The Darkest Hour: Survive the Holidays (2011)

Posted: January 1, 2012 in Action, Horror, Sci-Fi

Sean and Ben are a couple of young developers on a trip to Moscow for an important business venture. While trying to decide their next move at a hotspot club, the power shuts down and the crowds of people start flooding the streets to see if they can find a cause. Falling from the sky, balls of light split apart and land on the streets. When an officer walks up to the space the light landed, he dissolves into ash, inciting panic among the people. With the two girls they met in the club and the businessman who shot down their venture, the five survivors lock themselves in a storage room and try to wait out the attack. Surfacing after several days, they find the city of Moscow in total ruins, but the alien lights are still on patrol making the city dangerous to traverse. Searching for a way to survive, the group stays on the move and slowly learns more about the mystery of this demolition.

Starring: Emile Hirsch (Sean), Olivia Thirlby (Natalie), Max Minghella (Ben), Rachael Taylor (Anne), Joel Kinnaman (Skyler), Veronika Vernadskaya (Vika), Dato Bakhtadze (Sergei)

Though not as well known a cast, they meet the unfortunately low quality of the film. Only really known for his role in The Girl Next Door, Emile Hirsch plays off a cool and collected stature during a catastrophic event. It is almost unbelievable that someone who is marketed as a careless person would lead the group to safety and survival. He also seems to be smarter than he appears, even though the film sets him up to be a screwup. Almost like Eduardo Saverin to Mark Zuckerberg, Hirsch’s counterpart is played by Max Minghella. He may not have the courage of Hirsch but shows the intelligence and frustration similar to The Social Network duo. He almost overplays his fear in comparison to Hirsch to a level that makes him impossible to make an emotional connection. Olivia Thirlby plays Natalie as the female lead. She puts together the best performance of the film (though not really saying much for the acting). She has the best combination of fear and resolve of the group, though she tends to overplay the emotions fairly often. Rachael Taylor, similarly to Minghella, certainly expresses her fear well but also comes off as a character that you would expect to fall to the alien presence. Joel Kinnaman holds the role of the most annoying character in the formula of cheesy thrillers. If there is one area this film succeeds, it is in the portrayal of Kinnaman as expendable.

Chris Gorak has been involved in a number of films but has only completed this as his second directoral production. Unfortunately, it is difficult to identify this as a success. Though classified as a horror film, there is not much to be afraid of with this story. The alien creatures show their hand early in the film and there is nothing that really increases in their “terror” from that point. Many movies have done the alien apocalypse that increases in terror over time. Other than the giant flame pillars that get introduced later into the film (but never really expanded upon or shown in greater detail), the only development with the individual aliens is getting to see a poorly developed CGI visual that looks like a mutated version of the aliens from Independence Day. Their ability to disintegrate lifeforms certainly is lethal and they periodically use their energy to grab and throw things, but the aliens seem otherwise unpolished and awkward. There is only one moment one of them uses an energy beam to fry the path in front of them, but there is never another instance of the use of the beam.

Besides the odd presentation and development of the aliens themselves, the overall story has a number of plot holes and incredibly poor acting. A species of aliens falls to earth and the main character seems to hold himself together way too well. Never encountering such a threat and truly being in danger at every turn and all Sean displays is slightly frenzied decision-making but otherwise an unbelievable courage. Sean then seems to know more about electrical currents then a slacker really should. Especially with the his clear failure from the pitch, it is hard to comprehend Sean’s or Ben’s ability to lead the group. The whole premise with the website to set up the reason for the guys being in Moscow was fairly weak, but why were the two girls there? This is never explained. Nor is the reason why the girls seem to trust the guys’ decision-making ability. Moving forward to the one survivor in the steel cage apartment, how did he put together his security net so quickly without getting caught by the aliens without having a premonition of their arrival. There is also no explanation of what happens to the cat. Moving forward to the search and rescue of Natalie, how does the alien put the bus in drive without changing the gearshift and how convenient is it that the bus stops right near the survival team?

In a very poor film, the acting was just awful. There is a feeling that the film is trying to make fun of itself and the themes in sci-fi thrillers but it is also clear that they are taking themselves and the story seriously. This is one of the worst 2011 major releases in one of the weakest holiday seasons for cinema. Is there a reason why this was only shown in 3-D? Not worth the extra money at the box office or really the regular ticket price for that matter.

Dan’s Rating: 1.5/5

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