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