It's quite rare these days for me to be able to go into a film with very little idea of what the film is that I'm seeing - I will usually at least have seen trailers and TV spots, as well as picking up on the more geeky blogosphere (yup, I said it) hype or buildup. But in the case of The Darkest Hour I knew very little indeed, beyond the fact that (a) it's about aliens, and (b) that bloke behind Night Watch, the Russian vampire movie was involved somehow.
So: in short, aliens - invisible ones! - have invaded modern-day Moscow. Four young Western tourists find themselves in the midst of a life-and-death struggle for survival as they are hunted down by these seemingly-invincible aliens through abandon Muscovite cellars and shopping malls. I might as well stop there, to be honest: this is pure b-movie schlock, with little pretence to anything more.
But that's not to say it's any good. In fact, the opposite: it's pretty terrible. While it was certainly a good length (just under 90 minutes), it still dragged mightily. The plot is lumpily episodic, bereft of suspense and defies generic convention somewhat in the characters it decides to kill off (not that that really matters, as none of the main characters are particularly sympathetic anyway). The background characters are Russians who all handily did a crash-course in American English before the invasion, and the setting - Moscow - seems like such an utterly superficial consumerist hell-on-earth that you're actually glad when the invisible aliens invade and start knocking of the citizenry.
Worst of all - it's boring. The problem with invisible aliens is kind of self-evident when you're trying to make a whizz-bang action movie, and despite a few cute ideas involving electrical devices being sparked off in their presence, they just don't work as a scary concept. Throw in the fact that you don't give a good-god-damn about any of the characters (apart from a cat who has been wrapped in fairy lights) and you've got yerself a movie that not just stupid - we can live with that - but is also unforgivably dull.
And the acting, the direction? Well... as I said earlier this is a B-movie, not Merchant-Ivory material, so I suppose we should forgive the cheesy sub-Final Destination performances (though as mentioned above, I liked the cat). And while there are a couple of striking shots (well, one actually - a crashed plane inside a shopping mall) the film looks washed out and all-too-obviously digitally enhanced. The special effects are, to be kind, unexciting, and any stab at originality in the creature design is forsaken toward the end as the film strives toward a jingoistic (and thoroughly un-earned) climax.
Not the worst film you'll ever see, but certainly one to avoid. Next!