‘The Darkest Hour’ arrives on Blu-ray with an impressive short film attached

Max Minghella, Emile Hirsch, Joel Kinnaman, Olivia Thirlby and Rachael Taylor in ‘The Darkest Hour’ — Photo courtesy of Rico Torres

The Darkest Hour doesn’t hold up well on DVD or Blu-ray. In movie theaters, the story and characters felt unoriginal and manufactured. On second viewing, those original thoughts still stand. The movie, directed by Chris Gorak, can’t hold one’s attention for 89 minutes.

However, there is some life left in the dud. The special features on the recently released Blu-ray disc make a stronger case for the movie and its unique visual effects. Survivors is an original short film that’s included on the disc, and it features a streamlined, engaging storyline with few interruptions. Through a series of somber tableaux vivants, we watch the world fall victim to a strange alien race that uses electricity to communicate and kill. In a matter of minutes, the global problem comes into focus. All of the characters are innocent bystanders who have learned to adapt to the new world order. Mysterious transmissions from radios and video footage give us clues about the world’s response to the alien outbreak.

Visualizing an Invasion is another special feature that looks into the special effects of these electrical aliens. A few deleted and extended scenes round out the offerings on the Blu-ray disc.

Here’s the original Hollywood Soapbox review of The Darkest Hour:

There is no redeeming quality to The Darkest Hour, a tireless exercise in apocalyptic horror. Categorize this one as a misfire, from start to finish.

Sean (Emile Hirsch) and Ben (Max Minghella) have arrived in Moscow to sell their new GPS technology, but it doesn’t take long for their tails to drop between their legs. The Russians bypass their idea and decide to market the product themselves.

What this introductory plot has to do with aliens that zap people to death is never explained. It simply serves as a reason for the characters to end up in Moscow.

After wallowing in self-pity and drinking the night away with some vodka and pretty ladies (Olivia Thirlby and Rachael Taylor), the two guys find themselves at ground zero for a global alien attack.

Strange, electrified orbs make their way around the capital city, and anyone who gets in their way is zapped like a mosquito during summertime. Police officers are disintegrated. Dogs are disintegrated. And, one by one, our main cast becomes the victim of the electrification. Guess who survives?

Thankfully, the movie only runs 89 minutes, because after about 3 minutes, The Darkest Hour becomes a bore. There is no sense of a coherent plot and the actors seem to be doing anything they want on screen. Director Chris Gorak has let everyone have a loose leash, and the result is an unfocused sci-fi flick with no thrills or laughs. The special effects are never interesting or worthy of the genre.

Jon Spaihts’ screenplay is even more frightening than his alien creations. Characters point and yell at the sky, almost like a Godzilla flick.

I don’t think I was the only one rooting for the aliens.

By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com

  • The Darkest Hour

  • 2011

  • Directed by Chris Gorak

  • Written by Jon Spaihts; based on a story by Leslie Bohem, M.T. Ahem and Spaihts

  • Starring Emile Hirsch, Olivia Thirlby, Max Minghella, Rachael Taylor and Joel Kinnaman

  • Running time: 89 minutes

  • Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence and some language

  • (no stars)

John Soltes

John Soltes is an award-winning journalist. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Earth Island Journal, The Hollywood Reporter, New Jersey Monthly and at Time.com, among other publications. E-mail him at john@hollywoodsoapbox.com

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