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