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May 15, 2022

In which we speak in reverent tones about a no-budget contemporary classic piece of sci-fi we absolutely love that gets unfairly marginalized to the “so-bad-it’s-good” canon. TARTARUS (dir. Dave Wascavage) is a deeply spiritual film with a complex cosmology that lends itself to a Christian interpretation. Its protagonist, John (played by Juan Fernandez) is a cruel and remorseless man abducted by an alien spaceship and tortured by an “eternal” in an extra-dimensional realm called Tartarus. As the film unfolds, we learn the John is dead and Tartarus is a zone of preparation for the true eternal punishment of damnation. John can free himself from the vicious cycle if he would only gain insight to how his actions affected others. We contrast this with the films of Estus Pirkle we’ve studied for the past two weeks, in which life on earth is the time limit for repenting and accepting Jesus, and there is no way out of the punishment that lays beyond. The afterlife proposed by TARTARUS is somehow a kinder and more merciful theory of hell that we personally believe is more in line with the attitude of a New Testament God. It’s amazing that Dave Wascavage and crew were able to accomplish such a subtle and detailed story within a campy sci-fi flick that is infamous for its unique CGI effects.

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