Pitch Black

Updated: Nov 4, 2021

Are you afraid of the dark?


Out there in the expanse of space is a planet. When the lights go out on that planet, the things that go bump in the night come out. However, they don't just go bump. They fly in the midnight sky, and they screech into the darkness. They howl in the sky, and they hunt everything in the black. In the shadows, you hear their echolocation whooping through the wind all the way until you realize they are eating you. There is nowhere to run, no place you can hide. They are the terrors of the eternal bewitching hour.


How do you contain your fear and find salvation when it's...

 

Pitch Black (2000)

Directed by: David Twohy

Written by: Jim Wheat and Ken Wheat (story); David Twohy (screenplay)

Music by: Graeme Revell

Stars: Vin Diesel, Radha Mitchell, Cole Hauser, Keith David, Rhianna Griffith, Claudia Black, Lewis Fitz-Gerald

Watch on: Showtime

Review Alpha 9.15.21.0014

 

A cargo ship is traveling through space, carrying a small group of passengers, all in hypersleep. All but one.


The awake passenger is a criminal named Riddick, who was captured by a mercenary named Johns. He narrates the story's opening, which immediately is subject to tragedy as the ship is pelted by micro-meteors. These punch through the hull, causing the ship to begin to crash land on an uninhabited planet. Luckily, the world has a breathable atmosphere. Unluckily, the junior officer piloting the ship is ejecting segments of the vessel to save what she can. What she's interested in saving is herself. Everyone else is expendable.


After the crash, the survivors collect themselves and assess the situation. The pilot, the mercenary, a holy man and some of his flock, a woman mechanic, an antiquities dealer, a scavenger, a teenage boy, and the criminal.


The group splits up to look for water and seek an inhabitable place to take shelter. Instead, they discover two stars bathing the planet in perpetual sunlight to get out of the sun. The scavenger, Zeke, is digging a hole where he is pulled into a recess and killed. Unknown to the rest of the group, some creature has pulled him inside and killed him. To everyone else, they lift the tarp and see Riddick there and blood. Riddick is assumed to be the killer and is recaptured by Johns.


When debating what to do with him, Riddick tells the group they are focused on the wrong killer. Resuming their work, they notice that the planet is devoid of life, especially when they encounter giant skeletons. As they investigate further, they find a miner settlement. There, they find buildings, water, a solar-powered cart, and a "skiff," a small rescue spacecraft by a miracle. They set out a plan to retrieve batteries from their crashed ship to power the skiff. Still, while they are preparing, the pilot, Carol, notices that the mining samples left behind were 22 years from the month they are in now. While that is happening, one of the pilgrims, to a place called New Mecca, is killed by a swarm of tiny flying carnivores. They notice the creatures stick to the dark and avoid light, especially sunlight. Keeping this in mind, they


Then shit goes sideways.


As they are loading the cart, a spectacular astronomical event occurs. As it turns out, the survivors are on a moon, and the planet it orbits is creating an eclipse. As it darkens, more swarms of the creatures appear. One swarm kills the mechanic, Shaz, carrying her away and ripping her in half.


But we haven't seen anything yet! Riddick, who can see in the dark since his eyes "shined" in prison, sees more creatures emerge. The small swarms, they were just little babies. The creature emerging are giant, larger than a human. They swarm out of holes in what looks like termite mounds and fill the night sky as the last trace of light disappears.

Let me see how bad this shit is...
...yep, this shit is bad!

The rest of the movie is about the struggle to survive. At first, the survivors want to wait it out in the confines of the crashed ship, but they realize this darkness may go on for months or years. After heated arguments, they decide their only chance is to make it to the skiff. They proceed to get every piece of light they can, load up the batteries on a piece of metal for an improvised sled and set out.


