Dennis Quaid in 'Pandorum' (Overture Films)

Really good sci-fi horror flicks don't come along too often. Pandorum may be burdened with the unfair stigma of "not screened in advance for the press" (at least in my area), but it proves to be a superior picture, expertly establishing and maintaining a charged atmosphere of unhinged ferocity.

Director Christian Alvart displays an assured grasp of visual storytelling and provides a solid framework for Ben Foster and Dennis Quaid to let loose with intense, uninhibited performances. Four years ago, Alvart made the powerful Antibodies, a haunting serial killer movie that neatly subverted expectations, and he has delivered another impressive genre-buster. He even made me sit on the edge of my seat a few times, an inclination which I nearly always resist.

Foster and Quaid are apparently the first two members of their mission team to awaken from hyper-sleep on the spaceship Elysium. They're both badly disoriented; hyper-sleep is supposed to induce brief memory loss, but they look like they've journeyed through all nine circles of suffering in Dante's Inferno, which might feel like a picnic in the park compared to their situation.

The ship appears abandoned; no one is present to greet them, the power has been shut down, and they're locked in a chamber with impregnable metal doors. They can barely remember their names, much less their mission or even their own qualifications. Just wait until they find out they're not alone. And whatever is out there is very fast, very ugly, and very hungry.