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Skyline (2010)

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Skyline ReviewReviewed by Nomad

Starring Eric Balfour, Scottie Thompson, Brittany Daniel, Crystal Reed, Neil Hopkins, David Zayas, Donald Faison

Directed by Colin Strause and Greg Strause


THE END OF THE WORLD IS FUCKING NIGH! AGAIN! Hollywood never grows tired of sending the planet spiraling into oblivion, and this week’s journey into darkness looks to be the first of many “end of days” scenarios for the foreseeable future. In Skyline the threat is made evident in the first five minutes of the film as a giant blue flame descends to the city streets of Los Angeles. Stare into the light for more than a moment, and unseen forces take hold. Seconds later you are hurled skyward to meet your fate. Is there any hope for mankind?! Well, no, not really.

So is this film really going to jump right into the action without any character development and rely on their WOW factor to see them through? Of course not! After our initial look into the blue lights, the story jumps backward to Jarrod (Balfour) and Elaine (Thompson) landing in LA to meet up with Jarrod’s now rich friend Terry (Faison) for his birthday celebration. What follows may have you yawning and itchy for more alien action ASAP. The filmmakers throw real life scenarios at you by the handful, getting you firmly embedded in a mini soap opera before putting all the characters’ lives in jeopardy, hoping you will then care if someone is…say…squashed under the foot of a giant, slobbering alien. The actors are believable enough in their roles, but there is zero chemistry to be found anywhere among the couples we are to focus on. Further, when their lives are actually on the line, all but Scottie Thompson remain believable. When your day goes from nursing a hangover to witnessing a giant space ship in the sky with squid-like horrors spilling out of its orifices, I expect a certain degree of hysteria in your reactions. What we get is across the board surprise face and the occasional steely “determined to survive” scowl.

Skyline ReviewAs the squiddy aliens go door to door squelching “candy gram” and three-story biomechanical walkers thump across parking lots after prey, our merry band of partiers squabble over where it is more convenient to die and make a move now and then. This is NOT to say that this film is without action; it’s just difficult getting to it. The back and forth when not being attacked by things from another world is most certainly designed to make you feel for the characters and maybe wonder if one of them is going to get the rest killed, but it is badly written and more often than not comes across like your friends bitching about who gets the last slice of pizza. It lacks emotional content, and therefore, I didn’t care if their next move was to head to the roof and jump off, spreading parachute wings like Lara Croft with music by Muse following as they spiral between attacking aliens and American military forces. The rest of the time there seemed to be an alien around every corner. If they escaped an untimely demise at ground level, the things were waiting for them in the staircase. If they made it to the roof, the giant drippy bastards were climbing after them. The message that “nowhere is safe” was clear, but you get to the point where it’s like Brock Sampson in a dream sequence in the cartoon Venture Brothers where he stands upon a pile of dead ninjas and cowboys with more falling from the sky, covered in their blood, and he screams, “Enough already!” The damn things are everywhere, and honestly, I got bored of it pretty quickly.

Skyline feels like two movies stapled together. One, a gratuitous orgy of alien attacks with some stunning visual effects that never lets up on the action. The other, a story of humans struggling to survive, caught between the monsters invading and their own military struggling for a foothold, and even a glimpse of hope that tomorrow they will win. To cement this notion in your brain, the sequences with special effects wizards throwing up all over the screen are bright and crisp, full of atmosphere, beautiful cinematography and superior use of light. The bits with your heroes moaning at each other mostly take place in one tedious apartment that seems fairly small for a super rich guy with scenes lit by the sun and sound captured somewhere across the room, giving an extra dose of independent movie feel with every echo and clink captured. It wouldn’t surprise me if someone said the movie was a love project from some uber talented computer artist with far too much time on his hands and a couple of Hollywood friends that was then snapped up and lengthened for a theatrical release.

