Pitch Black

USA/Australia 2000

Reviewed by Daniel Etherington


Our synopses give away the plot in full, including surprise twists.

Space, the future. A spaceship is hit by fragments of cosmic debris and crashes on a desert planet. Pilot Fry, bounty hunter Johns, and his captive, Riddick, are among the survivors. When a survivor is found dead, Riddick is blamed. Fry stumbles across a cave where she escapes being killed by alien creatures.

In a deserted camp, Riddick concludes that the planet's last human inhabitants were all killed when an eclipse occurred. The resourceful Shazza repairs a solar-powered vehicle which allows the group to transfer fuel cells from their ship to a craft at the camp. As they head off, an eclipse begins. A swarm of flying creatures kills Shazza. Riddick, whose eyes are altered for night vision, sees larger creatures fill the sky before the group retreat to the crashed ship.

With the vehicle useless, the group carry the fuel cells, using lights to keep the creatures - which can only survive in darkness - at bay. Antiquarian Paris accidentally destroys the main light source. Johns proposes to use Jack, a female passenger, as a decoy. Riddick and Johns fight; the bounty hunter loses and is killed by a creature. Fry, Muslim holy man Iman and Jack take shelter; Riddick presses on without them. Fry follows using phosphorescent bugs for light and convinces Riddick to help the others. Fry is killed but the rest escape.


From its shipwreck-in-space scenario, which recalls Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964), to its throngs of vicious cave-dwelling aliens, which bring to mind the deadly insect-like creatures in Starship Troopers, Pitch Black plays like an amalgamation of some of the most familiar tropes in science-fiction film. The film's clearest stylistic debt, though, is to the Alien series, and its hybrid of horror and sci-fi. Not only do Patrick Tatopoulos' creatures, which pick off the survivors of the crashed spacecraft, resemble H. R. Giger's razor-toothed predators, but pilot Fry's reluctant, ultimately fearless brand of heroism follows the template set by Ripley in Alien and its three sequels.

David Twohy (who made good use of a low budget on his debut, the sci-fi film The Arrival) directs with a vigour that compensates for Pitch Black's more derivative elements. Just as Alien's shadowy mise en scène tantalised us with glimpses of its monster, Pitch Black initially holds back from showing us its predatory creatures (the first victim is killed off screen). Indeed, this stock horror device, which plays on our desire to see all against our wish to be spared the gore, is given a twist by the nocturnal nature of the attacking aliens. (In the best horror traditions, the characters are at their most vulnerable when the lights fail.) When not shrouded in darkness, the Australian locations are given a subtle sense of otherworldliness by production designer Graham Walker (who gave the outback a futuristic makeover in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome).

Pitch Black features some lovingly crafted effects - notably director of photography David Eggby's bleached colour palette - and some vivid characterisation. There's an intriguing moral ambiguity, for instance, which surrounds convicted murderer Riddick. With his opaque, inscrutable eyes (Riddick has enhanced night vision), gravelly intonation and reluctance to look after anyone but himself, Vin Diesel's Riddick puts you in mind of the lone, ungiving figures of films by Sam Peckinpah and Sergio Leone. Though some sexual frisson between this consummate outsider and Fry is introduced, Twohy refuses to soften Riddick's hardened exterior, thereby imbuing this predictable plot turn with an uneasy charm of its own.


