There was a long and winding line last Friday at the AMC Empire in Times Square for the 8:35 showing of The Wolverine. It nearly obscured the entrance to the 7:35 showing of Stranded, a new science fiction thriller starring Christian Slater.
It came out last Friday, and a lot of people don’t know that!
When I walked into the theatre all the lights were still on as the previews were playing. The only other person in the theatre—a grumpy looking man with a cane—got up and told an attendant to turn off the lights. Did anyone know this movie was out? Is it possible I’m the only one who has seen it?
Stranded opens by desperately trying to ape the simplicity of Alien. Text on the screen tells us that we’re looking at Moonbase Ark, a plain old mining facility. Moonbase Ark is made up of small plastic boxes with blinking red lights on them, all hanging out in some grey dust. For those of us who love science fiction films which use real models instead of CGI, this movie will remind you how crappy models can look, too. Remember “sweding”? That adorable notion of making a movie with whatever happens to be lying around? The moonbase looks sweded.
Suddenly, an alarm goes off on Moonbase Ark; there’s a meteor shower! A bunch of ventilation systems get screwed up and Christian Slater starts freaking out and flipping switches. The base is suddenly a cacophony of people saying accusatory things directed at everyone and no one. Why weren’t we warned? How come nobody told us about the meteor shower? Why are you still sleeping? Where have you been? It’s a crash course in Bad Dialogue 101—the kind that assumes that if people are arguing about anything then BOOM, you’ve got conflict. Someone actually tells someone else to “shake a leg.”
Soon, it becomes necessary for Christian Slater to send a nice woman named Cameron (in the only working spacesuit) to fix the ventilation or something. We’ve also learned communication has been cut off which prompts someone named Johns to say: “Now we really are Stranded!” Yeah. That happened. When it did, the friend who had accompanied me to the screening and I laughed out loud.
Carbon dioxide is a big problem in this movie. Because of CO2 poisoining, all the crew might be going crazy. The doctor tells us to watch out for this, and to be careful about hallucinations. At this point the movie really starts to emulate Tommy Wiseau’s confounding cult classic The Room. People say and do things with no logical reaction from their friends/co-workers. Cameron is now referred to as Ava, and sometimes later as Eva. Sure, maybe her name is Eva Ava Cameron, or Cameron Eva Ava, whatever. But it’s not explained. She brings back a tiny meteor with her after fixing the vent, which doesn’t actually seem to be fixed, because there’s still the CO2 problem. She tells Christian Slater that the meteor has “some kind of spore on it.” He does not react. At all.
Time passes, and she mentions again that there’s this spore, but this time Christian Slater freaks out and tells them to go lock up the meteor! Ava and the Doctor want to study it, which prompts Christian Slater to shake his head and say “scientists!” Now, mind you, at this point, these people are running out of air, and have minimal power. But Slater has a time for a good-old anti-science dig.
Running water doesn’t seem to be a problem though, since Eva/Ava/Cameron can take a regular shower. Then she and the doctor totally have time to do some lab work on the spore. (CO2 poisoning is so leisurely!) If you think the scientists in Prometheus were bad news, let me introduce you to the Keystone Cops of fake scientists. While putting a sample of the spore in a small centrifuge, Eva cuts her finger on the glass. SHE TELLS NO ONE. The plot makes her hide her cut, furtively and secretively, as if she were in league with the screenwriters. My friend departed after that, chuckling under his breath about going to sneak into The Wolverine.
We know where this is going. Ava suddenly becomes pregnant with something and the doctor assures everyone it’s not space-spore related, but probably just an enlarged cyst. Christian Slater demands to lock her up and put everyone in quarantine who has even like thought about the space spore. There’s a fun scene where upon seeing Ava space-pregnant, Christian Slater yells “OUTSIDE IN THE HALL!” to the doctor in order to bitch him out about protocol.
At this point, you need to know about Drunk Guy. He’s the one who said, “Now we’re really Stranded!” I think is named Bruce Johns. He drinks a lot and is in some ways the main character. He kind of looks like a cross between Anthony Michael Hall circa Weird Science and Leoben the Cylon. He’s really paranoid, and the doctor is constantly rolling his eyes at this guy. Like...get real, man.
Soon, Ava gives birth to a straight-up Gollum baby and it proceeds to bite the leg of Drunk Guy. When this happens, Drunk Guy exclaims: “something bit me!” to which the doctor responds: “it was probably just glass.” The scene is really dark, so probably nobody else saw Gollum baby escape out of Eva after it birthed itself, the audience assumes. In the movie, the CO2 poisoning is used as an excuse and the doctor and Christian Slater accuse Eva and Drunk Guy of hallucinating. Which is weird because she has very obviously given birth to something. Blood is everywhere.
You’d think this would mean the doctor was actually hiding the obvious, just like how Ash in Alien actually wanted all the bad stuff to happen. Maybe this doctor wants this thing to get born because he’s on a secret evil mission? This is not the case. He just kind of rolls his eyes again and Christian Slater is like “EVERYONE IS ON LOCKDOWN” even though there are only four people and they pretty much go wherever they want.
Soon, we see that the Gollum baby grows into a clone of Drunk Guy, which we will now call Drunk Baby, thanks to the bite.
Two sets of teenagers then wandered into the theatre, presumably looking for a place to make out on their double date.
Here’s what I think happened (in the movie): Ava somehow develops a telepathic link with Drunk Baby. Drunk Guy is killed by Drunk Baby. The doctor dies in an airlock for seemingly no reason and eventually, after Christian Slater points a ray guy that looks like an electric razor at some people, both Ava and he escape to Earth. But so does the Drunk Baby! In fact, the last shot of the movie is it waking up in a warehouse, having now evolved into something with a gross Predator-like mouth.
I did sit through the whole movie, and even waited until the end of the credits (no post-credits sequence!) but the teenagers in the theatre with me didn’t make it. I’m sure someone will see this movie on late-night cable at some point, but I’m confident, that at this point I’m the only one who has seen it, in its entirety, in a movie theatre. I may have dreamed it.
Which is too bad, because the inexplicable badness of Stranded makes me wonder if it couldn’t become a cult-kitsch hit, just like The Room. I can picture scores of hip folks laughing at lines like “we’ve got to fix that solar panel!” Movies are just entertainment, right? And if that’s true, then I have to admit that I laughed at Stranded. A LOT.
Ryan Britt is a longtime contributor to Tor.com.