You may not know the name Sandy Collora, but any sci-fi nerd worth his salt is likely to recognize his two fan films: the Batman-Superman crossover World's Finest and the incredibly badass Batman vs Alien vs Predator short, Batman: Dead End. Both showed a world of promise for the ambitious effects designer turned director, but for obvious reasons neither of his fantasy fan films could ever been turned into a reality without inciting the ire of a garrison of copyright lawyers. And while I'd love to see a full length version of Batman: Dead End, I'm glad that its impossibility is what eventually lead Collora to develop a wholly original sci-fi film, Hunter Prey, to mark his directorial debut as a feature filmmaker.
I have a feeling that if Hunter Prey had been made some twenty or thirty years ago, it would be a fan favorite and mainstay of late night cable. Unfortunately, that's not the case. I think all but the most die hard sci-fi fans will find Collora's debut, which is about a group of masked soldiers who have to track an escaped prisoner across the desolate landscape of an alien planet on which their ship has crashed, a tad too slow for their tastes. Yes, Collora's film has more talking than explosions (it is a low budget film, after all), but that doesn't mean that it's boring, it just means some of the thrills are just more narrative-based than people expect from a 2010 sci-fi flick.
If you're okay with a film with a bit more gab than gasps, however, Hunter Prey is an exceedingly cool little film. The costume design and make-up effects are all top notch, the script is smart, the acting is dead on, and its got some great cinematography and shooting locations. Pacing is an issue in the beginning (the soldiers do appear to just be running up and down sand dunes for a while), but once the titular opponents are forced closer and closer together, it makes up for the slow open.
[Hunter Prey is currently available on Region 2 DVD on Amazon.co.uk]
The Blackout, Directed by Robert David Sanders, 2009
I'd say I was disappointed by The Blackout, but for that to be the case I'd have actually had to have expected something, anything from the film. But what exactly is anyone supposed to expect from a movie that so blatantly rips off the cover of another movie (in this case, Feast)? If the most basic aspect of its sales pitch is derivative of something else, surely the rest of the movie will fall in line with that lack of innovation, no? Well, it does.
You've seen The Blackout, which is about an apartment building full of people who are trapped inside with a bunch of monsters that have crawled forth from their subterranean lair, a dozen times before, and, unfortunately, director Robert David Sanders and screenwriter Jim Beck have little to offer to make it stand out amongst the din of bad creature features. That's not to say that the film isn't ambitious. It's got a neat little setup and the design of the creatures is pretty wicked (though, if I'm going to be a nerd about it, what exactly is the evolutionary advantage of giving a creature that lives exclusively underground a massive tail to kill things with?), but the acting is flat and the movie is crushed at every turn by the constraints of its low budget.
[The Blackout is currently available on Region 2 DVD on Amazon.co.uk]
The 7th Dimension (AKA Beacon77), Directed by Brad Watson, 2009
The 7th Dimension is filled with lofty ideas that are just outside of its reach. That's not to strictly say that director Brad Watson and screenwriter Debbie Moon were a poor match for the material, I just think that the material is a poor match for a film. I love the idea of a group of hackers who have locked themselves into a self-made fortress so they can hack into the Vatican's computer systems so they can obtain unlimited power by cracking the "Bible Code", but when said code is cracked it also cracks one of the hacker's own minds. But as you can tell from that plot description, its more abstract nature is better suited to the written page than the silver screen.
It doesn't help that one of the characters in it is head-clawingly obnoxious, either. If you can get past her and suspend disbelief rather substantially, The 7th Dimension is a decent little conspiracy-theory, next-step-of-evolution sci-fi thriller. Unfortunately those two obstacles are larger than most (myself included) are willing to put up with, so I'd really only recommend it to sci-fi enthusiasts who will pretty much watch anything so long as it's in the genre.
[The 7th Dimension is currently available on Region 2 DVD on Amazon.co.uk]