Cast: Frank Grillo, Bojana Novakovic, Iko Uwais, Callan Mulvey, and Valentine Payen
Writer & director: Liam O’Donnell
105 minutes (15) 2017
Widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Signature Blu-ray region B
[Released 8th January]
Review by Christopher Geary
Aerial assault of a grandly gothic variety was the spectacular highlight of indie production Skyline (2010). Directed by brothers Colin and Greg Strause, it began like Cloverfield meets Independence Day, concentrating on the fates of citizens, and their reactions to alien conquest, so there was plenty of widescreen spectacle in disaster movie mode. The lack of Hollywood resources meant the movie ignored typical blockbuster upscale framing for a ‘big picture’ of global events, until a closing montage, but Skyline was exemplary as a modern weird sci-fi B-movie template, ejecting the warp core of SF epic structure, and sidestepping any bother with generic portrayals of political responses to a menace from outer space, or international defensive efforts to counter the invaders’ strategy.
Putting cult comic-book styled horrors back into a subgenre culture, Skyline offered city-stomping monsters hunting humans, while airborne mecha-squid scouts are launched from hovering alien base-ships, to roam around and probe inside buildings. Even when military help appears in the form of marine snipers and USAF drone bombers, the nuked mother-ship survives to rebuild itself, and its entourage of squid-bots salvage their own, with a leave-no-tentacle-behind policy.
Skyline delivered tremendous fun as briskly impressive sci-fi terror. It’s not a great movie like Starship Troopers (1997) that provided so many gruesome shocks, but it does match the savagely downbeat effectiveness of District 9 (2009) for imaginatively satirical verve, with an edgy protagonist and compelling exhilaration. Skyline fulfils the promise of its arresting poster artwork, offering far better pulp SF entertainment than Spielberg’s woefully inadequate War Of The Worlds (2005) remake, especially when the direction quite daringly refuses to permit mankind a knowingly easy salvation, with an engagingly witty genre-twist conclusion that cribs a switcheroo surprise from Scanners (1981).
Although it’s a belated sequel, sci-fi action horror movie Beyond Skyline is also a terrific adventure that beguiles its victims into enslavement by strange lights. As before, this is not a Rapture event, it’s an apocalypse from above. Underground train passengers, stranded between stations, are prompted to escape but not to safety, led by L.A. cop Mark (Frank Grillo, Captain America sequels) and his wayward son Trent.
The survivors move through the subway until dark tunnels are caved-in by a nuke blast. The weirdly squid-like aliens exert a nightmarish influence before again practising their head-ripping mayhem. Mass abductions by the body and brain snatchers result in plug ‘n’ play-along drone troopers. The grungy bio-tech of the mother-ship’s interior brings hell to Earth.
Like hitchhikers or stowaways aboard the alien ship, Mark’s group find themselves in the Golden Triangle of the Mekong delta. There’s plenty of gore fu and, when jungle fighter Kanya (Pamelyn Chee) finds an alien egg in the crashed ship, she seems like a contender for this movie’s heroine, but it’s actually the train-driver Audrey (Bojana Novakovic) who eventually takes on the role with admirable gusto.
In this entertaining sci-fi horror scenario, mere survival is not enough and Mark realises it’s necessary to fight back, and fight to the death. Thankfully, there are alien cyber-drones with human brains that retain some basic humanity, and the Lovecraftian punch-up finale results in a twist ending with a sudden escalation of hostilities into the realms of space opera.
Building upon the Strauses’ successful reworking of classic sci-fi movies War Of The Worlds and Invaders From Mars, this welcome sequel boasts an undeniable strangeness, and its SF plot twists apparently intend to support an upscale mythology that promises further sequels, extending the franchise into at least a genre trilogy.