Wednesday, 10 November 2010
This film crept out of nowhere, and apparently not just for me. Word on the information super-street is that the Strause brothers (directors behind the cinematic turd-burgle that was "Aliens vs Predator: Requiem") are in trouble for keeping it a secret. Apparently, their effects house was hired by Sony to work on the upcoming "Battle: Los Angeles", which sounds like it should be a movie about Rage Against the Machine, but is in fact a tale of alien invasion in the Angelic City. That's due out next year, but in the meantime the Strauses have popped out "Skyline", a nifty little B-movie about, guess what, an alien invasion of Los Angeles!
Hollywood insider-trading aside, this is a story of a bunch of people who are trapped in a penthouse apartment with a bird's eye view of extra-terrestrials laying the smackdown on L.A.. One of a few lower-budget sci-fis emerging in the wake of "District 9", this plays like a mash-up of pretty much every alien invasion film you can think of, but told in a refreshingly small-scale and intimate manner and with a few interesting twists of its own.
The strength of the film lies in several surprising developments (well, if you haven't seen the second trailer), and in the design and behaviour of the creatures. Although they may look familiar (like a cross between the Sentinels from "The Matrix" and the aliens from "Independence Day") they have some interestingly bizarro traits. These monsters aren't just gonna kill you, they're gonna do some weird shit to you first. Mostly eschewing splatter and gore, the Strauses go for something altogether more macabre and, well, alien. Seriously, there is some Fruedian shenanigans going on with these buggers: all probey tentacles and slimy orifices.
The weaknesses lie in the typical and formulaic characterisation which doesn't really develop once the action kicks off, some dodgy acting from the mostly tv star cast (there's Turk from Scrubs! There's Charlie's brother from Lost! There's that dude who gets his face nicked in the "Chainsaw Massacre" re-make! He must be the star because he's been in films before!"), intermittently budget-stretching effects, occasional ludicrous and cliched moments, and an ending that may well feel like a cheat to some. Also, don't be looking for any explanation of who or what the alien creatures are, the closest we get to exposition is a conversation along the lines of: "What do you reckon they are?" "I dunno." "It just... doesn't seem real..." "Well it IS real. So shut up."
Personally, I found it a simply entertaining experience, lacking the humour or wit of "District 9", but excelling in ambition beyond its station whilst gleefully embracing its schlocky roots. And I loved the ending.
But whatever you do, if you haven't done so already, don't watch the trailer before you see the film. It gives away at least two of the big shock moments, and probably more, so if you like the alien attack genre, just pop along and watch it with no expectations. I think it'll surprise you.