Review by James Lindorf
On July 10th, 2018, Epic Pictures released the sci-fi thriller 5th Passenger on all major On Demand platforms. 5th Passenger was directed by Scott Baker and stars Morgan Lariah (Colony One and Chase Me Through), Tim Russ (Star Trek: Voyager), Armin Shimerman (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, The Hitcher) and Doug Jones (Shape of Water). 5th Passenger debuted at the Artemis Women in Action Film Festival after a successful crowdfunding campaign helped bring the project to life.
Set in the aftermath of an oppressive class war, Miller (Lariah), a pregnant officer aboard an escape pod, must struggle to survive with her remaining crew. Things look bleak from the outset as the pod drifts off course and further from help. Luckily the ship is designed to support four people for 60 days; unfortunately, there are five people on board. Running out of food is the least of their concerns when a mysterious and vicious life form attacks.
You can clearly see the work that influenced Scott Baker as he wrote and directed 5th Passenger. It has the twists of a classic episode of The Twilight Zone or Outer Limits and is the Sci-fi equivalent of Alfred Hitchcock’s Lifeboat. Unfortunately, this film failed to reach the heights of its influencers. It is not without merit, but more than likely it will be quickly forgotten by the majority of viewers.
Unlike the writing, acting, CGI, or puppet work, I did like the set and costume design of Robert E. Poe, John A. Lane Jr., and Deborah Hartwell. What they were able to produce on such a minuscule budget is the most impressive aspect of the film. It may not be extravagant, but it is functional and aesthetically pleasing.
Though the acting here is subpar, there are some good moments. What is surprising is that the more recognizable actors give some of the most one-note performances. Whether the director couldn’t pull better performances out of them, or they didn’t want to put in the effort required to produce something of a higher quality is impossible to tell, and no answer would be less frustrating.
The worst part is the failure to commit to a storyline. When you sit down to watch 5th Passenger, you are not watching one film, you are actually getting 3 for the price of one. It starts off as a pure survival thriller like Alive, Apollo 13 or the previously mentioned Lifeboat. That’s an excellent proven concept: people struggling to survive on limited resources, will they come together or fight amongst themselves to mutually assured destruction? After about an hour of that film, it transforms into an alien on board film. This Sci-fi staple concept is right, it is just sunk by lousy puppetry and a monster that would get you kicked off an episode of Faceoff. Unfortunately, it doesn’t end there. In the final portion of the film it changes again to another type of story that could easily sustain its own movie, and shouldn’t have been the last 10 minutes of an already overstuffed film.
I think Baker and the rest of the creative team could produce a good film, but this one was a swing and a miss. Hopefully, on their next project, they will have an editor during the script process as well. You can order it here.
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