Skyline ReviewFor most people it’s the aliens that have driven you to sit on moist popcorn and suffer the teens texting “I dunno…where do you wanna make out next?” beside you this evening so I’ll get right to the point. For the most part there’s nothing new here, and what seems original smacks of side-scrolling video game design. The squid monsters resemble the Matrix Sentinels with Independence Day heads smushed onto the front end…at least I think that’s the front end. For all I know, they travel backward and swallow people with their asses. The design is not fantastic, often makes little sense in a shot as you can’t tell what the hell it’s doing (Is it smiling? No, it’s burping…no…no…it’s in heat) and is instantly recognizable as theft. The large, biomechanical walker creatures thumping through town REALLY remind me of a video game whose title I can’t recall at this time. They drool, they roar, they have Hentai tendrils for attacking Japanese schoolgirls in a naughty way. They should be awesome to watch but come off as overkill, erased by your mind five minutes after seeing them. The thing is a mess…and they are EVERYWHERE. The ships these spooky boos spill from are your standard pointy for no good reason configurations that hover over the city and are fairly unstoppable just because the writer says so. No explanation is given as to why they’ve come or what they want other than their nasty habit of slurping up every human in sight. When you finally do see what is happening to the people, it makes zero sense and will elicit either groans or laughs out of those around you. Again, it’s dumb and gratuitous — and not in that good way we love here at mighty DC.

Are there any redeemable sequences in this film which would cause me to encourage you to drop your notebooks and fly to the theater this weekend? Sadly, no, unless you REALLY have nothing better to do and are a little drunk and/or stoned beforehand (with a designated driver of course). Only the truly stoned will leave this movie going “whoa” in the dulcet tones of Keanu Reeves. There is a bit of a plot twist that smacks of potential superhero crossover greatness, but it is never used to the extent we are wishing it would, barely surfaces at all and ends in a sort of messy cliffhanger we are sure to never see the second chapter for. This is video game madness at its finest or some excellently rendered TV miniseries you’d be screaming about when it gets cancelled, even though it deserves a quick and painless death. With little substance, you don’t care who dies next while the superfluous hordes of monsters stomp on your retinas until you are bored senseless and waiting for something new on the screen. Very little of this film is an actual battle, and for most of the time you’ll watch the humans get their asses handed to them, which normally would be fine. I’ve got no problem watching the human race go down in flames; I just want to point and laugh while its happening!

At the end of the day Skyline is an inside joke you are not allowed to know the back story to. For a movie with so much alien menace, there is very little fun. There is only one proper way to enjoy Skyline: on VOD or DVD from the comfort of your couch, beer in hand and pants off.


2 out of 5

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Through the Cracks – Trick or Treat (1986) Review

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Starring Marc Price, Tony Fields, Lisa Orgolini, Glen Morgan, Gene Simmons, and Ozzy Osbourne

Directed by Charles Martin Smith


I have been a horror fan for more than half of my life at this point. Meaning I have seen most of the quality horror offerings under the sun. But that said, every once in awhile a classic sneaks past so we wanted to create this “Through the Cracks” review section for such films.

Case in point, I had never seen the Halloween horror flick Trick or Treat until last night. I know, right? How the hell did that happen? But these things do happen and so for everyone that has seen the flick a million times, this will be a review of the movie from a super horror fan that – at the age of 33 – is seeing Trick or Treat for the very first time.

Now let’s get to it.

First off you have to love the movie’s plot. Mixing horror and heavy metal seems like a given, yet preciously few films Frankenstein these two great tastes together.

Like many of you out there, I am a big metal fan as well as a big horror fan. The two seem to go together like chocolate and peanut butter. Or Jason and horny campers.

I dig bands like Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, and even those hair metal bands (Dokken forever!) and I’m well aware of the legends surrounding playing these records backward.

Off the top of my head, the only other flick that combines the two to this degree is the (relatively) recent horror-comedy Deathgasm. I say more horror-metal flicks! Or should we call it Metal-Horror? Yeah, that’s a much more metal title.

It only makes sense that someone, somewhere would take the idea of “What if Ozzy Osbourne really was evil and came back from the dead (you know, if he had passed away during his heyday) to torment a loner fan?” Great premise for a movie!

And Trick or Treat delivers on the promise of this premise in spades. Sammi Curr is an epic hybrid of the best of the best metal frontmen and his resurrection via speaker is one of the great horror birthing scenes I have seen in all my years.

