'Somnus': Film Review

Courtesy of Epic Pictures Group
Three astronauts try to keep their ship's guidance system from murdering them.

Three astronauts try to keep their ship's guidance system from murdering them.

One more warning for prospective space-travelers that the shipboard computer is not to be trusted, Chris Reading's Somnus places a trio of weary Mars-miners on an interplanetary freighter carrying more precious cargo than they know. Reading's debut feature places too much faith in the dramatic oomph of a familiar scenario, resulting in an inert pic that has meager commercial potential. But CGI'ed-out genre fans will appreciate the effort of this old-school production, and some will take to Reading's over-serious approach.

Using models and practical FX where other pix would whip something up with CG, and emphasizing the quiet loneliness of a skeleton-crew space mission, Reading evokes low-budget movies from the '70s and early '80s like Dark Star. But rather than channeling that film's humor, he starts with a scenario cribbed from Kubrick and hopes the dead air around his astronaut-vs.-computer standoff will make for nail-biting tension.

The computer, whose female-voiced avatar is called Meryl (Meryl Griffiths), has already killed one crew member, but the survivors don't know it. She's slowly working on an engineer (Rohit Gokani, the pic's most lively participant) to see if he'll reveal the whereabouts of a controller for the massive, planet-destroying bomb someone has hidden in the ship's hold. (Blame the same alien species that visited the ancient Egyptians for that one.) While those two dance around each other, the two men in the ship's cockpit muse over the perils of space-loneliness. One of them spends a troubling amount of time using a dream-inducing "hibernation matrix" machine.

The slow-moving script eventually takes our heroes to an asteroid outpost, where they'll meet a couple of deranged humans and hear a long-winded speech or two. The movie borrows now from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, claiming this is an abandoned penal colony. But the nod doesn't add up to much, and this cobbled-together climax makes one miss the minimalism of the 2001-loving first half.


Distributor: Epic Pictures Group

Cast: Tom Bonington, Cullum Austin, Rohit Gokani, Meryl Griffiths

Director: Chris Reading

Screenwriters: Chris Reading, Russell Owen

Producers: Richard H.S. Jones, Chris Reading

Director of photography: Richard H.S. Jones

Editor: Philip Clyde-Smith

Composer: Sam Draper


82 minutes