By 2027, we will establish a moon base for purposes of mineral exploration, so says Stranded. Even better, America’s manned, one year mission should be hosted by Christian Slater. It’s short of Bruce Willis, but on a B-level mission to our planet’s orbiting satellite, Slater will do.
Slater is joined by three others, hosting no resolution to their character depth as Stranded instantaneously propels meteorites onto a set of refreshing miniatures. Panic ensues and CO2 levels reach dangerously critical levels, enough for the crew to question what exactly has invaded their now dilapidated moon base.
Riding shotgun on those space rocks is a droopy spore which resembles a failed, homemade pepperoni pizza. Curiosity and abysmal scientific protocol lead to infection, and the sole female becoming impregnated through a cut in her finger. Cue an understandably terrified male populace. Eva (Amy Matysio) births a mouthy, biting infant in a matter of hours, given the form of a human baby before cloning itself into visages of other crew.
Frequent reminders of CO2 and alcoholism are prominent, flimsy excuses to explain outlandish happenings, allowing Slater to mouth off into broken communication systems. Earth responders fail to hear frantic messages, so Stranded locks itself down within inconsistently affected hallways, throws out determined safety measures, and over utilizes smoke in attempt to hide this sordid Alien knock-off from view.
Roger Christian directs, linked to Star Wars and Alien, but also infamously pitiful John Travolta vehicle, Battlefield Earth. Even with consideration of budget, Stranded leans in Battlefield’s direction.
Bored computer voices spew warnings about increasing system failures, monotone enough to represent audience feelings toward this material. Stranded’s “creature run amok in darkness” framing device is sleepily utilized to push conflicting methodologies into scripting phases. Space suits are essential to base browsing during the initial act before being dropped in their entirety, Stranded clumsily trying to keep pace with its shifting logic center.
Of limited appeal is the alien, a sharply done make-up unable to instill grandiose fear when it reflects humanistic elements over the exotic. Stranded becomes infected with a splatter bug, punishing with gore over scares, before closing on an incapable, unsatisfying finish. Sequel baiting is poor form, doubly so when source material is squandered with generic sci-fi rooting.
Produced with the Red Epic, Stranded is cast in shadow as moon base ARK loses its central solar power. It is a shame black levels are rickety enough to lessen visual depth, situated in clouded grays with instances of true black saved for moon surface exteriors. At least space looks appropriately black.
There is nominal color to soak in, left to touch screen computer interfaces as overcast runs through most of Stranded. Flesh tones are boring, saturation is shallow, and primaries do not exist outside of reds. Until closing pre-credit moments, finding a color basis is challenging.
Image utilizes AVC encoding which exerts itself under pressure, but cannot find the strength to stave off banding in smoke or flashlight heads. Glows reveal hefty posterization, failing to limit compression intrusions.
Stranded produces a smattering of workable close-ups, light on fidelity mostly due to sour source cinematography. Light sources limit themselves and thus crimp down on visible facial detail. Sets are lost to grays, and miniature shots are forcibly steamed as to hide their tiny origins. If nothing else, Stranded works around noise, keeping images cleanly stable.
Meteor showers bring hefty LFE within the opening frames of Stranded, this becoming a powerful DTS-HD mix when it wants to. Slamming into the moon’s surface as well as structures, audio opens up otherwise confined spaces with strewn debris, sparks, and other items panning into each speaker. Stranded’s design makes the most of ambient steam too, a consistent element to failing systems. Opened airlocks whisk precious oxygen into the void, with an assist from the subwoofer to complete the rush.
Opportunity is missed in terms of the monster’s presence, initially a scuttling baby which wraps itself around the soundfield. Gained atmosphere depletes as Stranded’s critter reaches adulthood, waiting silently around corners. Excitement is lost to dreadful dullness by purposeful narrative design.
Skip Stranded’s thin making of, which becomes little more than plot recap with actors and crew for 15-minutes. Life on the Moon is more involved, picturing miniature and make-up construction effects artist Emersen Ziffle. It’s short at six minutes, but at least hosts some insight.