Wednesday, March 08, 2017


I was curious about this NetFlix produced military/SF/horror film for many reasons, not the least of which is that if it was well done perhaps the SyFy stink could be removed from non-theatrical science fiction films. From what I've seen of the clutter of SyFy style movies this is a cut above them but not by much and not by enough.

The film's story seems cobbled together from elements of several other movies but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. If a film is clever enough it can combine ideas from various sources and magic them into something new and exciting. Unfortunately SPECTRAL falls somewhere in the middle of that scale never fully making me forget that it just isn't very original or all that good.

The film's biggest problem is that it tells a pretty straightforward tale but keeps tripping itself up with the details. During a war in a generic eastern European city American soldiers equipped with fancy goggles begin to spot what look like ghosts in the ruins of the destroyed buildings. These human shaped things can kill with a touch and are soon presenting a major problem for the military. The inventor of the goggles is brought into the warzone to attempt to explain what is happening and things escalate into a slaughter and then a siege. The cast is good and everyone is doing their level best to bring seriousness and solidity to the story but, much like the titular creatures, the plot becomes hazy and transparent. The film never clearly establishes a sense of paranoia about the creatures, so the characters only seem worried about being attacked when the plot calls for it. Instead, these people should be terrified all the time that these monsters that can walk through walls might be anywhere at any time. Also, at first the 'ghosts' can only be seen through the goggles and then when a special light is shined on them but the movie abandons this conceit several times for either a cool image or to have someone react in fear. This lack of consistency really irked me.

James Badge Dale as the inventor is very good and it's a shame to see him waste his efforts on this poorly scripted film. It really is the script that is the trouble here. The visuals are mostly excellent but the story is half-baked nonsense requiring multiple leaps of logic that are laughable. Making things worse is dialog that never rises above serviceable and often becomes pathetically silly. Excellent character actor Bruce Greenwood is given a speech before the final assault that is supposed to be a rousing call to arms but is so badly written it becomes embarrassing. Indeed, the film is so badly written that for the last half of the running time fully 50% of the dialog has been replaced after the fact. There is so much overdubbing that I started to think the entire streaming movie had gone out of sync with the soundtrack. It took a few minutes to realize that someone was trying to fix the bad script in the editing room. They failed.

SPECTRAL isn't a terrible movie but it is a missed opportunity to make a really good one. I enjoyed it for the visuals and the actions sequences but that's about all. It looks good, though, and I hope everyone was well paid. 

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