Marooned on a deserted planet, and picked up by an old, derelict spaceship, six unwitting travelers find themselves enslaved by a madman. Picking them off one by one, they quickly learn there are some things worse than death.
There’s a lesson to be learned from Harry Tchinski’s 2011 film, Spaceship Terror. If, at any point in time, your small spacecraft has to make an emergency landing, and your pilot is injured and unable to get your vessel back in the sky, don’t, by any means, wander into a huge, dark ship that has the words “TERROR” written across the side. No good can come of that. Another lesson we might learn: don’t write off a low budget B-movie based on title sequence and CGI alone. You might just miss out on something kind of interesting.
Granted, Spaceship Terror has a lot stacked against it. As I mentioned, right away we get a wobbly title and credit sequence that gives us a hint at the technical skills we have to look forward to. That hint comes to us loud and clear when we realize that most any of the “effects” in this movie are done with shaky CGI, causing the already low budget sci-fi/horror film to look cheaper than it really is. And then there is the acting. To an extent, you gotta give these ladies some credit; they are not experienced movie stars, and the dialogue they’re working with isn’t exactly Tarantino quality. But you can pretty much feel the inexperience and lack of instruction oozing through your screen as the cast stutters through lines and talks over each other. Taking all of this into account, I have to say I’m still mildly impressed with the final product.
The general plot is that a crew of five women and one injured male crash land on a planet and look to find their way to safety. They come across an enormous ship, apparently named “TERROR,” and all of them wander aboard, hoping to find the crew and at least get some medical attention for their injured friend (Hardwick, played by Stephen Lestat, suffered an unidentified injury as he discovered that his spaceship was malfunctioning). The door closes and locks behind them, and they run into Chris, a woman who has been held captive on the ship for the last two years. She explains that the captain plays games with people, sets up boobie traps and hunts the crews one by one, a regular cat and mouse game, until they are all dead. With each kill, the captain gives one more section of a code that will activate an escape pod, raising the stakes just that much more. Oh, and he can watch them wherever they are, so they better be careful. It’s like Event Horizon meets The Most Dangerous Game, except different.
And so, we have essentially a claustrophobic slasher film set on a spaceship. We lose the male fairly quickly, leaving the five crew members and their new friend to battle a mysterious enemy. Captain Terror’s first trap is…turning up the heat in their room, causing the women to take their Breaking Bad looking suits off and run around for the rest of the movie in their underwear (sorry, these are regular ladies, so they are wearing underwear, but nothing too fancy). One by one, the members of the group get trapped or caught as they try and figure out a safe way off the ship. Legs are chopped off, doors crush bodies into mere blood stains on the wall, heads are removed. Eventually they gather up some supplies to assemble a makeshift gun, but will it be enough to stop this hulking beast of a man?
Overall, Spaceship Terror is a super low budget movie that looks like a super low budget movie. The effects are pretty cheap, the acting is pretty weak, but there is an unexpectedly high amount of blood and gore throughout. While this doesn’t cover the shortcomings, it certainly helps. And the plot, while containing a small handful of gaps, is actually kind of cool. It’s a movie that won’t be remade, won’t be remastered in a studio with a big budget, but you have to wonder what it might have looked like with better actors and a higher budget for some of the effects and sets. My research says this is Harry Tchinski’s first movie; if this is true, and he continues forward, working out the bugs and gaining experience, I could see some good things coming from him. For now, we are simply left with a decent movie and a bucket full of could have’s, would have’s, and should have’s.