Space (2020)

You’re Monte Light, a graduate of the University of Northern Colorado’s theatre program. You meet Drew Carey on CBS-TV’s long-running gameshow The Price is Right. And you walk away a winner.

What would you do with your winnings?

Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Monte Light, who’s honed his craft across five award-winning shorts and received kudos from the Toronto Wildsound, Las Vegas, and Austin Film Festivals — in addition to contributing a segment to the 2018 horror anthology 2 Die For (which features a segment from For Jennifer‘s James Cullen Bressack) — decided to make a movie with the $11,000 he cleared from the game show.

And as with the similarly, ultra-low budget sci-fi romps Space Trucke Bruce and Ares 11, this writer is as impressed-as-hell with the end result. So keep that all in mind because, if you’re expecting an Ad Astra with space walks and moon buggy battles in the frames of Space, you’ll be disappointed. If you’re a film lover who appreciates inventiness against a tight budget, then you’ll appreciate Monte Light’s efforts. If you enjoyed the claustrophobic settings of John Carpenter’s Dark Star, which we mentioned in passing in our reviews of Space Trucker Bruce and Ares 11, then you’ll enjoy your journey on The Udo.

I don’t know about you, but that is one hell of an impressive space suit on a budget.

In the year 2050, the BrightSTAR Corporation launches the five-manned deep-space mission Udo to terraform the dwarf planet Ceres, the largest object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, with experimental nanotechnology.

The crew is headed by Dr. Ada Grey (Lara Jean Sullivan of 2Jennifer), an astrobiologist who developed the nanite technology used on the mission. The mission goes south when the nanotechnology develops into a man-made alien that threatens the crew and an accident leaves them each trapped in separate escape pods. A nice twist-of-the-plot statement about online relationships occurs as a romance blossoms between Dr. Grey and the mission’s French pilot Evan Durand (Kurt Quinn from Law & Order: True Crime), the mission’s last two survivors, over the pod’s communications system.

Since were on a low-budget, and even thought the story unfolds in real time, Light opted to use a cost-effective, psuedo-documentary-cum-found footage narrative. As result, we watch most of the film from the ship’s security cameras and we see the tale unfold in split-screen, complete with electronic interference. So, if it seems that the actors are inept, they’re not: the staring/talking into the cameras is part of the film’s narrative. Ah, but there’s more to the cameras and mics (as a cost-cut): they’re mounted around the ship to document the long-term psychological effects of deep space travel.

Sure, you can nitpick Space apart into stardust, but when one considers the non-budget Light worked with, the cinematography, set design, and limited CGI (for the ship’s exteriors) is top notch. And as we pointed out: the costumes developed by Doug Marr are simply astounding. And the experienced, but unknown cast (which features Len Kabasinski, currently directing Pact of Vengenance starring Leo Fong) sells the sets and the “reality” they live in, just as effectively as the cast in William Malone’s Alien ripoff Creature (1985) and Carey and Chad Hayes’s The Dark Side of the Moon (1990), of which Space’s budgetary sets and costumes reminds. Some may say the film could use a tighter edit, but we must again consider the “real time” aspects of the film and the surveillance camera narrative serves as a medical-psychological mission log.

Watching Monte Light’s $11,000 journey to Ceres unfold reminds me of William Eubank’s sci-fi indies Love (2011) and The Signal (2014). And Eubank’s ended up being hired by 20th Century Fox to direct Underwater (2020). So I have a good feeling we’ll see Monte Light helming a major studio sci-fi film in the near future. As we pointed out with Anthony Z. James’s Ghost: It’s not the budget or the technology, it’s how the filmmaker uses the technology within that budget.

And Space is Monte Light’s beginning on an amazing journey through the stars of Hollywood. Watch him now, so you can say, you knew him when.

Space was released on March 31st by Random Media via Amazon Prime, Google Play, iTunes, Microsoft for XBox, and Vimeo, and as a manufactured-on-demand DVD. You can learn more about Random Media’s catalog on Facebook and about the film’s production on its official Facebook page. As of October 2020, you can also stream Space on the new 1091 Pictures service. It’s also now part of the programming of the Unidentified web channel on the XUMO streaming service that offers free-with-ads live TV streams as well as a TubiTV-styled “watch anytime” VOD stream.

Monte Light, along with his crew and cast, held a You Tube watch party on May 25, 2020, at the time of the release to offer additional insights to the film. Light has since returned to streaming platforms in 2023 with his homage to F.W Murnau’s Nosferatu* with Blood Covered Chocolate. As of April 2023, you can watch both of Light’s films as a free-with-ads stream on Tubi. (*We’ve reviewed the Klaus Kinski-starring remake, Nosferatu the Vampyre; click through to learn more about the Murnau original.)

Disclaimer: We weren’t provided with a screener for Space. We discovered it on our own and genuinely enjoyed the movie.

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

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