Naturally, the creatures follow them and start to pick them off. However, the reason for it isn't what you would expect. The teenage boy, Jack, is actually a teenage girl who shaves her head to protect herself since she was traveling alone. She's also carrying another secret - she's menstruating. Like sharks, the creatures are drawn to the scent of blood. First, Paris goes down most spectacularly. Then one of Imam's followers,

When the "hero" becomes the villain and the "villain" becomes the hero.

Then Johns is taken out after he proposes to Riddick they kill Jack and drag her behind them as bait. To the surprise of the audience, Riddick disagrees. They fight where Riddick manages to inflict some cuts on Johns. Johns becomes the bait and is speared by a bioraptor in the dark.


As they get close to the miner camp, Riddick sees that they are cut off. He puts Carol, Imam, and Jack into a cave and seals it with a heavy boulder to give himself the best chance. He then takes the remaining light and manages to take the batteries to the skiff, and begins prepping the craft for flight.


Meanwhile, in the cave, the remaining light extinguishes. To the surprise of the three, the cave is filled with a bioluminescent worm species. They fill their empty bottles, and Carol makes her way to the camp.

When I was a kid, we used to do this with Lightning bugs!

Believing they are dead and because he's a selfish asshole, Riddick is about to depart when Carol runs in front of the craft. Riddick opens the loading door and tells Carol to come aboard, but it will only be the two of them. Carol, racked with guilt for being responsible for the death of the rest of the ship's crew and passengers, refuses, and they two fight. In the fight, Riddick asks if Carol would die for them, which she says yes, she would but not for Riddick. Interested by this, Riddick agrees to help Carol get Jack and Imam.


On the return, Riddick is cut off from the rest. He is trapped between two of the bioraptors, as they are called. He proceeds to kill them but is badly wounded himself. At the ship, Imam and Jack plead for Carol to leave. As she is about to agree, they hear Riddick yell in pain in the distance.


Such a tender moment...only to be literally ripped away.

Carol finds Riddick and helps him to his feet. As they are nearly back, there is a thump and a gasp. Blood drips on the ground as the two look into one another's eyes. After a brief pause, Carol is dragged away by a flying bioraptor. Falling to his knees, Riddick yells out into the dark: "Not for me!"



Riddick makes it back, and the three survivors leave the planet but not before Riddick turns off the lights, drawing in dozens of the creatures. They enter space and into the light, having survived a pitch black nightmare. As one roars at him through the cockpit window, Riddick powers the skiff to full power and flies through the dark, lights off, killing countless of the creatures.

 

They say our fear of the night goes far along our evolutionary lines, back to when our tree-dwelling ancestors lived in terror of the bedtime hunters. Things that crept and crawled and slithered came for us and ate us, making us afraid when the lights went out. It carried to the earliest humans, who used fire to extend the protection of light from those that would harm us. Even today, when the lights go out, our primordial anxiety and fear arise from deep within. Riddick reminds me of this when he asks, "are you afraid of the dark?"

Pitch Black taps into human fears of loneliness, isolation, and the helplessness of not being in control. It also shows us that we are also monsters. While the bioraptors are the external threat to the group, the monsters within are front and center. Carol and her willingness to eject all the passengers to save herself. Riddick, the fugitive killer. Johns, the Merc who wasn't above killing a child, so save himself. Even Paris, who was more concerned about his liquor stash, considered risking the group's safety by initially refusing to let them use it as fuel for improvised light.

The movie also shows the duality within. Most people have risen above self-preservation at the expense of all others, except for Johns. This was best illustrated by Carol's sacrifice to save Riddick.

Pitch Black is an interesting SciFi horror movie in that it isn't terrifying, but you can feel the horror all the same. While the story was good, the acting was just ok. There isn't a ton of special effects, but they are pretty well done. One area I particularly enjoyed was how the biraptors "see" through their use of echolocation. The theme song of the movie...yea, I really like it.

However, the movie did well enough with audiences that it spawned the rest of the Riddick series. It does well enough for me that I am happy to watch it on multiple occas


Warp 7 on the SciFi drive!

 

Next Review: Extinction

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