‘Stranded’ features four astronauts (and a very weak script) in need of rescue

December 11, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
Dec. 11, 2017

Stranded is a subpar 2013 science fiction/horror movie that fails to bring anything new to the subgenre.

The plot is fairly straightforward: A few decades in the future, a lunar mining facility known as Moonbase Ark is struck by a rogue meteoroid storm that wipes out all external communications and damages the generator and life support system. Although the four-person crew is in mortal danger because of the power outage — and, as becomes increasingly important, the engineer’s psychological instability and substance abuse problem — they examine one of the rocks that struck the base and find that it contains a mysterious spore.

Shortly after deputy commander Ava Cameron (Amy Matysio) cuts her finger while running tests on the substance, she shows signs of what appears to be a nearly full-term pregnancy. Dr. Lance Cross (Brendan Fehr, one of the leads from the TV series Roswell) believes that the ailing lieutenant simply is suffering from some kind of aggravated cyst. However, base commander Gerard Brockman (Christian Slater — yes, of Heathers and Pump Up the Volume and whatnot) insists Cameron be put in isolation because of possible contamination.

Soon enough, Cameron gives birth to a pale humanoid creature that bites Bruce Johns (Michael Therriault), the engineer. Brockman and Cross dismiss their crewmates’ insistence that something is roaming the station as hallucinations brought on by carbon monoxide poisoning (and/or substance abuse, in Johns’s case). Their disbelief gives the creature time to grow, mimic Johns’s form, start murdering the staff and begin exhibiting increasingly exotic physiology.

Better movies have been built on slighter plots than that of Stranded. The special effects are bare bones, but the sets are convincing enough, and the acting is solid. The direction of Roger Christian, who helmed the notorious bomb Battlefield Earth, is competent if not particularly stylish for the most part. The glaring exception is a clumsily staged scene past the two-thirds mark in which four characters who at first all appeared to be clustered in or around the same airlock suddenly turn out to be in two separate places.

But the big problem with Stranded is its script. Christian Piers Betley, a writer-producer who’s worked on six low-profile movies over the past four years, borrows heavily from other, better movies for his monster-in-space scenario. Worse yet, the story suffers from a major implausibility: If Johns is an addict, and his work is vital to preserving the crippled moon station, why do his two able-bodied crewmates show little interest in monitoring where Johns is and what he’s doing? Cross never seems to be in the room when one of his patients has a crisis, and Brockman never appears to be doing anything of significance.

In the end, Stranded proves to be a barely diverting feature that is best ignored.

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