While writer director Marc Price’s (Colin [U.K., 2008]; Magpie [U.K., 2013]; Nightshooters [U.K., 2018]) science fiction feature Dune Drifter (U.K., 2020) may not have a huge budget, it certainly doesn’t feel like anything is missing on screen. The space opera offering serves up taut suspense, an engaging story, and terrific performances. A group of spaceships manned by two-person crews engages in battles with enemy Drekks in an impressive special-effects–laden sequence in the opening act, before things go the one-on-one fight for survival route between crash survivor Adler (Phoebe Sparrow) and a vicious Drekk on uninhabitable terrain. The latter scenes were filmed in Iceland, and look great in portraying an alien-feeling landscape, complete with spouting geysers. Price’s screenplay follows classic science fiction beats, paying subtle homage to a few classics along the way, but he amps up tension spectacularly on the directing side. The cast is great, with Sparrow outstanding as a gunner fighting for her life against all odds and Daisy Aitkens also giving a fine turn as her pilot Yaren. Viewers get quick hits about most of the human characters, but a little more back story on the Drekks might have been nice. Still, we know who to root for, and the antagonists are sufficiently nasty toward those characters, which is enough in this case. Dune Drifter is strongly recommended for viewers who enjoy thrilling science fiction yarns with the emphasis on action.
On the subject of homage to classic science fiction cinema, Alien on Stage (U.K., 2020) is a fun, feel-good documentary about a group of coworkers from the Wilthsire and Dorset Bus Company taking their stage production of Ridley Scott’s Alien (U.S., 1979) from a disappointing hometown debut to a triumphant one-time-only performance in London’s West End. Codirectors Lucy Harvey and Danielle Kummer follow play director Dave Mitchell and his family, friends, and colleagues, an amateur dramatic group that originally performed the play as an alternative to the usual pantomime fare in front of a disappointingly small crowd but were then invited to perform it at the Leicester Square Theatre. The likable cast and crew are easy to warm up to, and viewers will laugh along with all of their rehearsal mistakes and attempts at replicating the source film’s special effects on a fishing-line budget, rather than laughing at those things. The technical details on how the alien, the chest-buster scene, and other effects highlights were recreated for the performance are a blast. An inspirational film about having an artistic dream and seeing it through no matter the odds, Alien on Stage is a heartwarming delight.
Dune Drifter and Alien on Stage screened as part of Arrow Video FrightFest’s Digital Edition 2, which ran from 21st–25th October, 2020.