Film Corner: Dead Space

Dead Space: Downfall

I have just found out they made a DEAD SPACE movie, so it's time for an #AnaWatches thread and you get to come along with me. DEAD SPACE: DOWNFALL. "On a deep space mining mission for the crew of USG Ishimura to a remote planet, an ancient religious relic is unearthed and brought aboard. But when the unholy artifact unleashes a long-dormant alien race, its glimpse of Heaven transforms the ship into a living Hell." I'm informed this is animated. EVEN BETTER.

We open with a low fidelity video recording in which Alissa Vincent wearily explains that an ALIEN LIFEFORM took over the bodies of her crew and killed everyone for giggles. Security footage of spaghetti marinara splattered all over the ship. She says her ship and the artifact they found need to be destroyed. I really would've added more details about the alien(s?) and how they do the body snatching. Seems important.

We cut to DEEP SPACE MINING COLONY AEGIS 7 and I have a moment of sadness at the thought of humanity strip mining other planets. Is that an actual theme in Dead Space or is the mining just a means to the Hell Artifact? Three people in space suits explore a mining hole and comment that nothing looks like it should. I swear there are giant claw marks in the cave walls, but they think it looks like an old excavator model did it. They find a twisty spiky obelisk thing that is clearly evil so that's cool.

"Artifact discovered, could be a second marker, please advise."
"Unitologist church has been notified."

Oh no, is this based on the second game? Am I watching these in the wrong order? Hang on. No, Wikipedia says DOWNFALL is a prequel to the first Dead Space game. I just didn't realize the unitologists already existed, look you could fit what I know about this franchise into a patchwork quilt. "Launch of Ishimura on schedule" omg not only is this a prequel but we're in a flashback. NESTED LAYERS OF PAST TENSE.

"Unexplained violence among some of the colonists" is always a fun thing to hear in a horror movie. And it feels terrifyingly realistic that the powers which be wouldn't admit to zombies or demons until too late. We cut to Alissa as she bored-ly examines case files of a dozen grisly murders. "That's odd. What's going on down there?" she asks in the same tone of voice I use when the garage door seems a little sluggish to open. She lacks urgency is what I'm saying.

Like, I assume she's just supposed to be a calm and collected badass, and also being emotionless in affect isn't a BAD thing, but it makes me think maybe grisly murders are common in this society and the only odd thing here is their number. Which I'm probably not meant to think. She also takes professional video calls in her sports bra, which I can't really criticize because I would too if I could get away with it.

Alissa suits up with a badass leather jacket, cop badge, and gun. Her badge says she's SHIP security and I don't mean to be obtuse but I'm confused why she's reviewing colony murder logs. Men discuss the artifact while they prep it to load onto the ship. Apparently the unitologist church--I refuse to keep typing that out, it's the unity church now--thinks it created humanity. Why?? I'm entranced by the idea of a popular religion which doesn't posit mankind's origins on earth. Seems like that goes against both our psychological need to be the center of the universe and, like, science.

There's also something fascinating (and perhaps deliberately ominous?) about a church named Unity which already contradicts science and every major religion I can think of. It's almost Orwellian and I like it.

Alissa meets with the ship captain and protests bringing the artifact on board, on the grounds that the colony murders are weirdly coincidental in timing. The Captain says these things happen in deep space colonies that are "2 and a half years old". Uhh. I don't know if we have faster than light travel but I have questions about how that statement can possibly be anything other than laughably impossible.

I know it's unfair of me to want world building in every space horror movie, but I always end up wondering how terrible things must be back home if people are willing to take these faraway, awful, dangerous jobs. Like, I found Star Trek believable because the people genuinely seemed like they were there for adventure or out of a sense of community service. But that was a "sometimes unknown danger" job and not "come work as a miner under conditions which will break you in 2 years or less".

The...the ship just winched a huge chunk of the surface into space and I've never seen anything like that but it also looked really impossible. A murderer who is also a prisoner in the medical bay (on the ship?) begs the medics to kill him because "they need bodies". Only with difficulty do they sedate him. So apparently the murderers are trying to prevent alien body snatchers?

The writing in this movie could be better, and y'all know by now that I have very low standards.

