Skyline (2010)

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Skyline was financed, produced and then directed by the Strause brothers Colin and Greg, with no major studio help whatsoever. The Brothers Strause, as they call themselves, riled by studio interference in their previous effort Alien Vs Predator Requiem, decided to go it alone and make their own independent Sci-Fi blockbuster. The pair have a background in special effects, and it can’t denied, the effects in this film do look pretty impressive given their relatively meagre budget. That is unfortunately the only good thing I can find to say about this atrocious effort at the classic alien invasion story.

The Brothers Strause presumably saw their break from the studio system as a chance to wield greater creative control and ensure they were able to make the picture that they wanted to make. The Brothers obviously had great faith in their own skill with visual effects, and upon seeing recent movies such as Cloverfield and War of the Worlds must have thought….”we could do better that.” How wrong they were. Let this be a lesson to all aspiring film makers.  Special effects, no matter how good they may be, are not alone enough to base a film upon.

Skyline clocks in at around 84 minutes, although the tantalising pre-credits sequence is actually repeated about ten minutes later in full, so in reality there’s about 78 minutes of actual footage. In that time, there’s no noticeable character development whatsoever, no analysis of why the events are happening, and very few lines that don’t come straight out of the Sci-Fi movie cliché handbook. We get some absolute gems trotted out here, including, “we’ll be right back”, “you can’t go out there”, “you don’t know what’s out there”, “you have no idea what they are capable of” and of course an angst-ridden “we have….to…try”.  All delivered with astounding po-faced seriousness that makes Independence Day’s script begin to look like Annie Hall.

Eric Balfour and Scottie Thompson are the films leads, though Turk from TV’S Scrubs and one of the blond twins out of Sweet Valley High, crop up to complete the ensemble. Balfour and Thompson play Jarrod and Elaine a young couple who travel to LA to visit Jarrod’s old friend Terry. We soon learn that Elaine is pregnant, but other than that we are given no back story and little reason to care about these forgettable and dull characters. Once the alien invasion begins, the filmmaker seems to want the pair to be seen as helpless young lovers, fighting against the odds in order to be able to raise their family in peace. Unfortunately he comes across as a brooding moron who spends most of his time pacing about the apartment insisting that they should go on the run. Whilst she comes across as a fairly vacant fawn who does little but whimper, cry and occasionally remind us all she is pregnant.

If a Science Fiction film is low budget, it can tend to go one of two ways. It can revel in its low-fi nature and take the action out onto the streets, maximising the freedom of the outdoors such as in the excellent Monsters did recently, or Cloverfield did before that.  Alternatively, it can go the direction Skyline chooses and try and hide its lack of budget for sets and locations by just setting the vast majority of the film in one location. Not even a very engrossing location at that. The plot sees the cast trapped inside Terry’s high rise apartment complex and in particular his penthouse pad. The problem with this is, after a while, it just gets really boring. Even the view is fairly mundane. There’s the odd glimpse of alien through the window, but other than that, much of Skyline is just fairly good looking people, waiting around a half-decent penthouse, deciding whether to stay or go.  That’s about it. There’s no subtext, no larger picture, it’s just alien’s turn up, there’s some bland people trapped in a building, debating whether they should run or stay put. Skyline’s biggest accolade is that it actually manages the difficult task of making an alien invasion boring.

There is an attempt at an ending of sorts, by which time you still don’t care what happens to Jarrod and Elaine…..and her baby, don’t forget she’s pregnant folks, you wouldn’t want anything bad to happen to a pregnant lady would you?  The finale seems incredibly convoluted however and rather worryingly sets things up for a sequel. The Brothers Strause have apparently stated that Skyline is the first in a series of movies and they will personally fund a sequel.  Proof, if ever it was needed, that some people really do have more money than sense.

Skyline is out on DVD 21st March 2011.

Directors: Colin Strause, Greg Strause
Stars:Eric Balfour, Donald Faison, Scottie Thompson
Runtime: 94 min
Country: USA

Film Rating: ★½☆☆☆

12 Comments
  1. Kevin Matthews says

    Yeah Rob, gotta agree with you on this one. I enjoyed it a LITTLE bit more than you did (thanks to the presence of the yummy Brittany Daniel) but it wasn’t good and I despise that lazy, lazy shorthand of pregnant woman = someone you MUST care about. Tsk tsk!
    🙂

  2. Rob Keeling says

    She was a real blast from the past. I was slightly worried by how quickly I figured out where I knew her from. She is probably the best female actress in the movie. Which is saying something.

