Alien Cargo (1999)
Writer: Carla Jean Wagner
Director: Mark Haber
Tagline: We have met the enemy & it is us
Alien Cargo is a 1999 low budget TV movie shot in 4:3. It also proves that you don't need expensive CGI and effects to make a good SF horror film.
Most of the story takes place aboard a solar system cargo ship. The crew take shifts working as pairs for two months whilst the others remain frozen in cryosleep to save on expenses for the company. When Shift Two wake up they find they have been asleep about a year longer than they should have been, the ship is way off course and almost out of fuel. Oh, and Shift One apparently went mad, wrecked many of the ship's systems and tried to kill each other...
The reason for this insanity is the alien cargo of the title. Although there is a bit of story attached to this at the end it's essentially a plot McGuffin. You won't find a detailed story of alien technology and interaction here. What you get is an excellent character piece as the two crew members inevitably become affected and homicidal.
Much of the time it's a two hander and both main actors - Jason London as Chris and Missy Crider as Theta - do a really good job of running through the range of emotions and reactions involved without chewing up the scenery. There's also some great minor role support, especially David Ross Paterson as officious company man Schiedell and Alan Dale as suspicious scientist Eichhorn. The script by Carla Jean Wagner is excellent and has lots of little touches that just make it 'feel' right (such as the penny pinching company and the ship protocols).
The result is a creepy and suspenseful little film that captures an atmosphere of paranoia and desperation. Neither the story nor the quality were what I expected - both were much better and I thoroughly enjoyed it.