Anyone who has seen the Harryhausen-homage Sinbad: The Fifth Voyage will instantly recognize Nebulous Dark as coming from the same director. Indeed, the post-apocalyptic sci-fi actioner has all the trademarks of writer-director-producer-star Shahin Sean Solimon’s fantasy epic. Large-scale action depicted via a combination of practical effects and CGI? Check. Highly detailed and textured monsters whose movements are a bit jerky? Check. An old-fashioned sense of fun that harkens back to classic eras of Hollywood b-movies (in this case, the Atomic Age)? Double-check. While different in structure and style, if one did not enjoy the filmmaker’s sophomore feature from 2014, it is doubtful they’ll have a good time here. However, if one did appreciate the rip-roaring tone of that outing, they’ll be pleased to note that more of the same is offered here.
Apollo (Shahin Sean Solimon) awakens from a medically induced deep sleep several hundred years in the future to an Earth he does not recognize. While wandering barren wastelands, he stumbles across zombies, tentacle-faced aliens who are hellbent on taking over the planet for its minerals, and an inhospitable atmosphere, which forces Apollo to wear a gas mask quite often. As he attempts to survive in this strange new world, Apollo seeks out other humans. Can he find them, or is he the last man alive? For that matter, will he be able to live past his encounters with all the strange beings and extraterrestrials hunting him to even find out?
“…tentacle-faced aliens who are hellbent on taking over the planet for its minerals…”
Nebulous Dark is only Solimon’s third film after the confusing Djinn and the terrifically fun Sinbad: The Fifth Voyage. While there are problems here and there, such as some odd edits at times and a few close-ups of the zombies/aliens/etc. that are too close to properly make out, much of the film works quite well. For starters, the filmmaker ably replicates the feel of Atomic Age titles such as The Man From Planet X, and It Came From Outer Space (a personal favorite). In addition, the designs of certain creatures are clearly inspired by Warning From Space, perhaps with a dash of Space Amoeba for good measure. Such design choices highlight the kind of movie the director is aiming to craft while being visually distinct and just heckin’ cool.
The story is a bit convoluted, involving flashbacks and, well, no spoilers, so you’ll see, but it is still a fun sci-fi tale overall. It is easy to empathize with and root for Apollo as he treks through a planet he no longer recognizes. Plus, the various baddie encounters are exciting and fun, as giant spectacle is what Solimon does best. Much like in Sinbad (and truth be told, I like that film more than this one), the action is the highlight. Apollo’s first encounter with a zombie is tense, as both he and the audience are still trying to understand this Earth and what is or isn’t a threat.
The low budget of Nebulous Dark is evident in somewhat jerky movements of the CGI and reliance on computer effects to craft the atmosphere (literally). But the way the director calls back to and homages sci-fi classics of yesteryear is rousing and enjoyable. The acting is good, the creature and art designs are fabulous, and Apollo’s journey is engaging from start to finish. For those who want to explore a new world, Solimon’s outing will keep them constantly entertained.
"…ably replicates the feel of Atomic Age titles..."