It begins as a hard-bitten science-fiction survival epic with blood, beatings and marauding monsters. It ends as a weird homage to the children's book "Where the Wild Things Are," except that the thing befriended by 11-year-old Indi Sommerville could bite her head off.
"The Osiris Child: Science Fiction Volume One," an Australian thriller with a presumptuously unwieldy, startup franchise title, boasts some fairly impressive early "Star Wars"-grade visual effects when it comes to space craft, alien landscapes and functional set designs.
"The Osiris Child: Science Fiction Volume One"★ ★
Starring: Teagon Croft, Kellan Lutz, Daniel MacPherson, Rachel Griffiths
Directed by: Shane Abbess
Other: An Eclectik Vision release. At the AMC Woodridge Theaters. Not rated by the MPAA, but contains harsh language, gory violence. 99 minutes
But the human-made monsters? They look like something you'd expect to see in a cheapie production titled "Attack of the Killer Mutated Gophers."
"The Osiris Child," directed with verve and nerve by Aussie filmmaker Shane Abbess on his third film, takes place in the near future when military pilot Lt. Kane Sommerville (Daniel MacPherson) goes AWOL, then hooks up with an escaped prisoner ("Twilight" star Kellan Lutz) to find his daughter Indi (Teagon Croft). They have only 22 hours before prisoners, who've taken over their prison, release a deadly germ that will wipe out most of the planet.
But that's not exactly true.
Boo-hissable General Lynex (a surprisingly nondescript Rachel Griffiths) conjured up this cover story to get people out of the way of a genetically created super monster (the aforementioned Killer Mutated Gophers) designed to exterminate all native life-forms on other planets. Somehow, they got out. Oops.
Every frame of "The Osiris Child" resonates with ambitious energy that slowly dissipates as the movie grinds on.
Cast members go through their lines with mechanical precision, their emotional connections frequently shorting out.
Oddly, little Indi (a reference to Indiana Jones or a character's home state?) gets the job of awkwardly stuffing the soundtrack with voice-over narration, sharing omniscient information her character could not possibly know.
Abbess also fumbles through some badly staged slow-motion shots that work against the narrative momentum of several action scenes.
His screenplay, written with film composer Brian Cacchia, lacks the sophistication of higher-end science-fiction tales. Take a telling moment when Kane's computerized home valet informs him that communications have been "temporarily disrupted."
When Kane asks how long communications will be out, the computer replies, "I have no idea." So why would the computer conclude that the disruption is only temporary?
Fans of Australian action films (this one was shot Down Under) will enjoy Abbess' sense of pacing and his affinity for wacky characters who could be extras in a "Mad Max" sequel.
But those roving monsters?
Where's that Whack-a-Gopher mallet when you need it?