Proof that science fiction needs more than the mere combination of "aliens" and "invasion", The Darkest Hour is a dull affair that deserved a Friday night premiere on the SyFy Channel, not the theatrical treatment it received. Its home video debut marks an excellent time not to watch this movie, however.
Set in Moscow and featuring some very vanilla but attractive characters (played by Emile Hirsch, Olivia Thirlby, Max Minghella and Rachael Taylor), The Darkest Hour is about an alien invasion that budget-conscious studio executives must love: the aliens are invisible.
The problem with invisible aliens? They're as intimidating as the wind, and The Happening already showed how effective a breeze can be.
But the problem with The Darkest Hour isn't invisible aliens. There are plenty of horror and sci-fi movies where the villains go largely unseen. The problem is that the execution by director Chris Gorak, following up on his largely unseen but engaging sci-fi thriller Right at Your Door, is piss-poor. The movie just exudes cheapness, from its script to set design and special effects. Even worse, The Darkest Hour completely lacks suspense.
After a brief introduction to the forgettable cast of characters, Gorak wastes no time diving into the action, though the term is used broadly. What ensues includes a brief invasion sequence that pales in comparison to all other invasion sequences ever put to film, and a series of scenes where the characters run then hide, run then hide, and eventually decide to make their way across town to a submarine.
The third act is particularly ugly as plot holes get larger, character decisions get dumber and the movie becomes increasingly hokey. Between a ragtag team of Russian men dressed up in spoons, microwave guns that conveniently stop working anytime an alien is advancing and increasingly terrible visual effects, The Darkest Hour goes from bad to worse quickly.
I'm still trying to figure out how Olivia Thirlby, after falling off a boat not even a hundred yards from the submarine, manages to end up far away from the river's edge.
Developing an exciting alien invasion film doesn't seem like it should be so hard, but The Darkest Hour shows that when it comes to movies, nothing comes easily and things often turn out horribly. Close your eyes and pretend that an invisible alien is lurking nearby. Doing so will provide more suspense than what Gorak gives us.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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