by Nile Fortner
The Intensity of Saw comes to Outer Space in Project Ithaca
Trapped. No way out. Searching for a crevice, but the walls are dark and no one has a clue how they got there in the first place. Project Ithaca finds five strangers on an alien spaceship, an alien spaceship that runs on their fear. The strangers are trapped and they soon realize that this species has been abducting humans for possibly centuries. The films cast features Deragh Campbell (Never Eat Alone), Daniel Fathers (Snatch), and James Gallanders (Saw II and The Bride of Chucky).
Canadian director Nicholas Humphries has taken a dip into the horror pool before with such movies as Death Do Us Part and Screamfest’s The Little Mermaid which was praised by horror icons Clive Barker and Eli Roth. Here, Humphries takes his knowledge of horror and adds science fiction elements to it. With the film starring James Gallanders from Saw II, the best way to really look at this movie is Saw in outer space.
The movie gives us that tone of claustrophobia. But instead of being chained in a filthy bathroom, our characters are trapped on an alien spaceship. Much like Saw, the strangers on this spaceship have to do violent and twisted stuff in order to survive. It’s not on the same level of gore as Saw. However, the movie has a talented cast to show how intense a situation like this can be. In other words, the film doesn’t use gore as a crutch.
Jigsaw Plays in The Matrix
The film’s most successful attribute is found in the production design. This film truly feels like the brittle silence and hallowed pool of space (except when someone screams). The movie has a great usage of blue and grey lighting that flickers through windows and into the vast white-dotted darkness of space. Project Ithaca has great usage of close-ups that show us the alien interior, and nasty effects of alien goo, that would make fans of practical effects pleased. Some of the best effects are used on Gallanders and the rest of the cast. Especially, when they are bound to the wall and tentacle tubes are placed in the back of their necks to feed off their fear as fuel for the ship.
The premise of an alien spaceship feeding off the fear of human beings sounds like an original concept that most sci-fi fanatics can get behind. On the other hand, this concept almost feels a little rushed by the pacing of the film and the story feels a little underdeveloped at times.
At one hour and twenty-four minutes, the film does feel a little shorthanded with the story because we don’t spend a lot of time with these characters. This is an example of having a small budget film tackling a big idea for a film. If the film would have had a bigger budget, the movie would have focused more on character traits, development, and a slightly tighter script to explore these areas of the story. This tries to be more character driven and its dialogue-heavy more so than a creature feature and I’m sure that’s because of budgeting issues.
I found it funny how the film actually references the 1993 thriller movie Fire in the Sky to help explain itself. However, this movie also has similarities to the plot of The Matrix. Without spoiling it, the film hints at this may all be in their minds. The movie even has a similar line from The Matrix, “They’re harvesting energy,” and the film has a lot of callbacks to other horror and sci-fi flicks. It’s not ripping off those other movies; they are more of Easter eggs and little winks and nods to the fan base.
The best way to describe Project Ithaca is a sci-fi film with an original concept that just lacks the budget to really go all out for that concept. The film has the tone of Saw but this is more for the B-movie sci-fi fans than it is horror. I love the idea of Jigsaw plays a game in The Matrix and throughout outer space.
I am giving Project Ithaca a 3 out of 5 Hairpieces!
Take a look at our interview with actor James Gallanders of the film. Gallanders discusses inspiration from John Carpenter, overcoming his speech impediment to become an actor and a lot more for Cinephellas Podcast.
Project Ithaca has a U.S. release date of June 7th, 2019 on Digital and in limited theaters.