David Twohy
Tom Engelman
Jim Wheat
Ken Wheat
David Twohy
Based on a story by
Jim Wheat
Ken Wheat
Director of Photography
David Eggby
Rick Shaine
Production Designer
Graham 'Grace' Walker
Music/Score Producer/
Orchestra Conductor
Graeme Revell
Production Companies
Gramercy Pictures presents an Interscope Communications production
Made with the assistance of Pacific Film and Television Commission
Executive Producers
Ted Field
Scott Kroopf
Anthony Winley
Executive in Charge of Production
Michelle Wright
Production Co-ordinators
Jennifer Cornwell
2nd Unit:
Michelle Russell
Los Angeles Co-ordinator
Davia Clayton
Unit Production Manager
Sue Mackay
Additional Unit Manager
Nick Stewart
Location Manager
Campbell McLean
Graham Stumpf
Lorisa D. Francis
Peter Klemchuk
2nd Unit Director
Ian 'Thistle' Thorburn
Assistant Directors
Jamie Crooks
Jennifer Rees-Brown
Angella McPherson
Peter McLennan
2nd Unit:
Carolynne Cunningham
Guy Campbell
Marc Ashton
Script Supervisor
Lyn Alice Aronson
2nd Unit Continuity
Karen Mansfield
Kira Bohn
Mullinars Consultants
Ann Robinson
2nd Unit Director of Photography
Ian 'Thistle' Thorburn
Camera Operators
Brad Shield
Henry Pierce
Derry Field
2nd Unit:
Jack Wareham
Steadicam Operator
Brad Shield
Visual Effects Supervisor
Peter Chiang
Visual Effects Editor
Karen Dimmig
Digital Visual Effects
Double Negative Ltd.
The Magic Camera Company
Special Effects
Brian Cox
Steve 'Zac' Szekeres
Pauline Grebert
David Hardie
2nd Unit, Technicians:
Angelo Sahin
Patrick Camiggelt
Miniature Effects
Hunter/Gratzner Industries Inc
Visual Effects Miniature Photography
The Chandler Group
Graphic Artist
Mandy Willaton
Art Director
Ian Gracie
Set Designers
Jacinta Leong
Martin Ash
Set Decorator
Michael Rumpf
Phil Shearer
Storyboard/Concept Artists
Tim Lawrence
Brian Murray
Jason Brubaker
Costume Designer
Anna Borghesi
Costume Supervisor
Keryn Ribbands
Margaret Stevenson
Maree McDonald
2nd Unit Make-up
Sue Kelly-Tait
Creatures Design/ Supervisor
Patrick Tatopoulos
Creature Fabrication
John Cox
John Cox's Creature Workshop
Prosthetic Make-up
Jason Baird
Carolyn Nott
Main Titles/Opticals
Pacific Title/Mirage
End Titles
Title House
Tim Simonec
Paul Haslinger
Executive in Charge of Music
Dawn Solér
Music Editor
Josh Winget
Music Mixer
Mitch Zelenzy
Music Design
Brian Williams
Robert Rich
Steve Roach
Sound Design
Tom Myers
Sound Recordist
Paul' Salty' Brincat
Re-recording Mixers
Lora Hirschberg
Michael Semanick
Mark Pendergraft
Digital Transfer Supervisor
Jonathan Greber
Digital Transfers
Christopher Barron
Joan Malloch
Dee Selby
Supervising Sound Editor
Robert Shoup
Dialogue Editors
Karen Wilson
Lindakay Brown
Gloria D'Alessandro
Sound Effects Editors
James LeBrecht
E. Larry Oatfield
Sam Hinckley
ADR Editors
Marilyn McCoppen
Michele Perrone
Dennie Thorpe
Jana Vance
Frank 'Pepe' Merel
Tony Eckert
Mary Helen Leasman
Stunt Co-ordinator
Chris Anderson
Allan Mowbray
Vin Diesel
Radha Mitchell
Cole Hauser
Keith David
Lewis Fitz-Gerald
Claudia Black
Rhiana Griffith
John Moore
Simon Burke
Les Chantery
Sam Sari
Firass Dirani
Ric Anderson
total stranger
Vic Wilson
Angela Makin
dead crew member
United International Pictures (UK) Ltd
9,912 feet
110 minutes 8 seconds
Dolby Digital Surround EX/DTS/SDDS
Colour by
Atlab QLD
Super 35 [2.35:1]
Last Updated: 20 Dec 2011