Alien invasion flick The Darkest Hour, released this morning, is like a bad holiday fruitcake that somebody tried to spruce up with a zillion lumps of neon-colored, soggy jellybean guts. Put another way, this movie is what you get when you add the plot of Skyline to the creature effects of The Happening. It is truly the greatest bad monster movie of 2011.
Two guys, one of whom is played by Emile Hirsch, fly into Moscow to sell some people in suits on their real-time mobile travel social nightlife youth software, called something like MySquareDoppler, which is variously described as a "blog" and an "app." When they arrive at their business meeting, they discover that some Swedish guy they were working with on the intertubes has stolen their app blog social thing and is making the pitch to the Russian investors on his own.
"OMG WTF BBQ!" the guy who isn't Emile Hirsch says.
"You should have made me sign an NDA!" retorts Swedish intertube guy.
"You mean a Non Douchebag Agreement?" Hirsch snarks in one of the film's many "clever quip" moments.
And then a bunch of people yell in Russian and suddenly we're in a nightclub and Hirsch and not-Hirsch are drinking and hitting on some women who know them from MySquareDoppler.
Which is around the time a bunch of lens flares fall from the sky and start menacing everybody with their invisibleness, which has the property of reducing anybody who touches it to glowing specks that are super cheap to render in Photoshop. Our gang of social mobile app developers, including Swedish guy, have to make their way across a foreign city with the two women while dodging the invisible monsters! The only hint that the monsters are around is that they juice up all electrical devices - including lights, cell phones, car alarms, whatever - so that their presences are announced by flickering lights and other spooky shit.
I should note that the "we had no money and therefore made invisible monsters" thing isn't quite as bad as you might think. The idea of tracking aliens indirectly with handfuls of lightbulbs is pretty cool, and there are some amazing scenes of the shredded Mocow: planes have plowed into malls, tankers have shattered bridges, and the aliens are vaporizing buildings spectacularly in order to extract minerals or tap into our geothermal heat or maybe mine for holiday fruitcakes.
When it comes to plot and dialogue, however, all this creative conceptual design is wasted. Scenes are so hastily edited that we actually see characters run through exactly the same place twice in the opening alien attack sequence. And, inevitably, the aliens' powers change dramatically from scene to scene as the plot requires. At first they reduce everything they touch to dust. Then it turns out they have to lasso people with poorly-aimed lightning ropes first. Also they can't see through glass for some reason, and they can't seem to run or fly even though they flew down to Earth.
Eventually our band of mobile social app losers randomly stumbles across several other survivors, one of whom is a mad scientist living in a Faraday cage who has developed microwave guns to "disrupt the alien shields." Because - wait, whut? They aren't electrical aliens? Nope - they actually just have electrical SHIELDS, which we can disrupt and then "shoot with good Russian bullets," as another resistance guy says. Also, Faraday cages are the magical weapon humans can use against the aliens because the aliens can't see inside them - but the humans can use radios and cell phones inside them to communicate with each other. The mad scientist has even wrapped his adorable orange cat in a bunch of wires (a feline Faraday cage?) to make him invisible to the aliens.
OK, time out for a moment of nerd snarkage. The whole Faraday cage bit pissed me off. I was willing to give you the "glass as shield" defense because, hell, glass is an insulator. (Sadly, nobody thought of dressing Emile Hirsch in a rubber fetish suit to make him invisible because hey - rubber is an insulator too!) But people - the whole point of a Faraday cage is that most electrical signals cannot penetrate it. That means signals can't come in, and they can't come out. You cannot use radio or mobile phones inside them. Sigh.
Anyway, my OCD Faraday cage issues are like screaming about a grease fire during a mega volcano eruption. There were so many inconsistencies in this flick that it seemed like the whole crew had decided to embrace the credo that Hirsch and not-Hirsch espouse early on: "Every culture has alcohol and religion. That's why I drink religiously!" See what I mean about the writing in this flick? Pure gold.
As you might guess, the big reveal of the aliens once our heroes can use microwave guns to "disrupt" their electro-shields is tragically lame. Let's just say that the aliens are better than an 8-bit videogame, but not quite as good as Quake 1. These block pixel creatures' evil red eyes hover unmenacingly in the middle of their invisible shields, zooming though a series of unnecessary scenes that make up the film's climactic "we need to go after this one missing person even though we didn't go after anybody else at any point in the film" scene. Also, to my great irritation, several characters make much of the fact that once they're safe inside a Faraday cage, they can text people in America!
In sum, The Darkest Hour has the worst of everything. There's a nonsensical plot built around astonishingly silly monsters who are menacing people you wish would just shut up. It's the perfect movie to see after you've gotten completely wasted on egg nog, pot cookies, and/or pure chocolate. Have fun!