Add to that the film feels like a lost entry in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. More specifically the film feels like it would fit snugly in between two of my favorite entries in that series, Dream Warriors and The Dream Master.

This movie is 80’s as all f*ck and I loved every minute of it.

And speaking of how this film brought other minor classics to the forefront of my brain, let’s talk about the film’s central villain, Sammi Curr. This guy looks like he could share an epic horror band with the likes of Mary Lou from Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II and the Drill Killer rocker from Slumber Party Massacre Part II.

Picture that band for a moment and tell me they aren’t currently playing the most epic set in Hell as we speak. I say let’s see an Avengers-style series of films based on these minor horror icons sharing the stage and touring the country’s high school proms!

In the end Trick or Treat has more than it’s fair share of issues. Sammi Curr doesn’t enter the film until much too late and is dispatched way too easily. Water? Really? That’s it?

That said, the film is still a blast as director Charles Martin Smith keeps the movie rocking like an 80’s music video with highlights being Sammi’s rock show massacre at the prom and his final assault on our hero teens in the family bathroom.

Rockstar lighting for days.

Even though the film has issues (zero blood, a rushed ending) none of that mattered much to this horror hound as the film was filled to the brim with striking horror/metal imagery and a killer soundtrack via Fastway and composer Christopher Young.

Plus you’ve got to love the cameos by Gene Simmons (boy, his character just dropped right out of the movie, huh?) and Ozzy Osbourne as a mad-as-hell Preacher that isn’t going to take any more of this devil music. P.S. Watch for the post-credits tag.

More than a few of my closest horror buddies have this film placed high on their annual Halloween must-watch lists. And after (finally) viewing the film for myself, I think I just may have to add the film to mine as well. Preferably on VHS.

Trick or Treat is an 80’s horror classic. If you dig films like Popcornand if you put the film off like I did, remedy that tonight and slap a copy in the old VHS/DVD player.

Just don’t play it backward… God knows what could happen.

All said and done, I enjoyed the hell out of my first viewing of Trick or Treat. But what do YOU think of the film? Make sure to hit us up and let us know below or on social media!

Now bring on Trick or Treat 2: The Prom Band from Hell, featuring Sammi Curr, Mary Lou Maloney, and Atanas Ilitch’s Driller Killer from Slumber Party Massacre Part II!

  • Trick or Treat (1986) 3.5
3.5

Summary

Charles Martin Smith’s Trick or Treat is a sure-fire Halloween treat for fans of 80’s horror flicks, as well as fans of heavy metal music.

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User Rating 3.25 (12 votes)
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AHS: Cult Review – Clowns, Cults, Politics, and Peters

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Starring Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson, Billie Lourd, Cheyenne Jackson, Frances Conroy, Mare Winningham, and Allison Pill

Created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk


** NO SPOILERS **

It’s here. We’ve reached the end. The newest season of “American Horror Story” has ended and now we are here to provide you guys with our season review of AHS: Cult.

Spoiler free.

To start things off let me say I’m not the world’s biggest fan of “American Horror Story”. It breaks down like this: I enjoyed the absolute hell out of the first season of the series (“Murder House”), couldn’t get through “Asylum” (I know, I know, I’ve tried), dug “Coven” for what it was, really enjoyed “Freak Show”, and again I couldn’t get into “Hotel” or “Roanoke”.

That’s the story of me and “American Horror Story”. Plain And simple. But what did I think of the new seventh season of the notorious horror anthology series? Let’s find out.

Back when the seventh season of AHS was first announced (then going by the title “AHS: Election”) I was immediately intrigued by the new season because I heard it would not include any supernatural elements. Like the fourth season, “Freak Show”.

Now I’m a fan of ghosts and weird creature-men with drills for d*cks, don’t get me wrong. But the series has thus far relied almost exclusively on horrors of the supernatural variety (other than “Freak Show”) so this major change of pace was again welcomed by this guy.

Instead of vampires, aliens, and witches this season relied on terrors of the mind. Psychological fears and anxieties. The horrors man does to man. Deep issues.

