Hoping for an original idea from the seemingly dry well of end-of-the-world science fiction stories? Sorry, it’s not The Darkest Hour. Better luck in 2012. With little in the way of budget, and even less in terms of actual entertainment value, Chris Gorak’s sci-fi horror film is basically notable only as the last truly bad film of 2011. What we have is a movie that is little more than elements from the Half-Life video game series pureed with The Blob (1958) and M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening (1999). The film mostly resembles Shyamalan’s movie—not just in terms of plot, but also in sheer ineptitude.
Here’s the idea: Invisible aliens—who are somehow able to assert control over electrical fields—have invaded Earth. The invaders are disintegrating people left and right, while also cutting off the world’s power. We see this situation through the eyes of a couple of young American tourists—Emile Hirsch (doing his best Christian Slater impersonation) and Max Minghella (The Ides of March)—who are abroad in Russia. In fact, one of the few interesting aspects of The Darkest Hour is the Moscow setting, since we’re not stuck watching the wanton destruction of New York or LA once again.
Our heroes wander through Moscow as the film laboriously sets up the alien mythology through tons of exposition, occasionally broken up by an action scene. We learn how these invisible monsters can be detected and hurt, and the actors do their best to keep a straight face as they explain all this stuff in pseudo-scientific terms. Everyone takes their roles oh-so-seriously, which is commendable, but it’s almost as if no one—especially Hirsch, who’s had a respectable career up to this point—realizes the pile of elephant dung they’ve stumbled into. Granted, in this age of CGI and green screens, not knowing you’re in a terrible movie is certainly possible. The problem is that this overly serious tone simply doesn’t work once we actually get to lay eyes upon the poorly animated, shoddily designed, villainous aliens behind all this terror. From that moment on, it’s hard not to imagine Darkest Hour’s true calling was a Friday-night premiere on The SyFy Channel.
The unfortunate thing is that the film could still have worked had it been an entertaining sort of awful. We have a movie that features a Russian sporting chainmail armor made of house keys riding a horse covered in household electronics (fighting aliens leads to bargain basement cyberpunk it seems), and it’s not even unintentionally amusing in execution. And that’s a pity, since the rest of Darkest Hour’s clunky direction and recycled story certainly isn’t going to get the job done. Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence and some language.