  3. Kevin Matthews says

    I remember seeing her in some episodes of Dawson’s CReek, though I was just a casual viewer, but remember her best nowadays from her fun turn in Club Dread (yet another film I really like that others dismiss). She doesn’t seem to be too picky though, having been in both White Chicks and Little Man. Gorgeous, funny and not picky = a chance for me to get a date 😀

  4. Tue Sorensen says

    I rated Skyline a 4, but a 3 works, too. Now, I just went to see Battle: Los Angeles, and I must warn y’all: It’s *worse* than Skyline, and nearly the same movie, only seen from the brave U.S. troops’ P.O.V. Story: none. Script: none. Acting: none. Seriously, try to stay away, if you haven’t been conned into seeing it already. It just wants to steal the money of poor defenseless sci-fi fans by masquerading as something it isn’t. Gah.

  5. Kevin Matthews says

    I see your Battle: Los Angeles and raise you a Battle Of Los Angeles 🙂 Yeah, I watched the latest rip-off from The Asylum and enjoyed it as an entertainingly bad film. I ended up giving it 4/10, which was very generous.

  6. Tue Sorensen says

    I guess it was just a matter of time before the rip-off movies started actually being better than the movies they’re ripping off…

    Speaking of The Asylum, they also did a Princess of Mars rip-off of a movie that was merely rumored to be in production, but didn’t materialize: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1531911/usercomments-10

    Anyway, realizing that I enjoyed Battle: Los Angeles even less than an Asylum movie, I am emending my rating of B:LA to 1 instead of 2. Even the original is a rip-off…

  7. Kevin Matthews says

    I find it funny that people complain so much about The Asylum’s way of making movies when (dodgy title mirroring aside) it’s pretty much the way the old studio systems worked with their production line system, stable of stars, etc so I tend not to begrudge them whatever profit they happen to make. Besides, I know what I’m getting into beforehand and if people are too busy to notice a minor difference in a title then it’s their own fault for taking their eye off the ball IMO.
    And I befriended Paul Logan on Facebook, love that guy 🙂

  8. Tue Sorensen says

    So, you think it’s fair to prey off people’s ignorance? Can’t say I agree there. Lying in wait for people to make an honest mistake and then gleefully profit from it is just about the lowest depth a human being can sink to – it’s the type of principle that capitalism itself is based on. In the final analysis, feeling that people are to blame for their own misfortune, when in fact misanthropic wealthy people are exacerbating (and most likely caused) that misfortune by exploiting it, is pure right-wing Social Darwinism. I’m sure you don’t mean *that*, my friend! Opinions about movies can be casual, but extrapolating those opinions to social issues can become very thoughtless. Just sayin’.

  9. Kevin Matthews says

    I became jaded after years working for Blockbuster and think that many people are, in fact, at fault when it comes to “acting” ignorant. For example, at Blockbuster we used to (I know the system has changed now) put the rental boxes behind the display covers. Of course, that didn’t stop people from moving them around and leaving them here, there and everywhere. So when a customer came to the counter with, say, “Under Siege” we would do the pleasantries, run through the process and then state the name of the film and when it was due back.
    It didn’t stop a number of people coming back an hour or so later saying “hey, I rented Pride & Prejudice” and YOU gave me “Under Siege”.
    Some honest mistakes are made, and The Asylum count on those moments for profit too (which is wrong), but I think that most consumer ignorance in this instance tends to come from laziness and some bizarre optimism. With it coming out in cinemas just now, would any sensible person REALLY think that they’d just found Battle: Los Angeles in HMV for a fiver??
    Yes, I also get worked up when I see “do not drink” warnings on bleach . . . . . . . because you know it was put there after someone drank it. :-p

  10. Tue Sorensen says

    Well, a lot of people *are* ignorant, and stupid, but that doesn’t mean they are to blame. It’s no one’s fault; it’s unfortunate circumstance. You might like to become an astronaut, but you can’t: unfortunate circumstance. You might like to have been born with a silver spoon in your mouth, but you weren’t: unfortunate circumstance. That doesn’t give anybody the right to prey off your misfortune. Anybody who does that is a scoundrel and a cad and a misanthrope.

    I can respect, to some degree, people who make bad movies because of incompetence, but I can respect to NO degree people who deliberately make cheap movies that rip-off current blockbusters in order to make money from people’s honest mistakes.

    As for sensible behavior; lots of people don’t have it. Sucks to be them. But punishing them for it only makes things worse for both them and the rest of us.

  11. Kevin Matthews says

    I totally understand why so many people disrespect and avctively dislike The Asylum. I just happen to have those misfiring neurons that allow me to glean enjoyment from their drivel 🙂
    i was also just chatting to someone about them on the IMDb Horror board and remembering how good King Of The Ants (one of the first movies released by them, directed by Stuart Gordon) was. It seems that they’ve now found their production line system, got results and are sticking with it. Which will kill any tiny speck of creativity or ambition they once had.
    But you know I love me some Mega Piranhas 😉

  12. Tue Sorensen says

    Loving trashy movies is in itself a whole different matter! 🙂

    Hm, as a huge fan of Gordon’s Space Truckers, maybe I should look up King of the Ants…

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