Director Chris Gorak is yet another man from behind the scenes, stepping into the director’s seat. The Darkest Hour hit theaters on Christmas day last year (2011), trying to take advantage of the holiday movie going masses. Much like Skyline (which was marginally better), The Darkest Hour once again proves that FX and Art direction credits do not always make a good director. Not everything was bad, but there wasn’t enough to make it good.
Four young Americans hook up with a Russian business man during an escape from the initial stages of an alien attack. When the population of Moscow is turned to dust, the group must work together to defend themselves, find survivors and a way home. When they find out there’s a Nuclear sub waiting in the river to transport survivors, they embark on a mission to cross infested danger zones to get to the rescue point.
Lets start with the good. It’s not highly original, but the story/concept is pretty good. Some of the ideas executed are good. Some of the effects are good… some… I think that’s it!
First lets rip apart the performances. Emile Hirsch starts the cast as our somewhat heroic lead. Hirsch is not a great actor to begin with. I liked him in The Girl Next Door and Speed Racer, but his performances were relatively juvenile. He is completely miscast in The Darkest Hour however, and as a general statement, an over haul of the entire main cast might have made a difference. Olivia Thirlbie was fairly good as the flirty bar babe, but when things got serious her performance dropped as did Rachael Taylor’s, who looked like a deer in headlights in just about every scene. Of course she’s the supid one who dies senselessly. Than the Russian businessman Skylar, played by Joel Kinnaman… couldn’t keep a consistent accent. Finally Ben, played by Max Minghella, wasn’t terrible, definitely the brightest light of the group.
Next, the effects. When I initially saw the trailer, I could barely contain my excitement. The way the energy beam twisted human flesh into dust… it looked really cool and fresh. Well, the trailer was it. I think you see about 80% of the death scenes in the trailer, that’s how infrequently the effects were used. At the beginning we see hundreds, maybe thousands of these beings falling to the Earth, but after the first initial attack (by morning) the alien occupation is reduced to a sparsely scattered handful wandering the streets… shopping? So for the first part of the film, we never see the group encounter more than one at a time, whereas when they have a little more power behind them, we see the numbers increase. When they eventually do discover a method of killing them we finally see what’s behind the cloak… yikes… this is where you realize just how low budget the film really is. Blurry tentacles whirring around an alien looking face… very laughable! At least the Strause brothers had strong effects backgrounds for Skyline. So although the acting in Skyline was terrible, the effects kicked all kinds of ass!
Finally, let’s throw some of the blame on Gorak. His direction is terrible and amateurish. I couldn’t help but think, this could have been really good if… His actors were uninspired and unmotivated, his scenes were poorly shot and badly set, and the overall editing was just terrible.
I really wanted to like The Darkest Hour from the first time I saw the trailer ’till the minute I sat down to watch it tonight. Because TDH received a theatrical release, you automatically assume there is going to be at least a spark of quality…. I tend to give everything a very fair shake (to a fault), looking more for the positive than the negative. In fact I would have been thrilled if it had been on par with skyline (even bought the Blu Ray). Truth be told, The Darkest Hour is not much more comparable to made for TV films that debut on SyFY.
I’m actually surprised it did as well as it did at the box office, even though it didn’t come close to making budget.