I remember seeing Brad Sykes’ film Plaguers back when it first came out and not being overly thrilled with it. Since then I’ve had several people tell me I needed to give it another chance. And now that Wild Eye is putting out a 10th Anniversary edition what better time to do it?
The Pandora is returning to Earth after a long, eventful trip. It has two unusual items on board, one is the body of its captain in a coffin in the hold. The other is an alien energy source called Thanatos, a green glowing sphere that kinda reminded me of the orb in Heavy Metal. Darian Holloway (Alexis Zibolis) widow of the deceased captain figures they can retire off of what it’ll make them on the black market.
Their trip is interrupted by a distress call from the survivors of an attack by space pirates. Answering it they find four medical personnel clad in mini skirts and platform boots. They bring them on board, and of course, quickly regret it. It should be no surprise to anyone that these are the pirates. A brief struggle ensues and one of the pirates Nola (Stephanie Skewes) gets a faceful of whatever Thanatos is. Of course, this causes her to mutate and attack the others, spreading the plague. What’s left of the two crews will have to work together to make it to an escape pod.
Plaguers has a lot going for it. The film’s one name actor is Steve Railsback (Night Caller, The Stunt Man) who actually has a sizable part. And he does a solid job of playing Lance Henriksen playing an artificial person. Actor/director Jared Cohn (Devil’s Revenge, Minutes to Midnight) also turns up in an early role under the name Jared Michaels.
The effects are a mixed bag. The spaceship footage is so-so CGI, but considering the film’s age and budget, it’s not that bad. I’ve seen plenty of recent films such as Alien Expedition, with worse. The mutants themselves are well done, looking like they stepped out of Lamberto Bava’s Demons. The main mutant looks like the creature from This Island Earth though its mask is stiffer and less effective than the makeup on the other mutants.
But despite the film’s technical polish and a script that’s long on action and short on talk Plaguers is missing something. It never really feels as suspenseful or exciting as it should. The action is there but never quite pops. Maybe putting more gore in the attack scenes would have helped. Or following up on the film’s casting with some bare skin. For an exploitation film, Plaguers is fairly tame.
Sykes had plenty of experience by the time he wrote and directed Plaguers but he can’t quite seem to deliver. It feels almost like he’s going through the motions here. He’d done 20 films in eight years, maybe he was finally burning out. It might not be a coincidence he only did one more feature after this and then retired except for his segments in Hi-8 and Hi-Death.
Plaguers is better than I remembered, and it’s watchable if not exactly gripping. It’s far from the worst of the Alien knock-offs out there and it does have its moments. Just don’t expect too many of them. You can also check out the film’s original website.
Plaguers is available on DVD, Blu Ray and digital from Wild Eye Releasing.