The Darkest Hour Review: Lights Out

THE DARKEST HOUR (12A): On General Release Thursday 12th January

The Darkest Hour sees two American software developers (Emile Hirsh and Max Mingella) travel to Moscow to unveil their latest app only to discover that they’ve been stabbed in the back by sleazy Swedish business partner (Joel Kinnaman).

Deciding to drown their sorrows in a nearby bar, they hook up with an American tourist and her Australian friend.  But it’s not long before the city is under attack by invisible electric aliens who vaporise everything they touch.

Naturally, the four (and the traitorous Swede) are among the few survivors and begin a trek to the American embassy while trying to work out a way to fend off the invaders.

There’s actually quite a lot of potential here.  The aliens are most visible at night as they light up any electrical equipment they pass, making it safer to move during the hours of darkness rather than the day.  This inversion of the traditional horror conceit could have led to some inventive set pieces but sadly, there’s no suspense and no intrigue, largely because the characters are so quickly introduced and poorly developed that there’s no reason to root for them.

Eventually, they work out a way to repel the invaders with a “microwave gun” and join up with a team of Russian military types who look like extras from the 1979 film The Warriors.  The whole thing is laughable.  There’s no suspense, no likeable characters, no scares and no fun.

The film contains so many plot holes that it could probably double for a sponge.  It’s quickly established that the aliens can’t see through glass and yet characters persistently wander around in the open without once considering constructing a movable phone box or similar.

The aliens’ powers are also frustratingly inconsistent; vaporising on contact one minute, ensnaring with fizzing tentacles the next, ensuring that it’s hard to know when anyone is in any genuine peril.  Furthermore, the aliens are supposedly after earth’s electrically-conducting materials.  Quite why there are quite so many abandoned cars in the streets then is something of a mystery.

It’s all held together with effects that could be duplicated with a £10 budget down at B&Q (a handful of light bulbs, some duct tape and some plastic guttering should cover it) coupled with some excruciating dialogue and capped off with an utterly nauseating ending that defies all narrative sense.  Sitting in the dark for 90 minutes would have been preferable.