Sometime in the future, planet Earth has deteriorated to the extent that 99% of humanity have been colonised on Mars. In the meantime, for the last 360 years elite members of civilisation have been farmed back to Earth annually to help rehabilitate it. The criteria for applying to visit Earth is to reach the age of 30 and then sit a test ... the top 8% win a ticket to move to the dying planet. This year, the three protagonists of this film are among those 8%: we meet them on their visit to Earth for the first ever time.
So, we have Marshall (Greg Earnest), who describes himself as "a leader", going on to insist that he's "not afraid to do whatever's necessary, whatever that may mean". He's joined aboard his Earth-bound spaceship by confident Vivian (Casey Dillard), a self-proclaimed "people person" and the more jittery Dawn (Meaghin Burke). The only other company on their voyage is boxed-up cargo which they assume contain "equipment, machine parts, samples ..."
The story unfolds in a fractured, non-linear style which makes it a little difficult to synopsise here without giving too much away. From early on though, we're aware that each of three travellers is filled with nervous excitement about what Earth will hold in store for them. These people have never seen simple things like trees or a blue sky before. Their only concern is how liveable their hosting planet will be when they get there.
In the meantime, flash-forwards reveal that at some point Marshall will end up with a plaster on his forehead, Dawn will slash her arm open on broken glass and Vivian will develop a limp while becoming an object of suspicion by Marshall. Oh, and each person will suffer hallucinations. For Marshall, he's "visited" by his pregnant wife Tonya (Sherri Eakin); Dawn captures glimpses of her late father in her sleeping quarters and the cargo bay; Vivian is restrained - or is she? - by her fellow passengers after she suffers from a fit (or possibly doesn't, depending on whether you believe what you see).
As the hallucinations intensify, the mistrust between the three travellers grows and grows. Tempers are frayed, the sense of claustrophobia mounts to fever point.
Will this mismatched trio ever make it to Earth - and what will the planet hold in store for them when/if they get there? What's causing the hallucinations on the ship? Are they all being driven slowly mad?
EARTHRISE is the brainchild of writer-director Glenn Payne. It's clearly a low budgeted endeavour, seeking to propel its drama by way of a small cast, limited - and sparsely decorated - locations and a talky script which eliminates the need to show us the likes of Mars or other potentially money-sapping sights.
It does all feel a tad stagey as a result, though the occasional exterior shot of the spaceship reminds us why it's best to contained the action indoors - the visual effects are comparable to those from an early "Red Dwarf" series.
Payne's premise is intriguing and did have me watching in anticipation of the plot's conclusion. But the script does get a little dreary at times, while the acting isn't the greatest. Which is a bit of problem in a film based so heavily around conversation.
Still, as far as haunted-house-in-space films go, this flirts with the nightmare-vs-reality surrealism of EVENT HORIZON while boldly attempting to play out its unconventional plot on a budget. It's not completely successful (though well-lit, some of the camerawork and editing is curiously considered, to the detriment of the drama) but at least you'll stick around for the resolution: of course, we all want to see who survives and what they make of Earth - if they get that far...
EARTHRISE is presented on MVD Visual's region-free DVD in its original 16x9 ratio. It's a digital production but manages to steer clear of that slightly washed-out sheen most films of that ilk have as a consequence. Other than that, it looks generally good, boasting decent colour schemes and noise-free, clean and pin-sharp imagery.
English 2.0 audio is conveyed without issues.
The disc opens to an animated main menu page. From there, you can traverse the film by way of 9 chapters via a rather swanky animated scene selection menu.
Extras come in the form of an audio commentary track and original trailer.
Our hosts for the commentary are Payne and Dillard. "We're going to tell you lots of secrets about the movie" ... "and maybe about yourself" they promise between them. And, yes, they proffer a great deal of insight and backstage reveals while keeping the tone agreeably light. The budget was just $10,000.00, we learn - which is impressive, given some of the visuals contained within.
The 2-minute trailer is stylish, slickly edited and somewhat vague when it comes to clueing potential viewers in as to the film's plot.
EARTHRISE is flawed but manages to engage anyway, and shows promise from its creator Glenn Payne. It looks good on MVD Visual's DVD.
Review by Stuart Willis
|Released by MVD Visual|
|see main review|