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Three decades ago, "Alien" set the standard for the sci-fi subgenre of the spaceship as haunted house. With the exception of the 1986 sequel "Aliens," no film has even come close to it, but Hollywood continues to trot them out.

"Pandorum" is the latest, and it comes from producer Paul W.S. Anderson, who's behind the ongoing "Resident Evil" franchise and, in 1997, threw his own hat into the ghost-ship ring by directing the rather underrated "Event Horizon." That Sam Neill/Laurence Fishburne film was ignored in theaters, but has found a life on DVD; I believe the same fate is in store for "Pandorum."

In the year 2174, two men aboard the spaceship Elysium wake up: Lt. Payton (Dennis Quaid, "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra") and Corp. Bower (Ben Foster, "30 Days of Night"). They don't remember who they are, where they are or what they're doing there. As their minds become less cloudy from their eight-year sleep cycle, they piece together the facts, such as that Earth has been destroyed and their wives are supposed to be onboard, along with about 60,000 others. Yet they seem to be alone.

Trapped in the sleep chamber room because of a power outage, Bower leaves Payton behind to climb through the air ducts and see what's what. He soon finds out that there are a few other people on the ship "¦ but that most of them are mutants.

These creatures are pale-faced, run fast and shriek like little girls at a Jonas Brothers concert "? all representative of the vampires in "30 Days of Night." They also look like they've dressed themselves using remainders from the final day of GWAR's garage sale, and used the savings to order some Ginsu knives from an infomercial. Bower has the ability to blast them to smithereens using a plasma-pulse beam he wears on his hand like a glove, but no worries, gore fans: There will be blood.

Provided you can see it, that is. Maybe it was just the theater I was in, but the darkness looked too dark, making much of "Pandorum" tough to decipher visually. This seems typical of movie theaters nowadays, so I'll give the movie the benefit of the doubt, and assume the experience will be heightened on DVD. After all, the scenes in which the survivors move into bright, sterile sections of the ship look like they could've been the sets from "2001."

Regardless, what we have is a mildly effective, no-harm-done horror thriller. It's not the worst of its kind, nor the best, but it'll do.

Then again, I'm one of those who'll watch Quaid in anything. Like Kurt Russell, he never quite made it as big as the studios hoped, but he's a much better actor than he's given credit for, even when the material "? such as this "? doesn't call for it.

"?Rod Lott


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