Pitch Black is surprisingly good for such an obvious b-movie. Usually in this type of movie some bad writing or trite cliche spoils the story, just so the producers can sell an extra scene of gore, sex, or fright. But Pitch Black is relentless in its integrity; it’s lean and mean and it doesn’t waste time being anything other than a horror/thriller.
Pitch Black takes place on an alien planet where the bones of land leviathans lay in the desert. Passengers on a wrecked spaceship must survive the planet’s heat, an escaped violent prisoner, and whatever terrors might be found on the planet’s surface.
R for violence, gore, language
In everything it does, Pitch Black is successful. For example, it opens with a crash scene, and the “special effects” are very well done. The effects were clearly not expensive, but they were effective, melding editing, acting, and sound into a tense, plausible scene. The cinematography of the film is an interesting cross between Saving Private Ryan (with strobe-like footage from a fast-shutter camera) and Three Kings (giving the alien planet a bleached, sun-baked look). Finally, some very good sound editing makes the film seem just otherworldly enough to remind you the setting is not Earth — like the simple sound of a gunshot sweetened with an eerie bird-shriek.
Pitch Black quietly opened in early 2000, then quietly faded away. Now that it’s on video, perhaps it will get the audience it deserves. Unless you’re squeamish, give this horror/thriller a look.