It’s always interesting to hear what people say as they file out of a film, but Skyline provided my favourite overheard conversation ever, as a guy who had been sitting just in front of me pulled out his phone and told a friend “Okay, you win, you’ve worked on worse movies than I have”. Skyline is absolutely appalling, indeed it marks directors Colin and Greg Strause out as filmmakers of such notable ineptitude that their names deserve to be mentioned alongside the unholy trinity of Uwe Boll, Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer, and yet I can’t hate it quite as much as I should because having previously sat through the laugh desert that was Due Date it was a blessed relief to see something so funny, even though it was only funny because it was so godawful.
Storywise, Skyline is every alien invasion movie you’ve ever seen thrown into a blender. There are elements of Cloverfield (the rampaging monsters, the small group of friends who survive, having been at a party), Independence Day (the deadly blue light, the design of the ships, the dogfighting sequences), War of the Worlds (tentacled aliens using lights to search through buildings for the characters), the computer game Doom (monster design) and nods to Invasion of the Bodysnatchers and Starship Troopers. Now, imagine that the screenplays for each of those films had been jammed together, more or less at random, and then that the directors had asked their seven year old cousin to rip pages out at random, before handing it off to his twelve year old brother for a dialogue polish. Well done, you’ve just imagined Skyline. If you know anything about sci-fi movies you’ll be ticking off the lawsuits as you go… Roland Emmerich should sue for that shot (by the way, how far have we fallen as a civilization when we’re discussing people who deserve the tag ‘poor man’s Roland Emmerich’?)… Oh, Spielberg should sue for that shot… Wow, I bet JJ Abrams is pissed off about that shot. I’m not sure Skyline is a movie at all; it may just be a mixtape that accidentally got run through the projector.
In terms of direction, I’m not sure that I’d trust either Brother Strause to point me to the other side of the road, let alone decide where a camera should be placed to film me as I crossed it. Prior to directing the poorly received AVP: Requiem (in which, in one of my favourite stupid names for anything ever, they called the Alien/Predator hybrid ‘The Predalien’. Seriously, if presented with that combination you can’t come up with the name ‘Alienator’ you really shouldn’t be trusted around words.) they were special effects artists, and on this evidence they still are. For the film’s minimal cost the effects are okay, though the design is a hodge podge of ‘homage’ and blatant theft, and the end result is laughably unthreatening. ‘Okay’ is not a term one could use to describe the performances (actually, I’m not sure that ‘performances’ is either, but I digress).
The acting is abysmally bad. Lead Eric Balfour has a face like a goateed shovel, and all the on screen magnetism of a plastic spoon. This desk is less wooden than him. That’s a real problem, because his relationship with pregnant girlfriend Scottie Thompson is supposed to be the heart of the movie (in fact, by the end, it’s given hilariously unearned near religious importance) and both are so awful that it’s like watching a four year old play with her dollies rather than two adults interacting with one another. It’s comical to watch them attempt to forge a connection with only the semi-literate, utterly colourless, dialogue supplied by Liam O’Donnell and Joshua Cordes’ screenplay. It’s also especially worth acknowledging how stunningly bad Donald Faison is. Perhaps it’s just that we’re so used to seeing him goofy, but here, as (I think) a music mogul of some sort, as Balfour’s childhood friend and latterly running around with a gun he demonstrates the range of a man tied to a chair. Brittany Daniel and serial ‘that guy’ David Zayas fare similarly poorly, but until their respective final scenes neither is quite so notably awful.
There’s another huge problem with Skyline and that’s that we follow characters to whom nothing really happens. I complained of Bertolucci’s The Dreamers (and yes, that’s the only time those two films will be mentioned in the same sentence, ever) that I would rather have been following what was going on outside the apartment in which the characters spent their time. The same is true of Skyline, because the budget is so limited it all takes place inside an apartment building (not at all coincidentally, the one where the directors live), and everything actually happens outside. This especially hobbles the second half of the film, as the characters sit, trapped, and periodically look out the window and watch the war they aren’t taking part in. At these moments the Brothers Strause get to indulge in CGI porn, but there’s no threat, no interest, because none of it is happening to the characters we’re spending time with. It’s almost like watching a group of people watching a terrible movie. It is, as you might imagine, almost inconceivably boring.
And yet the movie insists that this is an important story. The soundtrack tries to tell us as much as the music swells to instruct us as to how we should be feeling at any given moment. The effect is somewhat akin to having Greg or Colin stand at the corner of the frame with a banner saying “please be sad now”, and nearly as funny. If you’ve got an appreciation for hilariously bad movies then you really must see Skyline (though you absolutely must not pay to do so, you’ll only encourage them and hasten the heavily hinted at sequel) otherwise, avoid it like the cinematic plague it is.
Skyline is out now.