Dark Side of the Moon, The (1990) (Blu-ray Review)
Release Date(s)1990 (June 25, 2019)
Studio(s)Wildstreet Pictures/Vidmark Entertainment (Unearthed Classics/MVD Visual)
- Film/Program Grade: B-
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: C
During the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s (as well as the early 2000s), science fiction filmmaking was just as prolific as horror and action, with a literal plethora of titles winding up on video store shelves with little to no fanfare. As such, many interesting films were lost in the mix. Such is the case with The Dark Side of the Moon, a film that many video store addicts from the era might remember, but was long forgotten since it didn't make the jump to DVD initially.
In the year 2022, a maintenance crew, referred to as “refabs,” are sent to repair a malfunctioning nuclear-armed satellite hovering above the Earth. Along the way, the various systems on their ship begin to fail, causing them to lose contact with Earth and finding themselves dangerously close to losing oxygen and freezing to death. Happening upon an abandoned NASA space shuttle nearby, they tether themselves to it in the hopes of finding the supplies necessary to patch up their own ship. Unfortunately for them, a sinister monster of unknown evil waits for them, undetectably making its way aboard and taking out the crew members one by one.
The Dark Side of the Moon is a surprisingly slow-moving but dour piece of sci-fi horror. Its influences are clear and the performances and dialogue are not always up to snuff, but there’s a plausibility to it, as well as characters worth investing in. The filmmakers clearly had a limited budget to work with, but compensate by hiding much of the spaceship corridors, as well as the monster, in shadow. The mystery of said monster is drawn out with little in the way of action set pieces, but the intrigue of it is executed well, even if the explanation of its existence is a bit foggy. It’s difficult to label the film as unique since space horror films aping the style of Alien and The Thing were a dime a dozen at the time, particularly those that went straight to video like The Dark Side of the Moon did, but as such, it’s one of the more absorbing titles of its ilk.
Unearthed Classics and MVD Visual bring The Dark Side of the Moon to Blu-ray for the first time (the debut of the film on any digital disc format) touting a new 4K restoration, though the source is not identified. For a film that’s heavy on shadows and likely featured heavily-boosted contrast in its VHS presentation, it’s quite pleasing. Grain levels are a little uneven, but detail is high, especially in the darkest areas of the frame, of which there are many. Not a lot of color is present as the interiors of the ship don’t offer much saturation, but occasional reds, blues, and greens do manage to poke through with some vibrancy. Blacks are deep, perhaps even a bit crushed, but it’s difficult to tell at times. Everything appears bright and clear without resorting to high contrast. It’s also clean and stable with only occasional instances of small debris leftover.
The audio is presented on two tracks, a newly-restored English 2.0 LPCM track and what’s described as a “vintage audio mix,” which is another English 2.0 LPCM track. The latter is likely an unrestored version of the same track based upon the unevenness of the audio and dialogue glitches along the way. The restored audio is not a stereo presentation of high caliber, but for a low budget film, there’s a large focus on score and atmosphere, particularly the minor sounds of the ship. Dialogue is always clear and discernable while sound effects have surprising push to them. No leftover damage is apparent either. Unfortunately, no subtitle options are included.
Extras include an audio commentary with executive producer Paul White and Unearthed Films’ Stephen Biro; a 40-minute interview with actor Alam Blumfield; a 35-minute interview with makeup effects artist R. Christopher Biggs; a 21-minute interview with stuntman Chuck Borden; a 1-minute breakdown of the film’s budget; an animated stills gallery featuring 36 images of behind-the-scenes photos, promotional stills, and posters; trailers for the film itself, as well as over MVD-related titles including A Record of Sweet Murder, Dis, Nightwish, The Song of Solomon, and The Unnamable; and last but not least, a 24-page insert booklet with photos and information about the cast and crew, as well as the production itself.
The Dark Side of the Moon is an enjoyable film if you’re in the mood for a slow-paced piece of sci-fi horror that isn’t dumb-headed or loaded with over-the-top action sequences. It’s likely not for everybody, but the Blu-ray release produced by Unearthed Classics and MVD Visual certainly provides an ample opportunity to check it out in all of its high definition glory.
– Tim Salmons