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Friday Fright Night: Pitch Black

Darkness is death…

Pitch Black

An adaptation by David Twohy, Ken Wheat and Jim Wheat of Isaac Asimov’s short story Nightfall, Pitch Black is the film that made Vin Diesel a household name.

It’s 2678 and the Hunter-Gratzner is transporting 30-40 civilians and one terrifying criminal, who is so dangerous and aware that even being placed in cryo-sleep doesn’t do anything to his brain and who is already plotting how to escape. The HG is on a back route first to New Mecca, then to the main worlds and our criminal is locked down like Hannibal Lecter because Johns, is taking him back to jail. Fortunately for our Lecter-like friend the ship is hit by several pieces of debris going extremely fast, piercing the hull and killing the captain and several passengers instantly and forcing a crash landing on the nearest planet: a desert wasteland with three suns and little water.

Unfortunately for everyone the planet is filled with underground murder monsters that come above ground during the total solar eclipse every 23 years.

This? Is year 23.

One of the most beautifully shot horror movies ever Pitch Black uses light and darkness in a way I don’t think many films have. The planet’s three suns bleach everything into stark relief, making the surroundings washed out yet extremely beautiful in a lonely and isolated way and emphasizing the cast’s faces and weariness. It also makes the setting quietly unsettling: there’s a scene towards the beginning of the movie where the survivors find what they think are trees but once everyone gets closer they realize are the bleached bones of gigantic animals. It’s gorgeous and terrifying and a perfect visual cue that there’s something worse than Riddick in play.

Then nightfalls.

The terror of not knowing what exactly is out there, where the danger will come from and just how many predators are in play, alien and human alike, make the darkness in this movie a living, breathing thing, even more dangerous than the mass murderer who may be everyone’s only hope for survival.

The spiritual descendant of FarScape and forerunner to Firefly, the film is heavily influenced by and a heavy influence on each respectively; particularly where characters are concerned. The archetypes in this movie are what make it stand out above and beyond your typical horror fare as most of the main cast, with a few notable exceptions, are rampant jerkasses at best, straight up murderers and cowards at worst. There is, of course, the charmingly frightening Riddick but this isn’t just his show. He’s surrounded by the beautiful and unfailingly kind Shazza; troubled officer Johns; newly appointed, and extremely frightened, captain Fry; kindhearted holy man Imam and runaway Jack who worships the ground Riddick walks on.

With the exceptions of Shazza and Imam, the others aren’t actually people you’d want to spend any time with on a good day. The choice to make these people the protagonists of the film was highly unusual at the time and started the trend of morally grey, if not outright black, main characters that had long been a hallmark of literature, especially comic books, but not seen often in films or television. Something for which fans of the above mentioned shows as well as the MCU should be extremely grateful for.

Five out of Five Glow Worms

About belleburr (472 Articles)
Actor, writer, singer

1 Comment on Friday Fright Night: Pitch Black

  1. Reblogged this on The Adventures of Fort Gaskin-Burr and commented:

    My thoughts on Pitch Black


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