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The equipment to create state-of-the-art visual effects must be getting cheaper. Last year’s District 9 and last week’s Monsters have proven that a low budget does not equate to poor visuals. But those superb effects were merely footnotes in otherwise grand movies rich with character and heart. Skyline, a similar low budget monster movie, nails the look, but is missing the substance.

The melodramatic story follows a group of C-list actors as they attempt to survive an alien invasion in Los Angeles. There’s Elaine (Scottie Thompson), who is pregnant with Jarrod’s (Eric Balfour) baby, but Jarrod just isn’t ready to be a father. They are visiting their friends Candice (Brittany Daniel) and her boyfriend Terry (Donald Faison), who is cheating on Candice with Denise (Crystal Reed). Joining them is an employee of the apartment complex they live in, Oliver (David Zayas).

If not already noticeable, the cast of Skyline is full of “that guys.” There’s “that guy from Scrubs,” “that guy from Dexter,” “that guy from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and a host of others that you’ll recognize, but won't be sure where from. It’s a group of actors and actresses that have only been interesting when working opposite someone with talent. Alone, they fizzle and when coupled together, it’s like watching a class of amateurs struggle through a simple acting exercise.

Given that they are forced to say and do some stupid things probably doesn’t help their case, however. When watching a movie like this, you expect the characters to make bad decisions, but there at least has to be a moderately reasonable path to those decisions. At one point, an alien peeks inside the windows to the apartment they are holed up in because they have foolishly left the blinds open. While they hide behind objects in the room, the alien takes off. They quickly establish that they can’t be seen or heard and all they need to do is close the blinds and be quiet. So, naturally, they decide to make a run for it. The writing is full of moments like this. To keep things fresh, the flimsiest reasons to go outside are given to the characters and they’re all head slappers.

The worst part of that, however, is that they end up back where they started minutes later. There’s nothing in the script that keeps them moving forward. The majority of the film is spent watching them watch the creatures outside. It plays like a movie that only wishes to showcase its special effects. With these one-dimensional characters, it was probably a smart decision.

Skyline is directed by the Brothers Strause, their sophomore effort after Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem. What a resume. If these two movies are any indication, these guys are so focused on what their film looks like that they forget to do anything else. They get so excited by the idea of showing off disgusting creatures that their characters come off as an afterthought.

And an afterthought is pretty much what this movie is. It’s a case of too little, too late and it rips off other better monster movies, including Cloverfield and War of the Worlds. At times, there is a strange appeal to its flashy look, but there’s nothing to compliment it. Skyline works where it wants to, but if your movie is driven solely on the basis of the special effects, you have failed.

Skyline receives 2/5

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