flocks of thousands, have night vision, and look a lot like the "Alien" monster. 

So it's gonna be a rough night for humans.

The crew members are trapped away from the ship, and have to cross a significant piece of landscape in pitch blackness. Their best hope for survival is to free their prisoner, a scary chained convict with night vision. Of course, there is no guarantee that the sociopath will help anyone but himself, and he may kill the crew even if they all survive the creatures, but they don't have much choice because the convict's superhuman strength and his ability to see at night make him far more useful out of his chains.


none. Not even a near-miss.

The convict, Riddick (Vin Diesel), is the true star of the film. This is the film that made Diesel a star, and deservedly so. Vin hasn't always made the right career choices in the intervening years, but Pitch Black shows how completely he can command the screen when given the right material.

The film itself basically follows a three act structure.

  • The first five minutes of Pitch Black are just set-up, but the next 20 minutes or so are very imaginative visually. The odd planetary surface is enhanced by the lighting effects caused by the colors of the three suns, and other factors in the geometry of that solar system. 
  • The middle portion consists of humans being picked off one by one in darkness because they are virtually defenseless against giant winged carnivores. Although this is the slowest and most predictable part of the film, there are still some great nail-biting moments.
  • The last 15 minutes are a great thrill ride. Lots of tension, lots of sudden movement, lots of scares. The dramatic tension of the film hinges on how many humans will survive, and which ones. There are actually some surprises in the results. I like that. I applaud any movie which doesn't follow the Star Trek "red shirt" formula. Just once I wanted to see a landing party come back with the red shirt guys alive and McCoy dead.

It's a good genre film. Although Pitch Black may remind you of other movies, especially Alien, it also has its own look and feel, and it delivers what you want if you like horror/sci-fi. It has the special look and feel of a distant planet. It has the scares. It has imagination and interesting characters.

DVD info from Amazon.
  • two full-length director's commentaries!

  • two documentaries

  • Widescreen anamorphic. 2.35:1


This is basically a film for guys. No chicks. No little kids.

  • Don't take small children to this film, because they will have nightmares until they are in college.
  • Don't take a date unless she likes to be scared shitless and doesn't mind seeing humans devoured on camera.

The Critics Vote

  • Critical consensus: Berardinelli 2/4, Ebert 2/4.


The People Vote ...

  • with their votes ... IMDB summary: 6.6 out of 10. A very good score for a hard-core genre pic.
  • with their dollars .., It did damned good for such a darkly-themed film. $39 million domestic gross on a $23 million budget.
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C+. It's a hard-core genre flick, and I doubt it has much cross-over appeal, so you might want to skip it if you don't like "Alien"-type movies, but if you do like that kind of film, this one is a thrilling and eye-appealing film with interesting characters. 

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