Dave Wain’s essential breakdown of this week’s cavalcade of straight-to-disc treats. Step inside the DTV Junkyard…

SURVIVAL CODE arrives with a sleeve that’s more suited to SyFy Channel cheese, and features an elongated box credit to the Alberta government for financial assistance. It doesn’t scream WATCH ME, but as Lemony Snicket once said “first impressions are often entirely wrong”. Borealis as it was originally called was commissioned to be a pilot for a Canadian TV show, and despite more scripts being ordered, it was never greenlit for a series so this – Survival Code – is what we now have. Set in the year 2045, the planet’s last oil and gas reserves lie barren and the Earth is rife with warfare. As a daring platoon head to Borealis – an unknown glacial landscape, they find what initially promised hope soon becomes a fight for survival.

Its icy Arctic landscape opening giving way to a sharply constructed set, there’s an instant realisation that Survival Code is a notch above most DTV sci-fi. It’s really well cast too, at the centre of which is Vic (Ty Olssen), a former cage fighter who now owns his own bar while also acting as a customs agent for the Canadian government. He’s a likeable wise-cracking character who’s given enough witty dialogue to endear him to the audience, and in turn comes across a little mid-80s Kurt Russell. The films’ two parallel storylines work well and merge successfully, although at times it does feel a little ‘CSI: Arctic Circle’. The main criticism is that it struggles to escape the episodic TV vibe that surrounds it, particularly with regard to the planting of various narrative seeds that would no doubt be expanded upon had its pilot been successful. Despite this, I’d urge you to give Survival Code a spin, if only for the purpose of enraging you in the knowledge that quality like this gets canned, while generic dirge like Two and a Half Men gets recommissioned ad infinitum.

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We’re still on the sci-Fi trail for our final feature this week, albeit we’re back home to cast an eye over THE RENDLESHAM UFO INCIDENT, a strange retitle from the subtler and leaner Hangar 10. It’s a found footage movie which Daniel Simpson casts his directorial eye over; a guy perhaps best remembered for the squatter-centric creep-fest Spiderhole from a few years back. In Rendlesham keen treasure hunters Gus (Robert Curtis) and Sally (Abbie Salt) invite their friend Jake (Danny Shayler) to film them illegally metal detecting on private land in search of Saxon gold. However, when the trail inadvertently takes them onto land belonging to the Ministry of Defence, they find themselves thrust into a frightening moment of extra-terrestrial activity.

The Rendlesham Forest Incident is considered to be ‘Britain’s Roswell’, when in 1980 unexplained lights were seen in this area of Suffolk. Indeed it’s with some audio recorded during this period from Lt. Col. Charles Halt which opens Daniel Simpson’s film, as we’re informed that thirty three years later the Ministry of Defence covered up a second incident which we’re about to be granted access to. I have to say that this contrived moment of onscreen information made me sigh a little, and much of what followed failed to really lift my weary head from its angled pose of cynical incredulity. Also, it popped its cork too early for me; turning nocturnal after a mere ten minutes meant it retaining an undercurrent of tension for the best part of an hour – something which it found hard to do. Considering the director and the wealth of history that surrounded events at that site, I was really surprised at how generic the film became. There IS a degree of hope in the last reel when the film shifts to Rendlesham air force base which has this foggy, disused and uncomfortably eerie nature to it,  but it’s too little too late and only really serves to tease us at what could have been achieved.

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