Two pilots enter a building and there's biological alien matter all over the walls. This, and the philosophy they're spouting about "dead planets" (vs Earth) is less interesting to me than knowing where the hell they are. Is this building part of the colony? Ok, these pilots are ACTUAL colonists and the flickering light and bio matter covering all the walls is new. "I'm gonna check on [my sick wife], catch you later," is casually uttered. WHAT?!

I want you to imagine that you drive home to find your normally steady overhead lights flickering wildly and your walls are covered with biological material that wasn't there this morning and looks like tendons or vines. Imagine yourself using a CASUAL TONE at that point. Dude hears women screaming and creatures growling so he runs home, opens the door, LEAVES IT OPEN, and then casually looks for his wife.

[TW: self harm] She stumbles in and says "they want our bodies" before killing herself. If everyone is reacting this way, seems like there won't be many bodies to gestate (?) inside. The ship had been briefly jammed from the colony's signal but now re-acquires the feed. In a matter of...minutes? hours? the entire colony was slaughtered and the interior was remodeled into a Throbbing Hell Bowels design.

Alissa wants to take a team down to "know what we're dealing with". The Captain refuses on the grounds that the risk to the ship crew is too great. We're not supposed to agree with him (he's with the Unity church) but he's right? The pilot manages to get his dead wife into his shuttle and heads up to the Ishimura; unfortunately, there's something on board. Uh oh, his dead wife isn't as dead as I previously thought.

The prisoner wakes up in the medical bay, follows a trail of blood to the morgue (never do that), and finds giant...I think they're moths. Giant moths are eating the morgue bodies. I have no idea how much time has passed between each scene change, and that's not good for a horror movie. Why didn't they stick with Alissa as a POV character? That would've been infinitely better than all this POV hopping which leaves the viewer confused.

I'm tempted to hazard that someone didn't believe a girl protagonist would hold audience interest and instead gave us these bouncy vignettes that leave us puzzled and distinctly unhorrified. I maintain the vignette style of this movie is to its detriment. We're halfway through and still introducing new characters, which is bad for pacing and engagement--audiences don't know who to care about or focus on.

The latest guy is a big engineer who, like the crew, worships the artifact for reasons I can't begin to understand. He convinces the crew not to mutiny over their desire to touch the giant obelisk. The security team is weirdly chill about the morgue being covered in blood and 20 dead bodies missing. They joke about shooting the living dead. When necro-whatevers do start chowing down, they panic in your traditional ALIENS style reaction. I do like the horror of having little life monitors on all the crew members blipping out one by one.

The ship security team sure does have a *lot* of bullets. A more suspicious person would wonder about that. Big engineer dude is now saving the security team with, idk, it's like a lightsaber slash engineering tool. The Captain is having an emotional breakdown and yelling about taking the artifact back to earth, monsters be damned. Someone or something launches all the escape shuttles, trapping everyone on board. I love these science fiction doors that slam closed on monsters and bifurcate them. You'd think that would normally be a safety issue.

It's nice to see a horror sequence in a hydroponics bay. And I think that's a baby with tentacles. The scientist decides to wreck the ship in order to save earth and the security lead leads out a team to stop him--a plan which I'm not sure I agree with. Like, I get having hope and refusing to lay down and die, but you guys are obviously fucked.

Alissa watches a necromorphening first-hand so her opening "we're all dead from monsters" flash-forward which refused to include any details was apparently just her being stubborn and secretive. Cool, cool. (This is a common problem with opening flash-forwards and why they must be deployed cautiously and with great care.) Alissa meets up with the scientist, who insists he's crashing the ship to protect earth. He's basically Ripley and I'm struggling to disagree with him. Alissa tackles him but he gets away after locking the guidance systems down.

Chased by zombies, Alissa backs up against the marker and realizes they can't get close to it. She theorizes the marker kept them *trapped*, rather than creating them. Then again, she's doing her flash-forward message saying the ship and the artifact need to be destroyed, so idk. Nor do I understand why she still thinks she needs to prevent the ship from crashing. She now does neither of those things and instead vents herself and the zombies into space. The movie ends as another ship tells the bridge zombies to "prepare to be boarded".

Well, it didn't have plot or consistent characterization, but I guess it was a prequel as advertised!


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