Oh, and clowns. Like a lot of clowns.

But just because this new season didn’t include anything supernatural, that doesn’t mean the 11-episode season wasn’t filled with twisted visuals and horrifically disturbing acts. No, sir. This season boasted some showstoppers including S&M, gimps, and a house of horrors that wouldn’t be out of place in a Rob Zombie flick. It was all good.

But let’s backtrack a bit here.

Allow me to rundown the season’s plot for those who may be unaware. “AHS: Cult” tells the tale of a world post-election night. The literal dawn of Trump’s America. In one corner we have Sarah Paulson’s soccer mom, trying to fight through life with a series of crippling phobias (including clowns, holes, blood, and being a good person).

And in the other corner, we have Evan Peter’s angry, white (blue-haired) male, looking to seize Trump’s new position of power to bring about the end of… Actually, I want this to be a spoiler-free season review, so I’m just going to say the dude’s got big plans.

Like Manson-size plans. Let’s leave it at that.

With these two characters established, the new season then proceeds to send them spiraling into a collision course of political sabotage, intrigue, and clown-based nope, nope, nope-ing that can only end with one – or both – of them dead as Dillinger.

Overall “AHS: Cult” belonged end-to-end to Mr. Evan Peters. The young actor has continued to show his striking range from season to season of Ryan Murphy’s horror show and this season was no different. Peters’ turn as not only Kai, the blue-haired leader of the titular cult, but as infamous leaders such as David Koresh, Jim Jones, and Charles Manson – to name a few – owed this season.

I can only hope he doesn’t pull a Jessica Lange and opt-out of more AHS next year.

Speaking of top performances, “AHS: Cult ” showcases some other chilling and memorable turns with Alison Pill’s strangely vulnerable, put-upon wife character being the best next to Peters in my eyes. This actress needs to be in more films/TV!

Along with Pill, actress Billie Lourd killed it time and time again. The “Scream Queens” breakout star and Carrie Fisher spawn was yet again a highlight in her second Ryan Murphy series. Bet she has the starring role in next season. Mark my words.

Add to that, the season also boasts a handful of fun cameos, including John Carroll Lynch’s return as Twisty the Clown, Emma Roberts as a bitchy reporter that will do anything to end up on top, and Lena Dunham as SCUM Manifesto writer Valerie Solanas. The cameo cast killed it and I wish they would have been present for more episodes. What are you gonna do?

On the sour side of the season, I didn’t dig Sarah Paulson’s character. At all. But I’m sure that was the point. Right? I’m still not sure. But, boy, I wouldn’t even want to be stuck in line behind her at a Starbucks for three minutes, let alone spend the better part of this season’s 11-hours with her and her whiny bullshite. Urgh.

That said, she pulled it out by the finale. That’s all I’ll say.

In the end, I enjoyed this season as much as – if not more – than any other of the series. “Murder House” will still no doubt go on as my favorite season of the series, but “AHS: Cult” will rank third after season one and “Freak Show”.

While I was on the fence about the season after three episodes, the show ended up ditching Paulson’s character (and/or shifting her arch) after a lull so the episodes picked up quickly. Whenever the season turned its focus back towards Peters (in whichever incarnation he was playing at the time) the show got better and better. Every time.

Not a bad way to spend my Tuesday night for the past 11 weeks.

Bring on season 12.

  • American Horror Story: Cult (2018)
3.5

Summary

The seventh season of Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story was Evan Peters’ show all the way through. The young actor pulled out all the stops time and time again to make what may have been a lackluster supernatural-free season a winner.

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User Rating 4.11 (18 votes)
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The Axiom Review – A Stylish and Clever Slice of Independent Horror

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Starring Hattie Smith, Zac Titus, Nicole Dambro

Directed by Nicholas Woods


The Axiom is an ambitious, well directed, impressively acted and stunningly shot independent horror film that has just a few, teensy little flaws holding it back from greatness (and therefore will have to settle for just being really, really good, instead).

