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John’s Horror Corner: Dark Universe (1993), among the worst schlocky B-movie Aliens (1986) rip-offs around.

March 11, 2021

MY CALL: Among many Alien(s) (1979, 1986) rip-offs in the 90s marketplace, but definitely not deserving of your schlocky B-movie-loving attention. MOVIES LIKE Dark Universe: For more low budget Alien/Aliens (1979/1986) rip-offs, check out Contamination (1980; aka Alien Contamination), Alien 2: On Earth (1980), Scared to Death (1980; aka Syngenor), Galaxy of Terror (1981), Forbidden World (1982; aka Mutant), Inseminoid (1982; aka Horror Planet), Parasite (1982), Biohazard (1985), Creature (1985; aka Titan Find), Star Crystal (1986), Creepazoids (1987), Blue Monkey (1987), Nightflyers (1987), Deep Space (1988), Transformations (1988; aka Alien Transformations), The Terror Within (1989), Shocking Dark (1989; aka Terminator 2, aka Aliennators), The Rift (1990), Syngenor (1990), Xtro 2: The Second Encounter (1991) and Zombies: The Beginning(2007).

Produced by Fred Olen Ray (The Alien Dead, Scalps, Biohazard, Deep Space), it should come as no surprise that at least one adult film star graces this incredibly campy (even porn-y at times) script.

Just before re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere, the space shuttle Nautilus encounters a gas cloud which somehow gets into the spaceship’s ventilation (as if vented to outer space) and which somehow astronaut Steve guessed correctly to be “alien spores.” Then in a transformation taking only seconds, Steve mutates into a monster. But don’t get too excited—this is a D-budget CGI transformation simply morphing him from form A to form B. So it’s no An American Werewolf in London (1981). As contact is lost during Steve’s duress and the ship’s malfunction, the one man down in mission control—yes, the single person handling all things space command from Earth’s HQassumes he’s lost his astronaut.

Cut immediately to what could only be described as a tropical “porn hut” as a randy, naked couple observes some “fiery meteorite” crashing in a Florida swamp. Now fully transformed into something appearing halfway between a xenomorph and an STD, Steve has become an incredibly gross monster.

Our creature is everything Ridley Scott introduced in 1979… but terrible. It oozes and drools constantly, it has a projectile weaponized tongue, and it looks just like a xenomorph… but, maybe with a chromosomal disorder. As the budget would lead you to predict, the deaths are mostly off-screen.

Our plot is driven by reporter Kim (Blake Pickett; They Bite, The Exotic House of Wax) and her archaeological team seek an Indian burial ground in some Florida swamp. The first third of the movie is goofy, schlocky, hokey fun. The middle third is just a boring slog of painful exposition and uneventfulness. But the third act spices things up again. We see a body get insta-drained like a poor man’s Lifeforce (1985); and a piece of the monster grows into an oozing slug larva and attacks people like a facehugger lifeleech. Other special effects feature gangly insectoid limbs, an attack by a spore-mutant armadillo. It’s all terrible… I’m just giving you the highlights of a film not designed for a sober audience.

In the end, the monster is lamely defeated by a flare gun in a super cheap death scene about as lackluster as my movie-going experience this evening. This bad film might be the right kind of bad enough to be a good B-movie choice. But keep in mind, this ranks really low even among the B-movies. This movie feels most like Forbidden World (1982; aka Mutant) or Creature (1985; aka Titan Find)… except I don’t hate those (much better) B-movies.

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