Netlflix has not been showing me much love as of late. The last few recommendations that its offered for me – The Open House, The Cloverfield Paradox – have been swings and misses. Last night a new recommendation popped up for The Rift: Dark Side of the Moon, a science-fiction/horror film featuring genre favourite, Ken Foree (Dawn of the Dead, Rob Zombie’s 31). With a premise that promised to blend a little from espionage films, science fiction, and haunted house films, I was hoping for at least a fun diversion for 90 minutes or so.
While the premise promises something unique with its mix of genres, the basic story calls to mind past blends of science fiction and horror – from Apollo 18, Europa Report, and The Last Days on Mars. Yet unlike those films, The Rift’s lower budget confines its narrative to Earth save for a few brief flashback scenes. Instead of setting its story in space, The Rift follows two CIA agents – played by Ken Foree and Katarina Cas, respectively – tasked with locating a US military satellite that has crashed somewhere outside a remote Serbian village. Joined by a NASA scientist (Monte Markham) and a Serbian agent (Dragan Miconovic), the agents discover the satellite missing when they track its signal. Instead they are confronted by a series of inexplicable and mysterious occurrences that put their safety at risk.
From its opening credits, The Rift evokes a strong sense of dread, which unfortunately has nothing to do with the film’s atmosphere and everything to do with the clearly evident cheap production values. Things go rapidly downhill from then on with clunky dialogue and wooden performances dragging the audience to the satellite’s crash site and the film’s promised set up of science and the supernatural. Time loops, wormholes or rifts, and ax murders – the screenplay throws out a lot of ideas borrowed from much better films with little to no effect. It’s not that the film’s narrative is confusing, it’s just dreadfully boring. Even Ken Foree looks like he would be rather be anywhere but in this movie. At one point, I paused the film, certain it had to be almost over, and was sadly disappointed when I saw there was another 30 minutes left. Horror films can get away with being stupid or ridiculous, but it’s inexcusable for a horror film to be boring. There are no scares anywhere in the film’s 90 minutes and apparently the budget did not allow for any gore effects, which I find mindboggling given some of the bloodbaths from low-budget 80’s films.
Perhaps my biggest complaint with The Rift was its bizarre use of music. Various points of the film were punctuated with what sounded like the kind of 1980s rock score you might have heard playing in a Steven Seagal or Jean-Claude Van Damme film. The music choice was completely incongruent with everything transpiring on the screen and served to further undermine anything remotely approaching suspense. In general, I found sound to be a problem with the film as other sounds effects were often over done as though trying to compensate for the lack of genuine thrills.
Even with low expectations I could not find much to like about The Rift. It was honestly a slag to get through it – derivative, uninspiring, and lacking in any thrills, suspense, or fright. Low budget films can often offer cheap thrills or idiosyncratic charms but The Rift is generic filmmaking at its worst. I was most reminded of the production values that characterized a lot of the made-for-video bargain bin movies of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Don’t waste your time on The Rift – Netflix should have left this one on the dark side of the moon.