Marc Price (The Nightshooters, A Fistfull of Lead) came out of nowhere in 2008 with Colin, a feature-length zombie film shot in London for about a hundred dollars. Dune Drifter, his new science fiction thriller had a bit bigger budget to work with but he still had to shoot the film’s location scenes in just seven days. And its space battles were waged in his living room.
Earth has been attacked by a previously unknown, and extremely hostile, alien race known as the Drekk. A squadron of fighter pilots fresh out of training is sent to join the fleet, but as soon as they leave hyperspace they’re attacked by Drekk forces. Adler’s (Phoebe Sparrow) fighter is hit but she manages to crashland onto Erebus, a nearby planet. Her gunner Yaren (Daisy Aitkens, School of the Damned, Watson & Oliver) also survives but is badly wounded.
With enough oxygen to last a couple of days Adler desperately needs to repair her ship. A crashed Drekk craft might provide usable parts. But there are survivors from it as well. And they have no intentions of being helpful.
If the film’s premise sounds a bit familiar it’s because it is. Start with Robinson Crusoe, or more accurately, Robinson Crusoe on Mars. Then cross it with any number of war films trapping two mortal enemies in the same location. It’s Star Trek’s “The Arena” but without Shatner’s toupee.
Price shot most of Dune Drifter in Iceland in seven days and with a skeleton crew. Putting limited funds out on that kind of location shooting may seem wasteful. Until you see the results. The empty expanses of black volcanic rock and dirt add a sense of desolation no English locations could provide. Or if there are I’ve yet to see them turn up in a film.
There’s also a great performance by Phoebe Sparrow as Adler. She spends much of the film alone on screen and has to give a credible performance mostly through her helmet’s visor. It’s not an easy task but she still manages to keep our attention and support. It’s hard to believe she only has a handful of credits to her name before Dune Drifter.
Effects-wise, Dune Drifter is a bit of a mixed bag. The opening space battle is competently enough done. The model work looks better than a lot of the cartoonish CGI that frequently turns up in low-budget space operas. Some of the shots of the crashed Drekk craft however look distinctly ratty.
There’s obviously just the one Drekk suit and the actor, (Simon Dwyer-Thomas, Jurassic Predator, Ravers) moved around to make it look like there are several. Their suits are meant to look intimidating. But with its gas mask and latex gloves, it looks more like something out of a bad S&M porn video. When we do get a look at what’s in the suit the makeup is considerably better than the costume though.
Hopefully, by now, you know that a film like Dune Drifter released by a company like 4Digital Media or Wild Eye Releasing isn’t going to be wall to wall action. If you adjust your expectations accordingly this is an acceptable way to kill an hour and a half.
Dune Drifter is available on DVD and streaming platforms in the US from 4Digital Media. They’ll release it on December 7th in the UK.