How many alien invasion films can we handle? This year alone we’ve already had Battle: Los Angeles, Super 8, Transformers: Dark of the Moon and both Attack the Block and Cowboys and Aliens are on the way. Sure, I can’t drape a sense of negativity over all of them, but, let’s face it, ET’s taking over the Earth is a bit, well, overdone. However, after checking out Summit Entertainment’s The Darkest Hour presentation this morning, I can assure you that at least one of the upcoming alien takeover films is worth keeping an eye on.
A group of reporters hit a specially outfitted room in the Hard Rock Hotel, decked out in concept art and stills from director Chris Gorak The Darkest Hour. After a little schmoozing and some coffee consumption, Gorak and producer Tom Jacobson kicked things off by summing up the plot of the film. The film stars Emile Hirsch and Olivia Thirlby as two members of a group of Americans vacationing in Moscow, Russia. “And that’s when the invasion happens. It happens early in our story,” Gorak explains. “Through a frantic escape, they manage to hide and avoid the initial wave of attack.” After taking cover for a few days, the group resurfaces to find that Moscow is completely destroyed.
A prime element of the story to Gorak is “moving through this apocalyptic world through the character’s perspective and taking this journey with them and discovering the powers of the alien and eventually how to fight back.” As for those invaders, they’re a pivotal part of what makes The Darkest Hour so unique and particularly visually stimulating, too. Gorak explained, “We learn through their powers that they are made up of a lethal wave of energy and basically eliminated any modern technology that you can image.” My personal worst nightmare.
No only are there no cars, planes, trains, cell phones and computers courtesy of the visitors, but humans can’t even see these aliens – during the day at least. Unlike many invasion films where the nighttime is the time to watch your back, The Dark Hour villains are most threatening in the daylight as they’re invisible. Even worse, not only can the aliens see their victims, but electricity as well, including the electromagnetic pulses in our bodies, and that visual ability is reflected in the “alien POV” concept art and stills that are on display. It looks like a blend between an x-ray and a somewhat muted version of what humans see.
Gorak continued, “They reach out with electrical tendrils and grab their victims.” The aliens’ primary weapon is “shredding people.” Gorak said, “The alien energy is so intense, that upon touch” it can turn a victim into “instant ash.”
However, this energy is also the invaders’ weakness. “They affect electricity in such a way that a light bulb can save your life.” Gorak explained further, “They power up any technology around them.” When the group of characters meet some remaining Russians, they devise a plan for how to survive. At this point, they just need to get somewhere safe. “It was a lot of fun to break down the alien energy, which is integrated into the entire story,” Gorak said. “It’s not just an alien you can shoot with a bullet and kill.” The characters must devise new weapons and a plan that will allow them to break through the alien’s energy. Basically, they’ve either got to harness it or avoid it and the story achieves that using real science, specifically the Faraday cage, an enclosure designed by scientist Michael Faraday capable of blocking out external non-static electric fields. One of the stills on the wall was actually of a cat decked out in a Faraday-inspired outfit to protect it from being shredded.
In addition to the film, Omni Press is also releasing a Darkest Hour comic. The piece will expand the big screen story as it goes beyond Russia and provides a view of what was happening around the world at the time. Thirteen artists contributed to the comic all of whom got a taste of the film when it was in its early development stages up until now so they cloud give their own interpretations on what was happening in other countries.
TRAILER DESCRIPTION & REACTION
The presentation concluded with a showing of the film’s very first trailer, which brought to life a number of the still images we saw hanging on the wall. The piece kicks off showing our heroes enjoying the Moscow nightlife to a booming soundtrack with a techno vibe. Love and awe of the town turns to absolute terror when these yellow pod-like formations begin to fall from the sky and an attack ensues.
After the attack and the aliens have absorbed all of the energy, the focus returns to our main players who find out it isn’t just Moscow that was hit, but many other big cities, too. In the next few clips, the characters break down the logistics previously mentioned – the aliens can see us, but we can’t see them, their searching for energy, etc. There’s a shot of one of these creatures approaching a dead cop car, however, as it passes it by the car lights up, hinting at the aliens’ weakness, “electricity gives it away.”
Generally, the trailer is very well cut, boasting an exciting pace, impressive imagery and appealing leads. We get a glimpse of the “shredding” which really is a unique way for the invaders to eradicate their victims, far more stimulating than the overused killing techniques we’ve seen like the snatch and drag away, massive explosions or laser-like kills. The aliens themselves are also quite incredible looking. With this type of film, a major pitfall is typically when it comes time to reveal the design of the invader. The make up of these aliens are so unique and far from the clichés we’ve seen time and time again, that they’re inherently appealing, fun to watch and, most importantly, rather believable.
Between the details provided by Gorak, the stills and concept art and then the theatrical trailer, one thing’s for sure; The Darkest Hour is unlike any alien invasion film we’ve seen before. Rather than rely on standard genre techniques, it strives to re-imagine and intensify them, maintaining the appeal of watching a group of survivors in an apocalyptic setting while thriving off of the elements that make it a fresher take.
The Darkest Hour is due out on December 23rd and really could be something to look forward to.