Awfully Good: Skyline
Director: The Brothers Strause
Stars: Eric Balfour, Donald Faison, Brittany Daniel
Is there a plot?
A group of really stupid people attempt to survive an alien invasion in Los Angeles.
What's the damage?
When a DVD cover can only boast "From the visual effects masterminds behind AVATAR, IRON MAN 2 and 300!" you know you're probably in trouble. And when Brett Ratner is listed as a producer you might as well burn the thing and cut your losses.
Despite the grueling schedule and number of effects shots, SKYLINE was a fairly easy, laid back shoot…except when Donald Faison would take off his pants.
To be fair, I actually didn’t dismiss this film right off the bat. I thought the presentation at Comic-Con showed some promise, and the low-budget, guerilla independent style they were going for was intriguing given the subject matter, but SKYLINE proves to be an exercise in special effects and nothing else. Directed by the Strause Brothers (AVP: REQUIEM), it’s clearly a case of two guys who were tired of doing VFX for other people and wanted to see what they could do on their own. (Literally—almost the entire thing was filmed in their own condo.) Unfortunately, no amount of processing power or computer software can manufacture a good story or halfway decent script. And while the thought of giant aliens attacking Los Angeles and thousands of people getting Hoovered in to the sky might make for cool visuals, if it's not connected to anything that matters (i.e. characters) you might as well be watching a sizzle reel. And more than any Michael Bay movie, SKYLINE is the living embodiment of "Yeah, we know the story sucks, but look over here at how shiny everything is!" (Though it doesn't even come close to the shiny perfection of TORQUE.)
"Hey, do you ever get a strong sense of déjà vu?"
"For the last time, this isn't 'Fastlane!'"
Almost the entire movie takes place in the same apartment complex. While some great movies happen in confined quarters, again you need tight writing, a well-thought out story and good acting to pull it off. SKYLINE possesses none of these things. The characters literally sit inside for the middle act, watching all the fun, more interesting alien stuff that you’d rather see happen outside. You never get a real sense of scope or urgency, which makes everything pretty boring. However, Eric Balfour, who plays our hero Jarrod, actually manages to sell fear pretty well. Unfortunately, given the nervous grimace on his face, it's clearly the fear that he's about to take a huge dump in his pants.
AQUA FAISON ATTACK!
When it’s not making you fall asleep, SKYLINE is probably making you roll your eyes. This is a movie comprised entirely of stupid decisions, like:
- “Let’s go outside and check out what's killing everybody!”
- “Let’s take the car… What smashed and killed every other driver probably won't kill us too!”
- “Let’s take the elevator during an alien attack instead of the stairs!”
- "Our big final plan? Hmmm, let's do the same thing we tried at the beginning that killed all our friends. Maybe this time it'll work!"
- And my personal favorite: Right before a character is ready to sacrifice himself and take out a bunch of aliens, the camera focuses on a painting of a Japanese kamikaze in the background. (Who has that hanging up in their house?!)
Subtlety, they name is SKYLINE.
Perhaps Headlight Man was too literal a superhero name, thought Henry.
If SKYLINE had ended 15 minutes earlier, it would just be a bad movie, but in its final moments it goes on to become spectacularly bad. I debated not spoiling the ending, but didn't want to be a tease, so here goes. (Obviously, MAJOR SPOILERS ahead!) In the end, our intrepid heroes (a guy and his pregnant girlfriend) finally give up and get sucked up in to the mothership, making out their entire ride in the sky instead of screaming like normal people awaiting anal probes. The girl awakens to find the aliens eating human brains for sustenance. (We also see them gratuitously pooping out brains for no reason other than to answer your lingering question about whether or not this species has a working digestive system.) She then watches in horror as ET feasts on the grey matter from the father of her unborn child, which we know is “special” for some reason, because his brain is red while the rest are blue. For reasons never hinted at or explained, the alien immediately gets sick and becomes possessed by Eric Balfour's human spirit. (Complete with "scared poop" face.) Then just as his girlfriend is about to get her just desserts (or become just dessert), Eric Balfour Alien shows up to save her and for some reason she immediately recognizes the H.R. Giger nightmare as her boyfriend, because the alien lovingly stroked her stomach and face. The other nearby aliens begin to surround the pair just as the movie cuts to the credits and the directors laugh at you.
Father Miguel always had a colorful way to close his sermons.
Not that there's really any good way to dramatically read terrible lines like these, but Eric Balfour is especially awful at it.
1) A few of the best dumb action scenes from the movie, including a physics defying plane crash and Eric Balfour fistfighting an alien to pieces.
2) The ending of the film, in case you're curious or have sadomasochistic tendencies. (SPOILERS, obviously.)
A quick underwear shot of Scottie Thompson. Also, Scottie Thompson is a girl.
Play Along at Home!
Take a shot or drink every time:
- Eric Balfour looks constipated
- Somebody says "Oh my God"
- A pop song plays
- Somebody gets randomly saved by military
Double shot if:
- Donald Faison's man boobs make an appearance!
Seen a movie that should be featured on this column? Shoot Jason an email and give him an excuse to drink.