Director – Colin Strause, Greg Strause
Cast – Eric Balfour, Scottie Thompson, Brittany Daniel, David Zayas, Crystal Reed, Neil Hopkins, Donald Faison, Robin Gammell, Tanya Newbould, J. Paul Boehmer
Release Year – 2010
Reviewed by John of the Dead
When I first saw the original trailer for Skyline the only thought that came to mind was “this looks like a cheap knockoff of Independence Day”, and in some ways it is. Thankfully, this is not a devout knockoff of the star-studded film, and we get some pretty cool alien action in this very low-budget(by Hollywood standards) watch. However, while I wanted to like this film and gave it every chance that I could, there were many execution and writing issues that kept this from being a good watch, and left it a mediocre watch in the end.
Skyline stars Eric Balfour and Scottie Thompson as Jarrod and Elaine, a young couple visiting one of Jarrod’s buddies, Terry(Donald Faison; “Scrubs”), in Los Angeles. One night after a long day of partying the friends are awakened by a series of bright lights descending upon the city. The lights carry the ability to draw anyone towards certain doom if they stare into the highly captivating lights, but the worst is yet to come. A superior alien force has invaded LA, and plans to engulf the entire human race…literally.
Well I did not go into this watch with high expectations, only expecting mediocrity at best, and that is exactly what I got. We have seen numerous films involving an alien invasion of Earth, so the overall plot is not a new one, but I really enjoy this sub-genre nonetheless.
The film comes to us written by two first-time writers…and it shows. Writers Joshua Cordes and Liam O’Donnell(who also served as their film’s producers) made their industry careers as visual effects men, which is most likely how they became involved with the film’s directors, the Strause brothers. I will admit that the effects work in this film is amazingly well done, however the writing really left Skyline doomed from the start. Every written element of the film felt very amateurish, and given that it took less than a year from the moment the writers’ pens touched paper to the film’s release date I can see why it feels that way. Because this is such a low-budget film we get a good amount of scenes taking place indoors, where it is cheap to film. This forces the writers to rely on character play to move and sell the film, and character play is never a strong suit for an amateur-minded writer. The relationships between each of the film’s six main(in my opinion) actors never worked for me, and they felt not only forced to the viewer…but utterly cliché as well. The social breakdown is what really lacked heart and execution(both writing and direction), and was the only shot this film had at heading in a positive direction with the numerous indoor “characters only” scenes, and it just did not work. I will admit that I did like the idea of the film containing a good amount of indoor scenes because it allowed me to put myself in their shoes and imagine what it would be like to stuck in a “safe” high-rise apartment while the world around me crumbles to a superior villain. We also get a unique idea in which the aliens would suck up their human victims into a giant ship and then forcible remove the brains of the human’s and use them for their own bidding. I had never seen that in a horror/sci-fi film before, so I’ll take that as a positive.
The Strause brothers, Colin and Greg, are no strangers to the horror/sci-fi genre, and gave us the 2007 sequel to AVP: Alien vs. Predator, AVPR: Alien vs. Predator – Requiem. While the writers really set this film up to fail, the Strause brothers ultimately pitched in their share of bad filmmaking. As I mentioned earlier, the play between the characters was poorly written, and to make matters worse it was poorly executed as well. It was not so much that the acting performances were bad, because we get a good performance from “Dexter” actor David Zayas as Oliver, the apartment’s manager, I just fully believe that they were not coached properly and that resulted in them never finding their niche. Cohesion seemed to be this film’s biggest fault, and because of this I never once felt fully engaged in what was going on. Simply put, I did not care about what was happening before me. There were a few moments when I almost cared, and those were the defining moments of the film…the usage of the aliens. I really loved how the aliens looked and delivered their chaos, and it was obvious that the bulk of the film’s budget went into special effects. Reports state that the filming budget was a very low $500,000, while the rest of the overall $10,000,000 went to special FX. This reminded of District 9, which was a low-budget film aided by amazing special effects, although District 9 was a lot better than this film. Nonetheless, the alien carnage in this film is great, and is definitely the only selling point Skyline has to offer.
Overall, Skyline fails on numerous levels, but delivers enough alien eye candy to make this a mediocre watch in the end. If you turn your brain off, bring a book and a pen light, and look up at the screen during the alien scenes then you might find this a nice time-consumer on a boring night.