Into Pitch Black is a tie-in to the original film, an hour long special that was originally broadcast on the Syfy channel. They’ve done this kind of thing before, most notably with the Blair Witch Project, though this seems to have aged a little better. It helps a great deal that the world Riddick exists in is so vaguely defined, it allows them greater leeway in creating a sidequel.
Using a smattering of scenes from Pitch Black, we are given an overview of the film through the eyes of a contractor hiring a mercenary to find Riddick. Interspersed through the narrative are interviews with Riddick’s psychologist in prison as well as the prisoner who altered Riddick’s eyes. There’s a lot of digital overlay, computer screens and graphics to give it more of a documentary look when we’re not in the thick of the narrative. All of that actually gives it a great deal more atmosphere, and it needs it!
The narrative component of this film looks cheap. I’m sure that’s because it was cheap, filmed on standing sets that were decorated with whatever clutter and junk was laying around. Leather coats, sunglasses and tank tops make up for the costumes, and the performances have all the skill and charm of a crime recreation on America’s Most Wanted. It’s slow and it drags, and at times it seems like it doesn’t know if it wants to be an adventure or a documentary. A straight documentary may have worked better, with screen static and quick cuts to hide the obviously low production values.
I recall this being either a special feature on a DVD or sold as a cheap oh VHS at Best Buy back in the day. These days you can find the entire thing up on YouTube and it’s really only worth watching as a curiosity.
I had considered trying to do all the Riddick movies in one post. There could really be an exploration of where things went wrong, but as I got further into these I discovered more and more material… Enough to justify a full round of franchise Focus.
Riddick begins with Pitch Black… A story that fails to even bear his name. Pitch black is a straightforward tale, shipwreck in space, marooned on a world with a bunch of nasty predators. Straightforward, but they manage to pull this off brilliantly with a cast of characters that you can’t help but cheer for, and a villain that you almost want to root for. Riddick is not the central character here, although he does steal every scene he’s in. This is a straightforward horror film, with some sci-fi elements much in the vein of alien. The creature designs are brilliant, with a frightening sense of realism and just a touch of gore. It manages to push all the right buttons, one in particular is in making the ships ugly! I miss ugly ships, it was one of the big selling points for me with the aliens films. The outsides might be a little shinier, but the insides are full of rust and dirt and grit and chains and leather and it’s just beautiful.
I feel like somebody really cared about this movie. They were trying to tell a story they had a specific tale that they wanted to spin and they created great characters to weave it around. For my money this should have been the next great sci-fi horror, and I’ve always been a little disappointed that it wasn’t. But then again by the time we return to this material we find that the series has changed into something completely different.
More on that next time.