DIR: Chris Gorak • WRI: Jon Spaihts • PRO: Tom Jacobson, • DOP: Scott Kevan • ED: Priscilla Nedd-Friendly, Fernando Villena, Doobie White • DES: Valeri Viktorov • CAST: Emile Hirsch, Olivia Thirlby, Max Minghella, Rachael Taylor

We’ve seen this film before. A big city is under siege, be it zombies, a natural disaster or an alien invasion. There’s a fight for survival, a few die, the main players survive and a couple usually fall in love. This time it’s invisible electrical aliens and instead of New York or LA, it’s Moscow. Two young  American bloggers (the loveable slacker and his hard-working, straight-edged friend) find themselves losing out on a potentially lucrative business deal. They are told they don’t understand that business in Russia is not fair, unlike back home in the United States. They quickly encounter two attractive young ladies at a hip Russian club that they featured on their underground travel blog. Things then go awry at the club with the arrival of the aliens and they find themselves fighting for their lives in a foreign city.

The film is a Russian-American co-production but it is clear which of the old superpowers is ruling the film. The opening of the film acts as a Russian postcard encouraging Americans to visit. It’s different, sexy and exotic but not too different – for instance, there are numerous billboards for McDonalds. In the group of survivors, it is the Americans that react quickly, never lose their cool and lead the group to the US embassy. The Swede and the Australian waver constantly. The Russians are fiercely militant and rife with Americanisms. For example, in one unintentionally amusing moment a Russian survivor roars to the aliens ‘Welcome to Moscow, sucker!’ The Russian setting does provide some stunning scenery but the inclusion of an unpopulated red square doesn’t pack the punch it should.

In spite of the film’s subject, it is very slow-moving and lacking in the excitement of the big disaster movies.  It runs its course in a very predictable way; there are no surprises. There’s little gained from 3D as the special effects are not impressive by blockbuster standards. The aliens are barely visible and the way they kill their victims doesn’t provide much shock or horror. This is saying something because aliens terrify me, I’m even afraid of E.T.  Still, the lack of violence or gore shouldn’t limit the level of horror as a good film should be able to create a fear of the unknowable. However, the film does not build tension or fear of not being able to see what’s going to kill you. Without this tension then and without the visual horror of other alien movies, there is nothing to invigorate the flat storyline.

Maybe the film is a comment on our careless misuse of our environment. Maybe it’s a comment on our dependence on technology and electricity. It could be, but does it really matter? I think we could probably forgive the predictable story riddled with clichés if there were some impressive special effects but it doesn’t even offer us this and ultimately falls flat.

Soracha Pelan Ó Treasaigh

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)
The Darkest Hour is released on 13th January 2015


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