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Not the One You're Thinking of: Dark Side of the Moon (the Movie)

by Thomas Michalski
March 25, 2014

Glancing at the cover of 1990’s The Dark Side of the Moon, with its lunar landscape, glowing monstrous green eyes and the ominous declaration that “Something is waiting”, it may seem to be just your run-of-the-mill, straight-to-video sci-fi cheapie; dig a little deeper and you’ll find, well, exactly that, complete with dismal production values, slumming actors delivering hammy performances and plot holes big enough to fly a Star Cruiser through. I wish I could tell you it’s a diamond in the rough, that it distinguishes itself from the rest of the low-budget SF/horror pack by virtue of some creativity or wit, but in all honesty the one thing that sets it apart in the slightest is its ill-conceived, amusingly ludicrous premise, which finds our intrepid astronauts encountering something far more sinister, and far more nonsensical, than conventional aliens or inter-dimensional attackers, namely the biblical prince of darkness himself, Satan.

Directed D.J. Webster, who, aside from a handful of music videos, has but this one meager credit to his name (always a promising sign), and written by the twin-brother team of Carey and Chad Hayes, the duo responsible for 2005’s atrocious House of Wax remake as well as, um, a handful of Baywatch Nights episodes, The Dark Side of the Moon starts off like any other nth generation Alien rip-off, but quickly takes a number of confusing turns. It’s the year 2022 and a SpaceCore maintenance team is on a routine, but still dangerous, mission to repair a satellite armed with nuclear weapons when their equipment mysteriously malfunctions. With oxygen running out and tempers melodramatically flaring, the crew discovers an old, inexplicably operational NASA Space Shuttle drifting on, you guessed it, the dark side of the moon and finds themselves with no other choice than to go aboard. Enter Beelzebub.

So what exactly is the Father of All Lies doing hanging out in a derelict Space Shuttle? Who the fuck knows, but the story, as far as I can ascertain anyway, goes something like this. When God cast Lucifer out of the kingdom of heaven, he banished him to the moon, presumably leaving hell to carry on in his absence (fire, brimstone, runs itself really). Since he’s apparently a Superman villain, Satan’s only recourse to gain more power and take his revenge on God is, for some head-scratching reason, to abduct ships from the Bermuda Triangle and harvest the souls of the mortals aboard, like the unfortunate Space Shuttle astronauts who splashed down in the reputedly paranormal area of the Caribbean. With the wayward repair vessel under his control, Old Scratch is on the verge of success, but a Christ-like act of atomic self-sacrifice threatens to derail his cockamamie plan.

Any movie that inspires deep philosophical questions “could a nuclear missile blow up the Devil?” is probably going to be a tad hard to follow, but The Dark Side of the Moon inadvertently ramps up the sense of B-movie delirium with odd pacing, haphazard editing and a foggy, matte grey mis-en-scene that makes every space indistinguishable from any other. The cast, including Kubrick regular and Blade Runner baddie Joe Turkel as well as a few familiar bit players like John Diehl and Alan Blumenfeld, mostly seem like they don’t understand the plot, which lurches forward without much direction, any better than the audience. And who can blame them? There’re some aborted attempts at exploring the religious subtext, but ultimately the film is merely a bottom-of-the-barrel sci-fi flick with various strains of supernatural gobbledygook thrown in for good measure. Weird thing is, it kind of works; after all, everything’s better with Satan.

Thomas Michalski is a writer and radio host from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. You can keep up with his comings and goings over at http://www.voodooinspector.com/