A squadron of cramped two-person fighter craft, Gemini Unit slip through hyperspace towards the Erebus system on their way to bolster the Terra Prime forces already engaged to help them push back the Drekk assault, what is expected to be “a little skirmish,” their life support systems extended to allow them to remain in-system to continue to provide backup as needed.
What they find is a massacre, their capital vessel overwhelmed by swarming Drekk attack vessels and taking heavy fire; with no option but to engage despite the superior shielding of the enemy against which their energy weapons have little impact they move into weapons range, and one by one they are picked off.
Out of control, the last ship survives a rough entry into the cloudy atmosphere of Erebus, a harsh landing on a desolate plain of volcanic ash; pilot Adler stumbles from the vessel but her navigator Yaren is injured and incapacitated. The battle continuing in the skies above them, flashes illuminating the night in strange constellations, they must find a way to signal for rescue or find a way to repair the damage if they are ever to make it home to Terra Prime.
Written and directed by Marc Price, Dune Drifter is the art of the impossible made real, a science fiction action thriller of space battles and alien worlds created out of a single week of shooting in Iceland and a cockpit interior constructed in the director’s living room, using practical model effects as a default position with only minimal digital enhancement where required.
The limited resources meaning the focus is on character and dialogue, the screaming of overlapping comms channels expresses the chaos of battle before the hopelessness of silence replaces the cacophony, and unable to gloss over the cracks with epic visuals it rests upon Phoebe Sparrow and Daisy Aitkens to carry the burden as warriors.
Bleak yet beautiful, Dune Drifter benefits enormously from the otherworldly landscapes of the location footage, the functional environment suits adding much to the realism, and while it would have been interesting to see the Drekk developed beyond black-clad masked “space Nazis,” as a blend of Star Wars and Pitch Black which substitutes sheer ambition for budget it cannot be faulted.