Jarrod (Eric Balfour) and his girlfriend Elaine (Scotty Thompson) visit Los Angeles to stay with his successful best friend Terry (Donald Faison) in a luxurious high-rise apartment. Beams of light strike down on the city, vast alien machines and creatures appear, and Jarrod – who has just learned that Elaine is pregnant – decides that his family will survive.
The brain-eaters from outer space are back, en masse, in Skyline – which has the sort of extensive special effects you’d expect from a big budget studio film wedded to the sort of production which toplines Eric Balfour and Scotty Thompson.
Colin and Greg Strause have a background in visual effects on major pictures like Iron Man 2, Avatar and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, but their sole previous directorial effort was the hardly earth-shaking AVPR: Aliens vs Predator Requiem. Here, they’ve put their pocket money together and made something which is astonishingly derivative but isn’t attached to any big franchise – nevertheless, you can check off elements from both film versions of War of the Worlds (tentacles probing the building, futile high-tech US air force assaults on the aliens), Cloverfield (especially in the character-establishing party as set-up for city-smashing crisis), Night of the Living Deads (the hot question: to flee the building or cling to fragile safety of the apartment), The Mist (is this a religious armageddon), The Puppet Masters, the Alien films, Independence Day (they loom out of clouds) and a dozen Japanese giant monster pictures. Compared with Monsters – which, inevitably, this will be – this isn’t especially ambitious dramatically, but it does deliver the alien monster attack action mostly withheld in the more cerebral genre movie.
Balfour, who has been around TV as slacker nerd archetypes on Six Feet Under and 24 and previously had his highest profile movie role as a victim in the Texas Chainsaw remake, gets the most drama to chew. Jarrod has to cope with a sudden job offer, a much more successful best friend, his girlfriend’s suddenly-announced pregnancy, a creeping alien infection that periodically bestows super-strength and – in the finale – a whole other set of problems. Once it gets going, the film doesn’t slow down enough to let any of the supporting characters really get in the way – the other most recognisable face is David Zayas, of Dexter and The Expendables, as the angry building supervisor – until their death scenes. Even the Jessica Biel-alike leading lady Thompson doesn’t do much but have morning sickness and argue before she’s called on to be the symbol of everything worth fighting for during an apparent end of the world.
Technically ambitious, dramatically basic. Still, it’s a major step up from an AvP sequel and delivers all the Saturday night whizz-bang and Sunday morning brain-ripping you could want.