STRANDED movie review

by Richard David Smith III
As actors go, Christian Slater is like a quantum physics particle. From cult classics like “Heathers” and “True Romance” to disturbing films like “Very Bad Things” to delightful appearances in TV shows like “My Name is Earl,” you never know exactly where the Jack Nicholson School of Acting disciple is going to pop up next. “Stranded” finds Slater barking orders as Col. Gerard Brauchman, the commander of the moon base ARK, a four-person mineral expedition being conducted on the lunar surface from within a bio-dome structure that is under siege from an oncoming meteor shower. What immediately strikes you is not the awesomeness of the meteor blasts, but rather the SyFy Channel quality of the poor lighting and plot development as, in the opening scene, we are led through tedious valve-closing heroics led by Ava (who is also alternately called by her last name, “Cameron,” throughout the movie), played by Amy Matysio. Though Ava saves the day for the moment, a good amount of carbon monoxide leaks aboard the ship, and, as any armchair chemist would deduce, that is a problem.
Losing all communication with earth due to the meteor shower and now under the medical advisory of Dr. Lance Krauss (played by Brendan Fehr), the crewmembers fear that confusion and delusion caused by carbon monoxide poisoning may begin to set in. Against the conservative orders of Col. Brauchman, scientists Ava and Bruce Johns (played by Michael Therriault) go ahead with the probing of a spore that they had brought aboard the ship in what had to be the most sloppy handling of biological materials since the OJ Simpson case. After cutting her finger upon removing a glass test tube from a centrifuge, Ava exposes herself to the spore and subsequently fails to report it to the Dr. Krauss. Oof. This haphazard encounter results in, of all things, a rapidly accelerated pregnancy for Ava. Uh-oh. This pregnancy manifests into some sort of monstrosity that we did not really need to see pop out of Ava and then proceed to feed aggressively on her breast, but director Rogen Christian decided to show us anyway.
Despite a violent encounter with this creature, the crew, including Ava herself, is not so quick to concede that a spore has just impregnated their only female crewmate with alien seed. Col. Brauchman suspects it is the result of hysteria brought on by carbon monoxide poisoning and cabin fever and issues quarantines to his subordinates as they begin to display the slightest of symptoms. This creates increased tension and division within the dome, where the alcoholic, pill-popping Bruce (who is keeping a creepy holographic live journal) is becoming even stranger…but, honestly, who brings a man named “Bruce” into space, anyway? With so many variables now threatening the lives of the abandoned crew and only a limited amount of oxygen remaining, Slater and company are now faced with a proverbial race against time…and battle against space.
In 2013, with so many other means of delivery, the big screen may have not been the proper release format for “Stranded,” but perhaps it could be enjoyed on some level by those diehard science fiction fans who will watch just about anything in an extraterrestrial setting with a female thrown in. Christian Slater’s performance is sparse, if not unremarkable. One of the biggest problems with the movie is that it never stops the momentum–unimpressive though it may be–long enough so that you can get to know or even care about any of the one-dimensional characters. Frankly, this film may have been better left stranded on the cutting room floor.