Released in 1990 as a direct-to-video movie, 1989’s The Dark Side of the Moon is a hybrid science fiction and horror film about a group of space repairmen who encounter none other than Satan himself when their spacecraft drifts into the dark side of the moon. Although this movie has some pretty good ideas going for it, the lack of budget and a wonky script, as well as some uninspired direction, make The Dark Side of the Moon a difficult and at times tedious experience.
The movie takes place during the year 2020. It seems that humanity still can’t get along, as the Earth is surrounded by nuclear-armed satellites. These satellites are maintained by SPACECORE craft with minimal crews. One such craft, SPACECORE-1, is dispatched to repair a satellite. However, the craft experiences power failure and begins to drift toward the dark side of the moon, a placed known as Centrus B-40.
With the ship’s power systems down, the crew begins to run out of oxygen and heat. Fortunately, the crew soon discovers an old NASA space shuttle drifting in the same space. They capture this shuttle, designated Discovery, and raid its oxygen and power resources. However, there are more than just resources aboard this shuttle. Satan himself is aboard, having possessed the crew and dispatched them more than 30 years ago. And now Satan intends to take over the crew of SPACECORE-1 and do the same with this crew.
Writer brothers Chad and Carey Hayes (The Warren Files, The Reaping, and many others) borrow openly from films such as Alien, The Thing, and possession flicks to turn in a wonky script that suffers from lack of scientific detail and that leaves more questions than answers once the end credits start rolling. Director DJ Webster makes his movie debut, and it shows. Webster seems uninspired with the script and consequently his actors all appear wooden and stiff. There’s very little action in this spaceship-bound movie, and what few action scenes there are come off as lackluster.
What is interesting is that this movie has a good mix of new and character actors. I recognized quite a few faces while watching this movie, and what struck me most was that some of these actors have turned in some really good work previously. On The Dark Side of the Moon, however, these same actors feel uncomfortable with the dialogue and come off as wooden, as if they are not really bought into what they are saying.
You may not know the name Joe Turkel, but you will recognize him as the bartender in The Shining or as Tyrell in Blade Runner. The same is true of John Diehl, whose credits include Stargate, Stripes, A Time to Kill, and the television series The Shield. And then there’s Alan Blumenfeld, whose credits include WarGames, Inner Space, The Ring, and Olivier’s Ghost. With such talent available, it really falls on the director and the screenwriters to account for such a lackluster production.
Now, the overall idea that the devil was banished to the dark side of the moon and must now rely on spacecraft crews for souls is admittedly a new one. So is the idea that Centrus B-40 and Earth’s Bermuda Triangle are mirror images (and both coordinates have the affiliation 666, the number of the beast). However, these ideas are brought up but are never expanded. Moreover, there is no real solid payoff as to any of these ideas, with Satan merely coming off as a weakling who possesses people to devour their souls.
Dragging the film down even more is the fact that the screenplay borrows from previously successful science fiction/horror hybrids. For example, SPACECORE-1 has its own chair-bound android by the name of Lesli (played by Camilla More), who is a combination of Alien’s “Mother” and Ash. The possession of the crew members is a solid nod to Who Goes There?, which of course was played out to great effect in John Carpenter’s The Thing. And then there is the Satan thing, and putting him in space really is not all that novel.
The Dark Side of the Moon may of interest to fans of low-budget movies that have some interesting and redeeming qualities. However, most fans of horror and science fiction won’t find much to like on The Dark Side of the Moon—as a matter of fact, it’s all dark ;).