The first thing you realize when watching The Axiom is that this is a beautiful film. Everything is framed and shot in a lush and stylish manner, but one which is always tonally appropriate for the scene.

The second thing you’ll notice, and keep noticing as the film plays out, is that the movie really struck gold with this cast. Not only is there a total lack of the sort of stilted and unnatural acting seen in countless other microbudget horror affairs, but the performances are genuinely fantastic across the board. The main characters are believably chill and relatably normal in the early scenes, and the acting remains just as impressive once things start getting a bit more… intense. It’s not often that an independent horror film has so many good performances that it makes it hard to pick the movie’s acting VIP, but that is undeniably the case here. Taylor Flowers delivers what is probably the showiest performance (and does it very well, indeed), but the entire cast really is quite good.

The central premise of the film is both interesting and original, and touches upon the real life fact (given some recent attention in the ‘Missing 411’ books and documentary) that a lot more people sure seem to go missing out in the woods than seems reasonable, while simultaneously weaving all sorts of folklore, fairy tales and urban legends into the mix. It’s also clever in the way that it very naturally reveals aspects to the relationships between characters that serve to later – or sometimes retroactively – explain some of the more questionable decisions they make or attitudes they display. While that may sound like screenwriting 101, it’s surprising how many films fail to do this. The Axiom rewards the viewer’s attention in other ways as well, with many aspects of the movie that initially feel odd or unnatural receiving reasonable explanations (within the context of the movie) by the end. It’s not quite as challenging (or as rewarding) in this regard as, say, something like Session 9, but it does add a nice layer of complexity to the storytelling.

The film’s score, by Leo Kaliski, is also quite good. There may be a moment here or there where the music hits an overly familiar beat, but overall it not only fits the movie’s tone, but does quite a bit to help set that tone as well.

The only thing that I don’t feel the movie quite pulls off – and I’m trying to be vague here, because I feel like the less you know going into this film, the better – is some of the makeup effects work. The gore stuff is very well executed, but some of the other stuff feels like it was crafted with the intention of shooting it in a more… stylized manner. Instead, filmed as it is here, the result is sometimes less than impressive and can fail to make the impact that the movie seems to be implying that it should. And while some of what the makeup effects lack in execution is made up for with the ingenuity and creativity of their design, it’s still a bit of a shame when they don’t quite pull them off because, aside from a few niggles that I have with the writing, the effects are the only aspect of the film that occasionally fails to live up to the high level of technical proficiency that The Axiom otherwise demonstrates.

ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS:

  • Man, the acting in this movie is really good. The dialogue may stumble once or twice, but these actors always sell it anyway.
  • Give back Mia Sara’s DNA, Hattie Smith!
  • If you’re going to put your female lead in shorts this small, I hope you’re not sensitive to viewers unleashing a nonstop parade of “Has anyone seen my pants / OH GOD WHERE ARE MY PANTS!” jokes.
  • “You just pop this here ‘Blair Witch Stick Person / Anarchy sign’ sticker up on that there windshield of yours, and them park rangers? Well – heh heh – they won’t bother you none, no sir.” Hmmmmm…
  • The film really is shot amazingly well – better than a lot of mainstream releases. Cinematographer Sten Olson has a real future ahead of him.
  • As does writer / director Nicholas Woods, for that matter. Any director who can get this level of quality out of their cast and crew on their first ever film is someone to keep an eye on.
  • “I’ll make a run for it and get help,” says the female lead, and I’m like “Yeah, let her go – she has no pants to weigh her down.”
  • The gore effects in the movie are both realized and utilized very well.
  • Welcome back to horror movies, “I’ll be right back” dialogue spoken unironically by and/or to ill-fated characters.
  • The Axiom
4.0

Summary

In the end, The Axiom is a solid and entertaining flick that manages to wring a level of quality and originality out of the somewhat tired “Don’t Go in the Woods” horror subgenre not seen since 2012’s Cabin in the Woods. The cinematography and acting are hugely impressive, it features a nice, unnerving score, the premise is original and captivating, and the whole thing moves at a nice pace that helps keep the film’s flaws from dragging it down.

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User Rating 4 (17 votes)
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