Starring Phoebe Sparrow, Daisy Aitkens, Marcus Shakesheff, Simon Dwyer-Thomas, Richard Corgan
Directed by Marc Price
While there won’t be any Star Wars movies premiering at FrightFest anytime soon, those who attended the UK’s biggest horror festival this year were treated to Dune Drifter, an ambitious slice of outer space action which should satisfy fans of both of the horror and sci-fi genres. Phoebe Sparrow stars as Adler, a pilot stranded on a bleak and desolate world known as Erebus after her ship crash lands. With no hope of rescue, Kate needs to fend for herself in order to make it home and to survive against the relentless mutants known as the Drekk. So first and foremost, this is a story of survival, and a damn effective one and that.
Although we were treated to a visually impressive space battle and a colourful wormhole sequence in the opening act, the vast majority of Dune Drifter takes place in a cold and grey environment where everything looks bleak and hopeless. Filmed on the rocky slopes of Iceland, this is clearly not a visually inviting film, although the desolate landscapes only add to the overall desperation we feel for Adler as she struggles to survive. Actress Phoebe Sparrow does a great job of capturing Adler’s fear and desperation as she fights against both the elements and the Drekk, but as she was on her own throughout the majority of the film, you’ll need to excuse the fact that Adler keeps talking to herself.
We weren’t given a huge amount of backstory to the galactic war which has been going on in the universe of Dune Drifter, but we do know that humanity has been at war with the race of mutated warriors known as the Drekk for the past several years. Wearing black combat suits with gas masks and wielding fierce-looking assault rifles, these assailants look remarkably similar to the Helghast from Guerrilla’s Killzone series, and they are also seemingly impossible to kill, as Kate learns the hard way when she encounters them up close. And regardless of the fact that they lacked any real personality and only spoke in an undecipherable alien language, the Drekk no doubt proved to be an incredibly creepy and menacing group of antagonists who we would certainly not want to be stranded on a hostile planet with.
But what makes Dune Drifter so memorable is how human it felt. Although it clearly takes place beyond the stars, director Marc Price clearly still wanted to make us aware of the pain and struggles people experience in this universe, and the result was bone-chilling. During the space battle in the first act, we were shown an uncomfortably long sequence where one of the pilots screamed and begged for help as her ship was shot down, making us hope the ship would explode to end her suffering. And when Adler crash lands on Erubus, she needs to care for her critically wounded passenger for a prolonged period before she eventually succumbs to her injuries, and these sequences were so hard-hitting they were almost hard to watch. At one point, the poor woman even begs Adler to kill her to end her suffering, and while Adler refuses, we know that euthanasia would probably be the best course of action in this situation.
Dune Drifter was clearly made for a tiny fraction of the budget of more mainstream sci-fi movies, and while this was clearly evident in some places, the filmmakers still clearly made the most of the resources they had, and the result is one of the most memorable sci-fi horror hybrids we’ve seen in quite some time. Despite its barren landscape, Erebus is a planet you will need to visit when Dune Drifter receives a general release.
Despite not having a Hollywood budget, Dune Drifter still managed to impress with some first-grade effects and a dedicated lead performance, making it essential viewing for both sci-fi and horror fans.