It’s one thing to recycle a concept from a popular mainstream flick in your own knock-off version.  Schlock merchants have been doing that since the birth of cinema.  However, recycling a film that already recycled another film really takes things to the limit.   If you aren’t giving as much as you are taking, the results can be some very thin retread-gruel.  Dead Space is an example of this sort of recycled recycling – and the results show off the limitations that occur when the copycat begins to devour its own tail.

Though it is not credited as such, Dead Space is basically a remake of Forbidden World, the Roger Corman-produced cult fave that ripped off Alien with guttersnipe verve and dished up a heaping helping of cheesecake to sweeten the pot.  Dead Space follows its plotline closely, sending intergalactic troubleshooter Krieger (Marc Singer) to a distant planet where scientists are trying risky, experimental means to devise a cure for the dreaded “Delta 5” virus.  They accidentally create a fast-growing reptilian beastie that begins chewing its way through the cast.  Lot of cat-and-mouse suspense follows, plus plenty of slime, latex and the inevitable mano-a-alien-o showdown.

Like Forbidden World, Dead Space is an abbreviated affair that runs just under 80 minutes and opens with recycled spaceship-dogfight scenes from Battle Beyond The Stars.  Despite having roughly the same plots, the finished results couldn’t be more different.  Forbidden World delivered its schlock with a cheeky smirk, added a healthy dose of sexy sleaze and reveled in its cheap gore effects.  Dead Space leans toward the antiseptic in its approach to schlock: the competent but dull script lacks trashy verve, glumly slogging through its paces with a limited amount of effects and bare skin.

Fred Gallo’s direction brings competence to the table but little else.  He and cinematographer Mark Parry give the film a look that you could describe as “Tony Scott on a budget” – lots of smoke and shafts of diffused lighting – and he gets competent performances from his actors.  Singer is a solid if bland lead and the backing cast also features a pre-Breaking Bad Bryan Cranston as a driven scientist.  However, Gallo doesn’t bring any passion or excitement to his work here.  Like the script, he just rolls through the paces in a no-frills style.  It doesn’t help that his bright, smoky visual style calls attention to how threadbare the effects are (the final stage of the alien is notable for its poorly-done puppetry).

In short, Dead Space hits all the required paces but it forgets one key element: fun.  There’s no spark of excitement to be found here – and when you’re dealing in retread concepts, you’ve got to give the audience something extra to keep your recycled mixture fresh and interesting.  As a result, the film comes off like a Xerox of a Xerox of a Xerox – you can see what it was supposed to be but it’s too lacking in crucial details to work as a convincing copy.

The Terror Within / Dead Space [Double Feature]

The Terror Within / Dead Space [Double Feature]

Two tales of alien monster mayhem for one low price!The Terror Within: It’s the post-apocalypse, and the world has been changed by a chemical warfare experiment gone awry leaving only a few remnants of the human race. Eight lab students work to create a vaccine before they are forced outside in search for food. It is then that they discover creatures mutated by the plague.Director: Thierry NotzStars: George Kennedy (Cool Hand Luke), Andrew Stevens (The Fury, The Seduction)Bonus Features:Theatrical TrailerDead Space: A space solder and a scientific community on another planet try to destroy an alien monster created by a series of out-of-control genetic experiments.Director: Fred GalloStars: Marc Singer (V: The Original Miniseries, The Beastmaster), Laura Mae TateBonus Features:Commentary With Director Fred GalloTheatrical Trailer