The Darkest Hour

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Fact: Aliens Are Only Scary When Visible

Reviewed by Rebecca Wilson
on Sat, Jan 14 2012

The whims of moviegoers are mysterious indeed.

See / Skip
See it if: 
Invisible aliens make a good change from visible bankers and politicians
It's been a while since we've seen a movie set in Russia
A good place to start if you're trying to build up your scary movie tolerance
Skip it if: 
You've ever seen a good alien movie, such as 'District 9' -- or 'Alien'
A horror movie without fear is like a non-alcoholic beer
$30 million and they couldn't come up with a design for an alien?

Take The Devil Inside. It's a very bad horror movie, starring some people you've never heard of and is memorable only for having what may be the worst ending of all time. It cost $1 million to produce and has made $60.5 million at the box office.

The Darkest Hour is also a very bad horror movie, though there are some attractive and moderately well known actors in it (Emile Hirsch, Olivia Thirlby, Rachael Taylor, Max Minghella). The story is only marginally better, but it is infinitely more appealing to look at since they spent $30 million on it, it takes place in beautiful Moscow and it's not shot on a video camera. Yet it has made "only" $36 million at the box office. What accounts for this difference?

Realistically speaking, nobody should ever see either one. But if you had to choose -- if doing so would, say, bring about peace in the Middle East or solve the financial crisis -- the obvious choice would be The Darkest Hour.

Lucky for you, this is a Scylla and Charybdis you will likely never face.

The worst thing about Darkest Hour is that it could have been okay, but they gave up at some point. Unfortunately, that point lay well before they got around to coming up with some aesthetically horrifying aliens. This would have made all the difference. Because what is the point of an alien movie with invisible aliens?! Not even Olivia Thirlby's elfin adorability can keep you from noticing that there are no aliens to notice.

Like, I could go run around outside right now, shooting into the sky at invisible aliens, and I would be taken to a mental health ward. Turns out? Aliens are only scary when they look scary.

The story opens with Sean (Hirsch) and Ben (Minghella) traveling to Moscow in order to sell their social networking platform to some Russians. When they get there, they find that the Russians have already sold the software -- bypassing the crucial step of owning it in the first place. Sean and Ben are seriously bummed out.

Positive side: This is a good beginning for a revenge/corporate espionage movie. They should have gone with that.

Instead, while seeking comfort from some hot chicks, as boys will do, they see a glowing light in the sky. This is an alien. Don't touch! It will atomize you.

Apparently the only way to detect the aliens is to use electrical appliances as a kind of alien detector. When they are nearby, the appliances turn on. Eventually, the young, attractive Americans and their Russian cohorts learn that all of earth has been overtaken by the creatures from outer space, who seem to view our planet as a mid-sized strip mine.

Now, how to stop them?

The plot is mind-numbing in its conventionality and predictability -- you've seen this same movie at least 20 times -- but that still may have been okay if the characters would have been at all interesting, likable or the least bit compelling. And, of course, if the aliens would have been even a little bit frightening.

This one missed the barn door by about three miles.

Sun, December 25
Click here to view site
PG-13
89 mins.
English
$ 30M
$ 5M
$ 36M