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Darkest Hour, The


Stars: Emile Hirsch, Olivia Thirlby, Max Minghella, Rachael Taylor, Joel Kinnaman, Veronika Ozerova, Dato Bakhtadze

Director: Chris Gorak

Yet another (mercifully short) extra-terrestrial invasion of Earth hits the screen but with all the impact of a soft-boiled egg. The prime era of B-feature sci-fi roughly half a century ago which featured out-of-work actors sporting slimy clothes and fake tentacles and lurching in their best menacing manner as alien attackers has sadly vanished. Here, while the special effects are effective enough in creating the basic creatures from space that rain down on Moscow like Chinese Lanterns and then proceed to disintegrate every human they can catch, the basic creatures themselves are not that special.

It’s hard to be really terrified by glowing fireballs posing as monsters although – too late to invigorate the decaying shock value – they shatter under attack by microwave weapons (fortunately there is no need to set the guns to defrost before hitting the trigger) to reveal the repulsive multi-tentacled creatures sailing inside the globes of light.

The most interesting aspect is the unfamiliar Moscow locations where the aliens strike and put Hirsch and Minghella and tourists Thirlby and Taylor in danger of sudden death. American internet entrepreneurs Hirsch and Minghella are in Russia to finalise their latest web creation, only to find crooked Swedish businessman Kinnaman has ripped them off.

Hoping to get drunk, get laid and end up in a Russian jail, the depressed duo chat up Thirlby and Taylor in a trendy nightclub and emerge just in time to run up against the thousands of invisible aliens in their auras of light dropping from the heavens, and have to run for their lives as the city crumbles around them…

Jon Spaihts’ screenplay creates little in the way of telling suspense or terror, often resembling a minor video game, as schematically created and played people run for their lives, pursued by cliché-prone dialogue and not much suspense. Gorak’s direction, while efficient enough and making effective enough use of special effects and okay 3D cinematography to potentiate spectacle, adds little to the overall impact.

Half a century ago, someone like Roger Corman might have transformed similar essentially routine B film material into something more memorable. As it was, I had to fight to prevent the erase button in my memory from kicking in while I was still watching the film.

Keep watching the skies - something better is bound to turn up in time.

Alan Frank

USA/Russia 2011. UK Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox. Colour by deluxe.
89 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 12 Jan 2012