Let’s be honest, you don’t exactly have any great expectations when you impulse-buy a DVD at the supermarket checkout for £7. The surprise then about Debug – a low budget science fiction/horror film from Canada – is that it’s no where near as bad as its price point suggests it should be. It looks pretty decent with stylish spaceship sets, perfectly adequate CGI FX along with some moody direction and effective low-key music, while the script by Rise of the Planet of the Apes’s David Hewlitt (who also directs) is rather deeper and better informed than you’d expect it be from something of its kind.
Unfortunately, having achieved lift off from the realms of “so bad, it’s good,” Debug then stalls and comes to a dead stop deep in the no man’s land of mediocrity. The slow-burn direction that works pretty well in the first act, and which is a nice change from the ADHD fast-cutting of most modern films, then fails to actually kick into any higher gear when the action nominally picks up. That leaves the whole thing sleepwalking along at a snail’s pace just when it needs to get going, and it’s hard not to feel bored and downright impossible not to be alienated by the end result.
The film isn’t helped by a pretty blank young no-name cast which largely fails to bring their characters to life despite more script time than usual being given over to the attempt. At least Game of Thrones’ Jason Momoa seems to be having a ball, freed from doing dour Dothraki to play a cheesy over-the-top villain even if he does appear to have wandered in from a completely different film from everyone else. He plays the malfunctioning artificial intelligence of a ghost ship drifting in deep space to which a team of computer hackers working out their sentence on salvage operations is dispatched, looking for all the world in their orange jump suits like the transplanted cast of Channel 4’s Misfits. It turns out that the AI isn’t keen on being interfered with by the hackers, and so the inevitable culling of the cast commences. Basically it’s Event Horizon spliced with elements of 2001 and topped up with a dash of The Matrix for good measure, but that description makes it sound way more interesting than the end result actually turns out to be.
Still, all that said, it made for an entirely passable 80 minutes and better than I’d been expecting. A couple of the deaths are quite impressively gory with a couple of neat touches of black humour along the way, even though other aspects are oddly sanitised as if the film lost confidence or perhaps budget part way through, and the final act suffers from some very muddled storytelling. Overall some of the dialogue is hard to pick up and the DVD has no subtitles to fall back on (and absolutely no extras other than the annoyingly unskippable previews at the start) but the picture is pretty decent. While it’s available on Blu-ray as well, I really can’t imagine that this needs anything more than standard definition.
Debug is out on DVD and Blu-ray now.