The Dark Side of the Moon (1990)

In the year 2022 the maintenance ship SpaceCore 1 is dispatched to repair a Moon-orbital weapons platform and ends up adrift over the galactic-path of Earth’s The Bermuda Triangle—and on a collision course with a paranormal mirror of the geographical anomaly on the Moon. Running out of fuel and oxygen, the crew boards a 20th century NASA space shuttle—believed lost during an emergency ocean landing off the Florida coast—with the hopes of salvaging supplies. Then, one by one, the crew is possessed and killed by a spiritual presence that’s linked to the triangle, the dark side of the moon—and Satan.

Holy galactic déjà vu, Ripley.

Yes. This movie is that celluloid Titchener-moment you couldn’t quite place when you watched the multi-million dollar major-studio failures of Paul W.S Anderson’s (Mortal Kombat) Event Horizon (1997) and Walter Hill’s (Streets of Fire) Supernova (2008).

While this low-budget variant of Ridley Scott’s Alien—which traded out the usual gooey xenomorph (see William Malone’s 1985 Creature) with Satan—was a direct-to-video release, we fondly remember seeing it as part of an early ‘90s UHF-TV Saturday afternoon syndication package with 1989’s Moontrap (starring Star Trek’s Walter Koenig and Evil Dead’s Bruce Campbell) and Roland Emmerich’s pre-Stargate offering, 1990’s Moon 44.

Granted, SpaceCore 1’s crew isn’t as scruffy as the USCSS Nostromo’s. And its interiors aren’t as dazzling as Roger Corman’s slightly-more-expensive Morgantus-bound The Quest from Galaxy of Terror (repurposed from Corman’s even-more-expensive Battle Beyond the Stars . . . and has an innermost-fears-that-kill plot instead of biblical demons). Yeah, SpaceCore 1’s “Mother” computer reimaged as a human-looking leather dominatrix robot is a bit silly—in a Galaxina kind-of-way. But there’s no denying The Dark Side of the Moon is charming (like Ed Hunt’s crazy-fun Starship Invasions) and more engrossing than most of today’s CGI-modern space romps (e.g., the 2009 rip-off of 1973’s The Star Lost: Pandorum; the 2016 rip-off of 1997’s The Titanic: Passengers), with its where-is-this-going-kitchen-sink-plotting rife with biblical references, and making Satan—and not ancient astronauts—responsible for The Bermuda Triangle.

It’s unfortunate The Dark Side of the Moon served as the lone theatrical-directing effort by music video purveyor D.J Webster (best known for ‘Til Tuesday’s 1985 MTV hit “Voices Carry”), as he’s skilled at working against an economical budget and showed a-video-to-feature film-transitional promise. However, the screenwriting brother-duo of Carey and Chad Hayes, who made their debut with this film, climbed the Hollywood ladder to worldwide success with James Wan’s The Conjuring franchise. Their latest effort is the in-production sixth installment of the Die Hard franchise, McClane. And proving that everyone in Hollywood has to start somewhere, Carey and Chad Hayes started in the business as actors in the never-released-to-DVD classic, Rad (1985), while Chad appeared in the how-in-the-hell-did-this-ever-get-made gem, Death Spa (1989).

From Rad to McClane? That’s awesome . . . and a bag of chips.

Fans of Joe Turkel, who portrayed Lloyd the Bartender in The Shining and Dr. Eldon Tyrell in Blade Runner (but we remember him best for American International Picture’s The Dirty Dozen rip-off The Devil’s Eight), will want to watch, as this served as his final film before his retirement. Leading man Will Bledsoe, who made his feature film debut in 1984’s Up the Creek (remember the Cheap Trick song?), also made this his final film. Rounding out the cast of familiar TV faces is Alan Blumenfeld (but you remember him best as Mr. Liggett; his wife “reproduced asexually” in WarGames), John Diehl (TV’s Miami Vice, Stargate, City Limits), and Camilla More (Tina in Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter) as Lesli, the ship’s silky-smooth, human-looking A.I—complete with ruby-red lipstick and a dominatrix-leather uniform. And, sadly, we have to raise a cold one for Robert Sampson, who we lost this past January. With TV credits that date back to the late ‘50s, you remember him best as Dean Halsey in Re-Animator and Commission Jamison in Charles Band and Stuart Gordon’s Robot Jox.

Not only is The Dark Side of the Moon fondly remembered in the states, it has a rabid international fan base as well. The German black metal band Nargaroth samples the German-language dub of the film (the dialog of Alan Blumenfeld’s demon-possessed character) in their homage track “The Dark Side of the Moon” from 2004’s Prosatanica Shooting Angels. Swedish death metallers Crypt of Kerberos use those same Blumenfeld-samples (in English) on their 1991 track, “Devastator.”

Now that’s the true sign of a successful movie: no one is sampling dialog from Event Horizon or Supernova anytime soon.

This past June Unearthed Films restored The Dark Side of the Moon to Blu-ray with an audio commentary track by producers Paul White (the ‘80s rental favs The Unamable, Bride of Re-Animator) and Stephen Biro (2010’s A Serbian Film, 2019’s Beneath the Black Veil), along with an interview featuring “Satan” himself, actor Alan Blumenfeld.

Be sure to catch up on all of the Alien knockoffs and rip-offs with our explorations “Ten Movies that Rip-off Alien” and “A Whole Bunch of Alien Rip-offs all at Once.” And there’s more celluloid déjà vu of the Event Horizon and Supernova variety afoot with 2020’s Underwater. And, finally, since there’s always a pinch of Star Wars in all post-1977 sci-fi films, you can catch up with all of the George Lucas-inspired rip-offs with our “Star Wars Droppings” week.

But make no mistake: The Dark Side of the Moon isn’t an Alien rip-off or a Star Wars dropping: D.J Webster and the Hayes brothers gave us an intelligent-against-the-budget film with a unique twist on the glut of science fiction films produced in the wake of both of those blockbusters.

Simply put: The Dark Side of the Moon deserves your attention.

You can watch a rip of the old Vidmark Entertainment VHS on You Tube or you can watch a cleaner digital stream on TubiTv.

About the Author: You can read the music and film criticisms of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook. He also writes for B&S Movies.

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